METABOLIZING EMOTIONS

Did you know that we have the absolute ability to deal with any negative emotion?

How you ask?

By metabolizing them just like we metabolize our food.

Compare the physiology of digestion with that of emotions:

Digestion starts when our hand puts food in our mouth. Immediately the gut generates a cascade of enzymes to break the food down so the vascular system can transmit the glucose and fatty acids to our cells. This process is autonomic and unconscious.

Emotions are the outcome of brain thought transmission throughout our body. Our brain puts a thought into our mind and neurons use default and habitual neurotransmitter pathways we best describe as “emotions” to distribute the thought throughout our body. This process is more than 90% autonomic and unconscious.

For example:

• The circumstance is a family member says, “Come on, I made this food special for you and if you love me you will eat it!”
• We generate a default thought: “If I don’t eat this food they will be unhappy.”
• This thought automatically generates a feeling of guilt because we didn’t plan to eat the food. In our body guilt feels like heaviness around the heart, restrictive, vague, and persistent. This is the physical manifestation of “guilt” neurotransmitters moving through our body.

Negative emotions like guilt feel uncomfortable and our brain wants to avoid pain. So our brain goes to work to feel better and metabolize this negative emotion by BUFFERING:

• Our action is to eat the food. This produces the default sugar rush our body has relied on in the past to stimulate the brain pleasure center and quiet the feeling of guilt.
• The result is that we overeat and gain weight.

Here is an alternate way to metabolize that same circumstance with different thinking:

• The circumstance is a family member says, “Come on, I made this food special for you and if you love me you will eat it!”
• We can make a choice to think instead: “I can care about this person without eating their food.”
• This thought makes us feel responsible. We are taking care of our health and still showing the other person we appreciate their consideration.

Then we use our brain to practice a healthier way of feeling better:

• Our action is to not eat the food and say “No thank you” in a polite way.
• The result is we do not get the sugar rush, over eat and gain weight. Instead we allow the neurotransmission cascade of the emotion “responsible” to build in our body and push away the feeling of guilt. We show ourselves that the guilt feeling doesn’t last long and is no big deal; it doesn’t need food to make it go away.

We can learn how to metabolize a negative emotion by ALLOWING the “guilt” feeling to first exist then dissipate without buffering it with food. Amazingly, we can do this with any emotion that is leading us to overeat.

This takes practice. Undoing unwanted habitual neurotransmitter pathways takes time and repetition. Time and repetition is how they were formed in the first place.

Let’s be aware of our emotions and practice not buffering them with food this week!

TROUBLESHOOTING OUR MANUALS

This week we need to continue working with the model and learn why we do emotional eating. Digging into our brains to understand what we are thinking is STRONG work but so worth it!

Let’s start by looking at the instruction manuals we carry around for ourselves, all the people we know, the pets we live with, the circumstances we encounter, even the things we have or want.

What’s a manual you ask?

Imagine it as thick binder in your head, you know, the one that outlines exactly how other people should treat you, how your job should be every workday, how the world and everything in it is supposed to be.

Our manuals contain all the stories we have written for how everything outside of us is SUPPOSED to operate. The world according to us!

Let’s use Valentine’s Day as an example. If it is written in your manual you believe in the marketing of FTD, Hallmark, and Hershey’s Chocolate then our husbands and boyfriends should be running out and getting a dozen red roses, a sweetie card, candy, and reserving a candlelight dinner with us every February 14th. How many of you expect this and don’t get it?

How would this scenario make you feel? Probably frustrated and angry? NOT happy and loving! Here are examples of other storylines in our manuals that don’t generate positive emotions either:

• The manual mothers have for their kids: they won’t cry, get tired, get sick on vacation, talk back, always sleep through the night, get stellar grades, won’t crash the car, never get emotional, always ask our advice, be respectful toward us and on and on.

• The manual we have for our pets includes: no shitting in the house, no jumping, no barking, no clawing the furniture, no making a mess eating, no need for walking when we are tired, no hair ball barfing, no shedding hair in the house, and on and on.

• The manual we have for work may include: no long days, people will come in and help when their room is done, my room will finish early, my patients will all cooperate under anesthesia, the supplies and instruments will all be picked 100% correctly, the schedule will run as it is written, the equipment will never break, our patients will do all their post-op instructions perfectly and on and on.

These sound ridiculous when written down but ask yourself how many of these ring true?

The point is, these manuals live in the dark recesses of our mind, no one else generally knows they are there, NOT EVEN OURSELVES!

