Around this time last year, you were likely mentally preparing yourself for the big day.
You know, the day when you’d turn over a new leaf and set forth on a journey to achieve the body, finances, and life you know you deserve.
So again, how did it go?
My hope is that you have used these past 354 days to become the healthiest, wealthiest, and most adventurous version of yourself — that your leaf has remained turned over.
But that’s not always the case.
According to staticbrain.com, only 8-percent of us actually succeed in achieving our resolutions for the new year.
When I see a statistic like that, my brain starts pondering what those 8-percent are doing that the other 92-percent are not.
In my experience, I find that successful goal-setters are those who set goals that are in alignment with what they value in life.
If you’ve read my ebook, you may recall a story I told in chapter ten about a woman — Diane, I called her — who had been trying to shed 30 pounds since the Reagan Administration.
Diane had tried every diet under the sun, and worked with dozens of health coaches and trainers.
It was hard for me to believe that in thirty years she could not find a single diet to stick to. I also could not believe that her time with me would turn out any different from the many failed experiences she had had with coaches in the past.
Something didn’t add up.
Listening to Diane tell her story, I could not help but be reminded of a quote from Dr. John F. Demartini in THIS INTERVIEW. It goes like this…
“Your life is demonstrating what your real values are. Any time you set a goal that doesn’t match those values, you’re automatically going to live with a moral dilemma. You’re going to beat yourself up. You’re going to wonder why it’s not happening. You’re going to be asking why you can’t stay focused. You’re going to be looking for outside authorities to motivate you. The key is to be congruent with your highest values, so you are setting goals that are congruent, so you confirm and achieve what you say. And you develop the habit of knowing and building confidence that every time you say something, you do it. The key is knowing what your values are.”
How’s that for a mind-blower?
I walked Diane through a very brief exercise to get some idea of what she valued most in life. After ten minutes or so, she came up with these…
I asked if she noticed anything missing. After an extended silence, she exclaimed…HEALTH!!!
For three decades, Diane had been attempting to realize a goal that simply wasn’t that important — or valuable — to her.
No fad diet would have ever addressed this misalignment. And no amount of money paid to calorically-dogmatic health coaches would have ever overcome it.
Diane needed a values adjustment, not another diet and exercise program.
Instead of spending these next 11 days fixated on what only 8-percent of us hope to achieve in 2013, it may be time better spent to understand WHY we’ve been part of the 92-percent year in and year out.
To consider just how important these resolutions really are to us.
To find a big enough reason to achieve them.
This week, Paul Chek addressed this very topic on the radio show, discussing why most of us have such a challenging time staying motivated. I felt like I was listening to myself!
“All thoughts are forces of attraction.” – Paul Chek
Attitude is everything.
Well, maybe not everything. But it’s a pretty big deal.
Have you ever known someone who can’t open up his or her mouth without spewing out some kind of negativity?
You know, the one who’s had three fender benders in the past two months, who just can’t catch a break, who takes everything the wrong way.
We all know this person.
Maybe YOU are this person.
Not only are these folks suffering from a horrendous case of stinkin’ thinkin’, but their defeatist mind muck may be killing them. Literally.
No, I’m not about to get all “woo-woo” on you and suggest that you commit to a life of unmitigated optimism. Hey, life happens.
Instead, what I would like you to consider is how your limiting beliefs, chronic stress, and cynical perceptions may be impeding your body’s ability to heal.
I can speak from experience on this on. When I was a health coach, I generally had a good idea of which clients would heal and which would not.
What criteria did I use to make this assumption? Well, if I felt like I needed to take a shower right after a coaching call due to an hourlong onslaught of my client’s negativity bombs, I had a pretty good idea of how things would turn out.
On the other hand, there were those clients who brought a positive attitude from day one or who were committed to reducing their stress and to the practice of recognizing and replacing their automatic negative thoughts (ANTs). These clients were a joy to work with. And they usually (but not always) healed and regained their health.
