The Useful No

I read a lot.

I read guilty pleasure books at bedtime when my brain needs to shut down. These reads are interesting enough but not worth passing to others.

I read books recommended to me by my favorite people, blogs, and podcasts during the day when my brain is alive. I want to capture new information and add it to the stew that is my brain.

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss turned out to be one of these daytime books for me. The book is about how to negotiate successfully. Mr. Voss writes that if there is an “I want” in our brain or we want a “Yes” answer then there is a negotiation happening.

If “I want” to establish a new belief about food I have to negotiate for it, inside my brain.

If “I want” to change my thinking about food every time I encounter food I need to negotiate each time.

If my primitive brain wants a “Yes” to eat a giant bag of potato chips I need to negotiate with it to NOT eat them. This is a lot of negotiation because I think about food maybe 1000 times a day!

If you have been following previous posts you know the primitive brain is the first in line to make itself heard and has plenty of back-up support in our established habits!

One negotiation tactic Mr. Voss teaches is called the USEFUL NO. I wondered if a USEFUL NO and negotiation could help me lose weight. I need help during fasting periods when I am not physically hungry but my primitive brain is bugging me to eat because “it’s time!”

Here is an example of how I can negotiate with my primitive brain and not eat food when it’s not on my plan, in my protocol, or when I’m not hungry. This equation represents the negotiation between my primitive brain and my thinking brain.


“Man those chips would taste sooo good!”


“Are these chips going to help me lose weight?”   NO!

>>>>> “Wait, what? It seems like I want to eat chips just because they are there! How about instead, I drink some water or eat what I brought for lunch if I am physically hungry now?”

This thinking happens quickly! The primitive brain immediately made me feel “happy” or “excited” upon seeing the chips.

Asking the USEFUL NO question let the primitive brain remain in charge, feel safe and protected but gave enough of a pause for the thinking brain to jump in and negotiate before I start stuffing chips in my mouth!

My thinking brain countered the primitive brain with my new thoughts. If you have been practicing new thinking about food then you are also getting a “happy” or “excited” neurotransmitter cascade when your new thinking is used. This is because your new thoughts are benefiting who you want to be: a person committed to health.

If you “want” to lose weight try asking an easy to remember USEFUL NO question that will start a negotiation every time you have a food encounter.

Please don’t make the assumption the primitive brain has your best interests at heart; it’s going to go for the chips every time!

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