The stories in our manuals are our default thinking, running undetected in our mind all the time. They are the thoughts driving our emotions, actions and ultimately the results we get in our lives. It is like we are following the WAZE app directions and drive into the lake because it told us too and we wonder how we ended up in a lake!

Our weight loss manual has thinking in there that is going to hold us back and keep us from evolving into the person we want to be.

Pull out your manual, open it to any page and start working on identifying that thinking. Decide if that STORYLINE is helping you or holding you back.

MODELING EMOTIONAL EATING

This week we are going inside our mind. We want to know what is going on in there.
This is where we will find the cause of ALL our overeating!
Because,

What we think = our weight loss results.
What we think = our financial results.
What we think = our relationship results.
What we think = our career results.

You can put anything in this equation and it will be true!

Our goal this week is to add a new habit to the other 4 habits we are already practicing: sleep, water, hunger scale, and meal plan. The thought download + model habit.

A thought download is writing down what you are thinking. Getting the self-talk out of your head and onto paper where you can SEE it.

Next, we put one of those thoughts into the model. We run our thinking through the model and it becomes crystal clear how our thinking leads to our results. Brooke Castillo developed this model and has successfully used it to coach people on any problem for years.

Here is an example of a thought download I did last week. The triggering circumstance was my daughter making a pasta meal. I was not hungry before she started the meal preparation.

This self-talk was going on in my head while she was making her meal:

why is no one hungry when I’m hungry,
why are they eating now,
man that food looks good,
that smells really good,
I can eat that real easy,
I can join in and eat too,
I’m sort of hungry,
I’m hungry enough,
I ll just do it this once,
no one knows my meal plan but me,
I can cheat and it won’t make a difference,
fuck it!

Self-talk goes on in our brain all the time – it’s the default thinking that supports our current habits. We put these thoughts go into the following Default Model because it’s the thinking the brain comes up with on its own. I have NO CONTROL over this thinking and you don’t either. This is the way our brains are designed to work. If you think this doesn’t apply to you; well that is just unicorn magic thinking! To show you how the model works I’ll put one of my thoughts into the Default Model.

Default (Unintentional) Model
The Circumstance: My daughter cooking when I am not hungry
My Thought: I can join in and eat too!
My Emotion: Connected
My Actions: Eat before I am physically hungry, overeat, Practice emotional eating
The Results: Eat extra food, gain weight

HERE IS WHAT THE MODEL REVEALS:

• The circumstance generated a thought, which created a feeling in my body.
• The feeling motivated my body to do these actions.
• The actions generated a predictable result.
• Finally, the results supported the thought.

This is how a habit loop works, it always starts with and is propagated by our thinking! This kind of thought is a RED FLAG for me because I encounter this situation on a daily basis.

However, I can practice a new thought to replace this very unhelpful one! I can build an Intentional Model to practice a new thought that will lead to a new result!

Intentional Model
The Circumstance: My daughter cooking when I am not hungry
My New Thought: Eating this food will not help me reach my goal weight!
My Desired Emotion: Truthful
My New Actions: Drink tea/coffee/seltzer water, connect with other people without eating, Practice eating meal plan
The New Results: Continue working toward my goal weight

At first, the Intentional Model is going to piss my brain off. The old familiar thought will keep coming up and I will have to practice pushing it down and thinking my new thought that will get me the results I want. This is simple but not easy because we need to practice it daily. Remember, we want to practice things that will start helping to pull us toward our goal:)

Modeling our thoughts will uncover and control our emotional eating habits!

The Emotion Wheel from The Junto Institute

JUST KEEP DOING THE PLAN

We are now a solid month into 2019. Are you still excited about losing weight?

Probably not so much, right? Everyone starts losing their forward momentum and motivation about now, especially if the results haven’t been as spectacular as we expected back on January 1st!

Viktor Frankl (neurologist, psychologist, and Holocaust survivor) once said:
“Life can be pulled by goals as surely as it can be pushed by drives.”

Our 4 basic and meal planning habits will pull us into the future we desire.

Or, we can blow off our plan and be pushed around by the vagaries of food marketing, other people’s demands, our emotional habits, and shear laziness.

We have two choices: To do our meal plan or to not do our meal plan. Simple!

If you haven’t done a meal plan then start today.

If you haven’t yet done a 24-hour meal plan in advance then start today.

Our meal plan data shows us where we can level up, identify patterns, adjust our meal plans, and change our food choices. It is where we face up to what we are doing on a daily basis!

It shows us where our helpful habits are and where we need to build better habits instead of wallowing in confusion, doubt, and indecision. This crappy mental state allows our brain to say, “Hey, let’s look for a new quick fix!”