I don’t think this was a coincidence. In fact, research is showing that it is a matter of physiology.
Is it really as simple as changing our thoughts?
Well, yes and no.
Of course we have to follow all of the other foundation principles — eat real food, get to bed on time, exercise just enough, and so on. However, if you’re the consummate JERFer who exercises daily and hits the sack at 10 pm nightly BUT your mind is a mess, you may be not be as healthy as you think you are.
Think of it this way, when negative thoughts and limiting beliefs are swirling through your dome around the clock, your brain is producing stress hormones and chemicals — cortisol, for example — that literally damage cells, generate inflammation, and compromise the immune system.
Conversely, positive thoughts and perceptions cause the brain to produce pleasure hormones and chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, growth hormone, and oxytocin — the ones that heal.
The brain is the chemist, regulating the health of the cells and thus the body. And only YOU can control the chemicals your brain makes — by the way you think and how you perceive and interpret the world.
But what about diet?
Diet is huge, of course. But I can’t help but think of what I was going through last year when I decided to hell with all of this confusing and conflicting food information — Just Eat Real Food (JERF)!
Searching for this perfect diet (one that does not exist, in my opinion) was stressing me out. Although I was doing my best to only put the highest quality foods down my pie hole, my noodle upstairs was probably cranking out its fair share of inflammatory chemicals, counteracting all the good I was trying to do!
If you’re stressing out over following your anti-inflammatory diet to a T, keep in mind that the stress is creating inflammation.
You eat maybe 3-5 times a day. But smart guys at UCLA say we have 70,000 thoughts a day. How they figured that out, I don’t know.
So what’s more important, your thoughts or your diet? I’d say it’s at least a tie. At least.
Yet which one do we tend to neglect the most?
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, friends.
Last night, David Scharps, maker of the film The Cure Is…, stopped by UW Radio to discuss what he learned about the mind-body connection when he set out to interview the world’s leading experts — Dr. Bruce Lipton, Paul Chek, Dr. Bernie Siegel, Marianne Williamson, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, and more — for his film.
If you were to ask me what I’d want for my very last meal, my answer might surprise you.
Grass-fed steak? No.
Free-range chicken? No.
Nope, not even bacon. And I love bacon.
I’d much rather roll with a platter of homemade chocolate chip cookies and sushi rolls, along with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with the crust cut off. Mmmmm…
If my answer shocks you — or even borders on hypocrisy, in your opinion — I should remind you that I’m human. Although I’m the Just Eat Real Food guy, even I have relationships with certain foods that are hard to break.
In fact, my adoration for chocolate chips, sushi, and PB&J is nothing I ever wish to eliminate from my psyche. I know why I love them. I understand where it comes from. And I know better than to let these feelings dominate my mealtime decisions.
When I was a kid, my fondest memories are of those special afternoons when Mom and I would make chocolate chip cookies from scratch. I remember cracking the eggs, adding the vanilla, stirring up the batter with that humongous wooden spoon, and licking the mixing bowl clean. Those were the days.
I also remember when my Mom started bringing home sushi after work. At first I refused to eat it. The idea of “eating raw fish” repulsed me. But eventually I gave it a try and was won over by California rolls. It was an instant addiction. Mom and I ended up becoming sushi buddies.
PB&J just reminds me of my childhood in general. Crunchy peanut butter. Smucker’s jelly. White bread. Heaven.
It’s been 17 years since I left home and moved 500 miles south to San Diego. But the two things that keep me connected to my Mom — beside our phones and flights home — are my infrequent trips to the cookie shop and weekly orders for take-out sushi.
These cases of the Mommy Munchies are what this week’s UW Radio guest Christa Orecchio called associative cravings — a deep, rich connection between food and my love for my Mama.
And there’s nothing wrong with it. We all have these connections. Every one of us.
Like relationships between people, the relationships we have with food can be healthy, unhealthy, or downright destructive. As a diet and lifestyle coach my clients often exhibited signs of the latter, as many related to food as medication, a best friend, or an escape from reality. Without understanding these relationships, making long-term dietary changes can often be impossible.
In the episode below, Christa — a certified holistic nutritionist — and I discuss how she helps her clients determine their perspectives and relationships with food, as well as how they go about improving them.
You can also watch the video below to catch a teaser clip in which Christa tells a story of how just being mindful of what we eat can lead to dramatic improvements in our health.
When I decided to take a six-week break to recharge my batteries, I honestly didn’t think I could do it. It just seemed like a really long time to be away from a topic, business, and community that I am so passionate about. But looking back, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Sometimes our passions can become our obsessions, slowly pushing out the many other incredibly important aspects of our lives. In my case, I had become so focused on this blog, UW Radio, social media updates/tweets, and the three HUGE launches we had in a span of nine months, that I had lost perspective of what life is all about.
In other words, as UW has grown, it has been to the detriment of relationships with family and friends. Although this work is my passion, I wasn’t having much fun outside of it. Every day was Groundhog Day with the days seemingly running together, lacking any hint of variety, or what Tony Robbins would call “uncertainty”.
Wake up. Read. Write. Prep for a show. Work out. Read more. Go to bed. Back to step one.
Kinda sounds like it sucks, huh?
Well, it did. Yet at the same time, I can’t help but be reminded of a quote I found on Facebook a few weeks ago. It went like this…
“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.” – Unknown
For the past five years, I have busted my tail to live the very life I am living today. But did it come with a price? Absolutely!
I always recommend that we listen to our bodies. Recently my body had been screaming at me. My immune system had literally taken one big sh*t, as I’ve had 3 separate sinus infections this year alone with the most recent one being the worst, starting literally the day after The Real Food Summit ended and persisting for over 3 weeks. Sucked!
Stress ruins your immune system. I’m living proof of that, as I’m 100% sure my sinus woes had been due to way too much stress from back-to-back-to-back launches along with a beyond-rocky intimate relationship that should have ended a long time ago.
The body doesn’t lie.
These past six weeks taught me a lot about balance. During my vacation, I spent more quality time with friends and family than I had in this entire decade combined. I forgot how fulfilling it can be to be around those you love and admire.
I went hiking.
I frolicked in the ocean.
I went camping in 106-degree weather with my family.
I stand-up paddled and didn’t fall!
I watched a ton of movies.
I waded in Deep Creek.
Saw a friend get married.
Went out for countless lunches and dinners.
Went on some really good dates.
Joined my first Fantasy Football league.
Watched 4 seasons of Breaking Bad on Netflix in a span of 3 days.
Saw Tony Robbins and walked over hot, burning coals.
I had a friggin’ blast! Even better, my energy and passion are back. And although my immune system has not returned to exactly where I want it to be, the only way it will ever return to normal is if I strive to keep my life in balance.
From now on, work starts at 9am and ends at 5pm, with UW Radio shows being the only exception.
I won’t go more than 3 months without seeing my family.
I’ll spend time with friends at least 3 times a week.
I’ll never put my work before my partner (when I find one) again.
Those are just a few of the promises I have made to myself. I’m keeping all of them.
So, what’s next for me and UW?
First up, I’m going on the air with Dr. Kalish in about 2 hours.
For those of you looking to rock a JERF tee, we’ll have them up for sale next week after we work out a few shipping issues.
Next month I’ll be launching a new website dedicated to personal development, entrepreneurship, and community service. The new site will also come with a brand new podcast that you’re gonna love!
Lastly, I’m in the process of looking for a space to shoot high-quality YouTube videos. After over a year away, I’m ready to go back on camera. Be on the lookout!
No more summits! Not for a long time. All I want to do is read, write, podcast, and shoot videos. That’s it. That’s enough for now.
Take an inventory of your life. Where are you out of balance? What is your body saying to you? You don’t have to take six weeks off to figure it out. Just being aware is the first step to bringing your life into alignment.