Now, go back and look over your meal plans and figure out what worked and what didn’t. Hint: if you have documented your overeats you may identify a pattern that is waving the white flag of “Ego Depletion”. This is when our willpower and self-control surrender to our bad eating habits. My personal ego depletion zone is from 2-5pm after work and this where most of my overeating occurs.

Practicing the habits that pull us where we want to go makes them easier to do. Then the magic starts to happen! Our new habits begin to start helping us do the hard work of sticking with our lifelong diet!

Our new habits will become the force that works for us against all the pushing and shoving thoughts our brains manufacture: Why can’t I have this? This tastes so good! I was good at work today cause I didn’t eat the doughnut! I don’t want to waste this! I can’t throw this away because it cost money! I’m too tired. I just want to feel better! I felt angry at work and this cookie will make me feel better, and on and on and on.

This type of self-talk justifies not planning, eating off plan, overeating, or just saying “Fuck It” and telling ourselves we will just start over tomorrow, or Monday, or after the party.

Just Keep doing the Plan:

• drink enough water so your pee is pale yellow
• sleep 7+ hours
• practice the hunger scale at each meal
• write a meal plan 24 hours in advance then follow it
• following your Protocol

Next week we add thought work to build the habits we want. ALL overeating is based on what we are thinking and feeling at the time.

Mike Cohn, SCRUM Agility Founder, said in 2015: “If you loosen your grip on certainty, I think you will find a whole world of possibilities, a new path to learning and growth. But I could be wrong.”* I love this quote, we could all be wrong, and isn’t that a freeing thought – no more failure! It’s the learning and thinking that matter.

*(For those of you who are wondering what SCRUM means it is a term that originated in Rugby. In this case means: a set of practices used in agile project management for software development that emphasize daily communication and the flexible reassessment of plans that are carried out in short, iterative phases of work. Exactly what we do with the 4 basics, protocol and data assessment! SCRUM is used to enhance billion dollar companies so if it works for them it will work for us!)

MINING THE MEAL PLAN DATA

I have a fun exercise that will demonstrate why we need to write down our meal plans and any food we eat during the week. Our memories are really just illusion, just stories our brains build to make sense of the world. The brain does not take pictures. According to the motivational triangle our brains have evolved to do its work with the least amount of energy. It translates our experiences into memories by taking the images our eyeballs focus on, tag them to past experiences and create a story from preexisting stored information. Brain memory storage and retrieval has no similarities with CDs or DVDs. There is no tape recorder inside our heads much as we like to think so. However, there are a lot of cognitive biases that help us efficiently deal with all the stimulation the world throws at us. Our meal plans help us make weight loss progress despite the Illusion of Memory.

Read the following list of words and do your best to place them in your memory:

• bed, rest, awake, tired, dream, wake, snooze, blanket, doze, slumber, snore, nap, peace, yawn, drowsy.

Now, keep reading the next paragraphs and later I will ask you to recall the words.

When we stop losing weight, hit a plateau, or gain weight it is super helpful to have a meal plan to evaluate. We will be able to clearly see what needs to be improved. We don’t want to judge ourselves harshly; we just want to improve the data!

What VALUE can we extract from the meal plan and weight data? Extracting patterns from the data helps makes sense of the results for the week!

Look at the meal plan path you took last week.

See where the detours took place, overeats or food eaten off plan.

These detours are stimulating and painless in the moment. We are easily justifying them. However, they are taking away from our weight loss.

Let’s start facing WHY we are overeating before we do it. The list of emotions you wrote down that you feel BEFORE you eat are a clue to your WHY!

Documenting overeats EACH TIME THEY HAPPEN makes us realize how often we are doing it. We can turn off a lot of overeats by just becoming aware of them. It gives us the option of CHOOSING to stop overeating AS YOU ARE DOING IT instead of unconsciously continuing to eat well past the time your hunger has been satisfied.

Last thought for this week:

Food cannot make us emotionally FEEL a certain way. It does not have the ability to comfort us, entertain us, or keep us stress free – all this nonsense happens inside our head. What food has the direct ability to do is make us nauseated, fill our stomachs, make our intestines work, turn on our digestive system, get stuck in our teeth, stimulate our taste buds, make our breath smell, give us gas, give us stomach bloat, result in poop that is regular, too thin or too thick, and make us fart!

Food cannot comfort our minds. FOOD IS ONLY FUEL FOR THE BODY.

Now, without looking at the words listed earlier, write down the words from the list that you can remember. No worries if you can’t recall more than a few.

Take a look at the list of words you recalled. Does it contain the word “sleep?” About 40 percent of people doing this exercise will recall having seen the word “sleep.”