Anyone who can take books like Rework (about streamlining success and increasing productivity for entrepreneurs and small businesses), Good to Great (about how companies achieve enduring greatness), and Against All Odds (the autobiography of James Dyson, the inventor of the Dyson vacuum) and apply them to fat loss and personal transformation is my kind of guy.
Heck yeah it was good! Rarely do I ever read a book straight through. But when Dean shared the epiphany he had after 25 years of eating “healthy” while still carrying around an extra 50 pounds of body fat, I was hooked.
In Dean’s words…
“There was no reason to believe that this time around would be different, and yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was onto something this time because my epiphany focused not on how to lose weight, but rather on how to think about weight-loss. Twenty-five years of doing “stuff” hadn’t worked. This time I needed to be different, and in order for me to be different, I needed to think different.”
Word up, Mr. Dean.
How many years have you been fighting the battle?
How many diets have you tried with only temporary success — or none at all?
If you’ve been on the fat loss train since the Clinton administration, deboarding at every dietary stop — South Beach City, Atkinsville, Low-Fat Francisco — but you’ve got no souvenirs to show for it, it might be time to ponder what the common denominator is in all of this…
As I touched on in THIS BLOG, faulty thinking is often the root cause of failed attempts at fat loss and lifestyle modification. To review…
Thoughts determine our feelings.
Feelings determine our actions.
Actions determine our results.
Dean’s epiphany to be different by thinking different was the impetus for the twenty shifts — defined as subtle changes in thinking that in turn allowed the subsequent shift to come more easily, until the accumulation of shifts resulted in a complete mental overhaul — outlined in his book.
As I wrote last week, one small success on top of another small success on top of yet another small success eventually becomes one BIG success.
Speaking of success, Dean has managed to subtly shift his protruding late-forty-something-year-old white belly (his words, not mine) into a set of six-pack abs.
That’s a lot less carrots, Mr. Dwyer! (You’ll get that joke once you read the book.)
So…are YOU ready to make some shi(f)t happen?
I hope so, because today I’m going to share a handful of shifts and advice from Dean’s book that you can put into action TODAY.
Let’s DO this shi(f)t!!!
DO What Fits. Sorry for repeating myself, but small shifts lead to what Dean calls seismic change. But if you’re on-the-go all hours of the day, a diet program that requires you to cook every meal from scratch just ain’t gonna work. It doesn’t fit into the context of your life! Instead, do some Googling to see if there is a ready-to-eat healthy meal store like Fitzee Foods nearby that you can stop by to pick up your meals for the week.
Or if your latest fat loss regimen requires that you do an hour a day on the treadmill plus weights, how long do you think you’ll be able to stick with it? That doesn’t fit either! Like Dean says, if you don’t see yourself doing it five years from now, it’s definitely not for you.
Instead, you can work out at home for 30 minutes most days of the week using just your body weight and minimal equipment. No travel time. No gym dues. No awkward locker room moments. And no ridiculous fantasies of doing things that you simply don’t have time for.
If it doesn’t fit, it’s not going to stick!
Ignore Most (But Not All) Experts. Most fat loss and health gurus out there don’t know shi(f)t! What they know is what worked for them, lacking any and all awareness of the FACT that there are different solutions for different people. As Dean points out, be on the lookout for experts who focus on outcomes while omitting the details, ones who push products over principles, and those that make you dependent on their products and services.
This reminds me of when I was a personal trainer and the veterans would advise me to teach my clients just enough to make sure that they came back for more sessions. That never sat well with me. I’m a “teach a man (or woman) how to fish” kind of guy. This ain’t no seafood restaurant.
Become an Expert on YOU! I get a LOT of email from people asking me if I could tell them EXACTLY what to eat — how many grams of this and grams of that to throw down their pie hole. My answer is always this: I don’t know! Find out what works for you by keeping a diet log, tracking not only what you eat but also how you feel after each meal. There’s a really good one included in my e-book The Dark Side of Fat Loss.
Let. Me. Be. Clear. There is no one on the face of this Earth who can tell you exactly what foods you should eat and in what ratios you should be eating them. No one!
And this brings us to the next shift….
Think in Beta. I love this one since Dean snagged the idea from the aforementioned book Rework, which may have been the last book I read cover-to-cover in one sitting prior to Dean’s opus.
Here’s the deal — when a software program is in beta you expect there to be glitches and bugs. The developer uses this trial period to capture user feedback so that the functionality of the program may be improved upon. Once the bugs are worked out, an upgraded 2.0 version is released.
As Dean writes, we need to get our beta on! In other words, it would be unrealistic to expect ourselves to get this whole fat loss thing right the first time around. Necessity is the mother of all invention. What I mean is that in order to become the expert on YOU — to become the 2.0 version — you have to go through some trial-and-error first to find out where the glitches are. Once you figure out what you need, then you can create a solution for yourself. And the solution is probably not someone else’s program.
Didn’t I write about this last week?
If you’re walking on a path that’s already trodden, you know it’s not yours.
Experiment on yourself and work out the beta bugs. Be mindful of what’s working and what’s not. Again, log your meals. (No, you won’t have to do this forever.) Monitor your post-meal body language. What is your body saying to you? Manipulate your macronutrient ratios — the percentage of proteins, fats, and carbs. Keep an eye on your measurements and how your clothes fit.
Remember, you are a complex being, so getting your beta on can take weeks or even months. Even those geniuses over at Facebook seldom get it right the first time. Embrace the bugs in the system, recognizing that every tweak you make is but one more small success on the road to seismic change.
Identify System Problems. This one comes from another book I recently read (and loved) called Switch by Chip and Dan Heath, in which the authors introduce the concept of the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE). Put simply…
People tend to ignore the situational forces that shape other people’s behavior, thus attributing it to the way they are rather than the situation they are in.
I can write an entire blog on this one (and probably will at some point), but for now let’s consider the following:
You say you can’t help but eat sweets before bed, but would this continue to be true if you didn’t keep sweets in the house?
You say you can’t keep your weight down because there are no healthy food options near your job, but what if you took your own lunch?
You say that you don’t get up at 6am to go to the gym because you’re too tired to deal with the hassle of getting ready, but what if you laid out your gym clothes the night before and left your alarm (the one on your phone, I assume) in your workout pants pocket?
You see, these aren’t really problems with YOU per se. Rather, these issues are guided by situation forces that can be very easily overcome by simple situational shifts.
The little things go a long way.
And that’s the point of Dean’s book — a little shift here on top of a little shift here on top of another little shift over there eventually leads to seismic change.
Dean is one of the few in the health blogosphere who has this thing figured out. It’s not just about food and fitness, you guys. You gotta get your mind right.
Read his book.
I guarantee it will make you shi(f)t your pants! Pun intended.
By the way, Dean was a presenter at my Paleo Summit. I posted his presentation below. I’ll leave it up for the rest of the week. Watch that shi(f)t!!!
It’s like a default setting for human beings who wish to do more with their lives but just can’t get — or keep — going.
There have been days when I longed for mediocrity and normalcy. You may even remember the time when I shut down my YouTube channel and social media accounts. My goodness, you have no idea how awesome that felt. No longer would I have to deal with 8 billion emails every morning. Never again would I have to wake up to find another smear video by the fruitarian dude posted on my Facebook wall. And I wouldn’t have to worry about getting caught in line at Whole Foods with a slice of chocolate cake in my basket.
I just wanted to make edu-taining health videos. I didn’t sign up for all of this other stuff!
Leading up to my meltdown, I had convinced myself that I couldn’t deal with you guys — the readers, listeners, and viewers who followed me online. But the truth of the matter is that the fear of success had taken over both my subconscious and conscious minds and had its way with me.
But as I like to say, every breakdown is followed by a breakthrough. And here we are, almost two years later, still cranking away at it. And having a ton of fun doing it.
It’s interesting that we are so very familiar with the fear of failure, but seldom do we ever consider how we fear success at the same time.