If you are one of those people you are probably as confident about having seen “sleep” as you are about any of the other words you remembered. You might even have a distinct recollection of seeing it on the list…. but it wasn’t there… your brain fabricated it! Go ahead and look back at the list if you don’t believe it. This is because your mind, in trying to recall the words, made an association of all the words in the list having to do with “sleep”; your memory “recalled” a word that was never there.

This is why we do written meal plans. Our memory is influenced by cognitive biases and may not remember overeating episodes accurately. After all, if we think and feel overeating is negative our brain will avoid keeping the painful thought. Our brains are going to inaccurately “remember” the meals we ate because it is doing what it has evolved to do – be efficient with its energy output while building memories and avoid creating pain-generating memories.

Let’s work together on another great week of sleeping, watering, eating when hungry, stopping when satisfied and planning,

MAKING THE MEAL PLAN WORK FOR US

Epictetus was born a Greek slave and lived from 33-135 AD. He was a philosopher that is still read today and has some ideas worth repeating!

“Some things are in our control, while others are not. We control our opinion, choice, desire, aversion, and, in a word, everything of our own doing. We don’t control our body, property, reputation, position, and, in a word, everything not of our own doing. Even more, the things in our control are by nature free, unhindered, and unobstructed, while those not in our control are weak, slavish, can be hindered, and are not our own.” – EPICTETUS, ENCHIRIDION, 1.12

This 2000+-year-old quote says our thinking is really the only thing we have control over; if we don’t think about what we are doing then we become slaves to things that are not of us. Back in the day he talked a lot about overeating and indulging in excesses – those Greeks and Romans knew how to partaaay!

Anyway, this goes to show that humans have been thinking about why we fight with our primitive, unconscious urges and desires for a LONG time! Which brings us to this week’s topic:

Actively directing our food choices in an aware, conscious manner.

The MEAL PLAN is how we are learning to do this! We are using our brainpower to plan and execute what we will eat in the next day or week instead of letting outside influences or circumstances to do it for us.

Here is a short list of all the things we do to accomplish this. I call it anti-mindless dieting:

♦ actually write a plan down we can follow realistically
♦ actually eat only what we write down
♦ ignore what friends and family tell us to eat or not eat
♦ ignore all the other food in the world not on our plan
♦ ignore the marketing we are bombarded with by the food industry
♦ listen to our bodies; hear what it says about what we put in it
♦ explore urges to eat something off plan and why
♦ identify emotions we foster or block with food
♦ learn how we buffer negative emotions with food

All these actions you take INSIDE YOUR BRAIN and are fully within your control! You are exercising your skill of DELAYED GRATIFICATION around food in order to achieve your weight loss.

This is a skill you have used in so many other areas of your life! Like graduating school, going to work everyday to get a paycheck, saving money to go on vacation, sending your kids to college, buying a house, or even walking the dog! All of us are real good at putting other things and people before our needs to get things accomplished for other people.

Now it is time to put you first!

And amazingly, with practice over time, we will be able to do it meal after meal, day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year to keep our weight loss and health goals!

JANUARY 2019 FOCUS: THE MEAL PLAN

Meaningful change requires some planning.

Meaningful change requires some execution.

Meaningful change requires some compliance.

This month you are planning the execution you are going to comply with in your diet.

By diet I simply mean what you eat/drink and when you eat/drink it.

This will not restrict you from any food; your food and drink choices are your own, but:

• food choices are planned ahead of time,

• food choices on the plan become what your are accountable for.

We all will document our food choices, whatever they are, for each week the entire month of January. Our weekly weight will be a measure of our progress.

As simple as this process sounds it requires practice because we are not used to being so aware of what we are eating. Eating that contributes to our being overweight is mindless! Like eating when we are bored, always eating popcorn at  the movies, cleaning the kids plates of the last few bites before they go in the dishwasher, or tasting the meal as we make it.

The meal plan will reveal what we are doing in our daily diet.

Attached is a meal plan framework to plan your meals.

You will then use the meal plan to document your actual diet as the days go by or you can document on the YouAte app by just taking a picture of your food.

Your weight can be documented on the meal plan page or you can use the Happy Scale app. Weigh yourself daily to start as we will use this data point to fine tune your diet. An increase or decrease in weight can be a reflection of your diet or life that happened that week so we use this data point to be curious about what we are doing with our diet and what is happening in our life!

Meal planning is now added to your water, sleep, and hunger scale habits you started to work on in December!

Emotion+MealPlan

THE HUNGER SCALE

This week we are going to start becoming aware of:
• what hunger feels like in our bodies
• what being satisfied feels like

The hunger scale helps to understand when to eat (-2) and when you are satisfied (+2). You want to find your Sweet Spot:

                          Hangry         Sweet Spot                        Full
(Starving)-10——5—- -2—-0—+2-—-5——-+10 (Won the wing bowl)

Hunger is a physical sensation of emptiness, maybe slight growling, thinking about food more and concentrating on the task at hand less. Hunger comes and goes in gentle waves so if you ignore it for 15 minutes or so (drink a glass of water) it will lessen or go away entirely.

If you aren’t hungry at your break time or lunch then wait to eat.

Physical hunger is NOT when you walk into the lounge on Friday and Andy’s doughnuts are sitting on the table and you suddenly want to eat one! That is called EMOTIONAL HUNGER and is concocted entirely inside your head.

Most people can go just fine with 3-5 hours between meals and you will notice if you are busy doing something you enjoy you can go even longer.

On the other side, being satisfied with your meal is a more subtle feeling and this one has been more of a challenge for me to get a handle on. When I am satisfied I lose interest in the food, take a sigh, sometimes I burp, and start looking around for something else to do. I always leave at least two bites on my plate. I will wait for 10 to 15 minutes and see if I want those two bites or I’ll throw them away.

It usually takes me 10 minutes of eating to feel satisfied. I chew everything mindfully and don’t hork it down to get more in like I used to do ☺

Each time you wait till your hunger is at a -2 and stop eating when your hunger is at a +2 you are no longer overeating at that meal. You will give your body less food to turn into sugar and make your body go after the stored fat inside your body that you want to get rid of. We call this DINING IN☺

• So, keep hydrated all day till your pee is light yellow,
• don’t eat till you are feeling some physical hunger,
• stop eating when you feel satisfied, not full!

SLEEP

Hello on this last Friday of 2018!

We have talked about taking in water to stay hydrated, waiting to eat until we are hungry, and stopping eating when we are satisfied. Today we are going to talk about the importance of a good night’s sleep for weight loss.

A good night’s sleep is 7 hours long and helps to:

• reduce cravings

• burn fat

• the fat burned comes from our fat stores and not muscle

What happens when we sleep less than 7 hours:

• we overeat when we are tired due to an increase in GHRELIN hormone levels, a hormone made primarily in the stomach which stimulates appetite, making us eat more often and more at each meal!

• we feel less satisfaction after eating meals and therefore eat more!

• we produce more Cortisol which stimulates the reward center of the brain (amygdala) making us crave more food – usually our favorites like potato chips and cake, not necessarily kale and wheatgrass!

• we lack energy to exercise

• we think in old bad habits that lead to poor food choices

More studies show a good night’s sleep is vital to our overall health, not just helpful in losing and maintaining weight. It needs to be a daily habit like our water and using the hunger scale at each meal☺

The 4 Things You Need to do to Lose Weight

Honestly, here are the only 4 things we need to do to lose weight and maintain weight. We need to do them everyday and for every meal.

• Plan what you are going to eat for the whole day and write it down (It works best if you do it the night before).

• Don’t eat a meal/snack until you are hungry (tummy growl, thinking about eating).

• Stop eating your meal/snack when you are satisfied, not full. Throw the extra food away or save it for another meal.

• Drink enough water so your pee is pale yellow. For me it is 40-64oz a day. (decaf coffee and tea count, caffeinated stuff makes you pee more and get dehydrated).

• Sleep 6-8 hours every night.

The hunger scale helps to understand when to eat (-2) and when you are satisfied (+2):

Hangry                                       Sweet Spot                              Full
(Starving)-10——5——-2—-0—-2——-5——-+10 (Won the wing bowl)

If you aren’t hungry at your break time or lunch then wait to eat. Hunger comes and goes in gentle waves and if you feel hungry and cannot eat then just wait 15 minutes or so and the hunger will pass. Keeping hydrated helps reduce the hunger wave intensity and frequency.

Each time you wait till your hunger is at a -2 and stop eating when your hunger is at a +2 you are no longer overeating at that meal. You will give your body less food to turn into sugar and make your body go after the stored fat inside your body that you want to get rid of. We call this DINING IN☺

Eat whatever food you want right now. You don’t need to get special food. You don’t need to count calories. You just need to learn how to eat less and BE CONSCIOUS OF WHAT YOUR BODY IS TELLING YOU BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER EACH MEAL!

It takes about a month to get these actions into habits. They don’t happen by unicorn magic. We actually have to do them. I had never listened to my body telling when I was hungry but since I eat 3 meals a day I practiced it 3 times a day and by the end of the week I was so much more aware of what my body was telling me.