It almost sounds oxymoronic. How can we fear what we desire the most?
When we fear failing and we fear succeeding, what’s left is mediocrity, a place where an overwhelming majority of us are living, maybe never to know how powerful we can be.
When I first read through Dr. Srini Pillay’s book Life Unlocked, I nearly peed my pants by how much I could relate to the chapter entitled Fear of Success. I read these fears aloud to my girlfriend-at-the-time, and after each one she would say, “Oh, I remember that one. You had that one bad!”
It was a trip.
So today I’d like to share a handful of these fears with you, as outlined by Dr. Pillay. Because in our quests to become Professional Human Beings, it is imperative that we are clear about the obstacles that may stand between us and our goals so that we may remove them and move forward.
In the sections below, I will make references to health and fitness goals. However, the fears of success can apply to any aspect of your life. Here goes….
The Loneliness of Success: The fear of loneliness can certainly stand in the way of achieving success, as being successful requires an inordinate amount of independent study and practice. In other words, it involves lots of alone time. I can relate to this one. I’ve likely spent many thousands of hours reading books on health. No one else was there while I was doing it. It was just me.
Imagine how many hours Michael Jordan spent taking jump shots when no one else was around. Tens of thousands of hours, I’m sure! I know a lot of people who can’t do anything by themselves.
And while I can attest to the many hours of alone time to gain expertise, I can also vouch for its rewards. Nothing makes us bigger people magnets than success does. Think about it, what would you give to have lunch with Michael Jordan or any other person you consider to be successful?
In terms of fitness and health goals, loneliness may involve having lunch by yourself while your co-workers grab a pizza. It may involve working out solo when no else will show up. What’s funny is that once you achieve your goal, everyone will want to eat and work out with you! They’ll all want to know your “secrets”. But the truth is that while they were eating, watching TV, and doing all of the wrong things, you were doing all of the right things all by yourself. There are no secrets to share. You just had a reason to achieve your objective that was much bigger than your fear of being lonely. That’s all.
The Responsibility of Success: Ever picked up a tabloid mag or spent some time on the TMZ website? Success may bring plenty of rewards like fulfillment, sense of accomplishment, and money, but it also generates what can turn out to be an intense amount of scrutiny. Living life underneath a ginormous microscope just can’t be that much fun!
If your goal is to lose 30 pounds of fat, you will likely find that everything you put into your mouth is under constant scrutiny. Does that salad have gluten in it? Is that tap water you’re drinking? I thought that was bad! Oh, you’re taking another day off from the gym, what’s wrong? This kind of scrutiny can really stack up on you, trigger the brain’s inhibitory pathways, and sabotage even the best of intentions.
I like to follow Bill Cosby’s advice — “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
Fear of the Unknown: Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. Choosing success is equivalent to choosing the unknown and moving closer to it. Imagine walking down a darkened tunnel. I’m sure you wouldn’t walk the same way you would if the lights were on. Instead, you experience something called anticipatory anxiety. When this happens, inhibitory circuits in your brain light up, thus impeding the function of the brain’s action centers. No action, no success.
Like the guy in the movie What About Bob says, “baby steps”. When you focus on small actions, your prospects of succeeding are much greater than when you solely focus on the end game. One workout, meal, and day at a time, my friends. Or like my main man Todd Durkin says, “Win the day”.
Winning the day produces far less anxiety than winning the next 6 months.
Fear that Once Success is Reached, The Drive to Succeed Will be Lost: I’ve totally been through this one. I call it What’s Next Syndrome. When I finished writing The Dark Side of Fat Loss (DSFL), I wasn’t overwhelmed with joy by any means. I was actually kinda bummed. Why? Because I fell in love with the process of writing it. I didn’t really want to finish it. I was addicted to the sense of focus, drive, and attention the writing process gave me.
After I launched DSFL, you may recall that I went through a phase where I didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself. My mind was all over the place. My brain went from intense focus to complete chaos!
I’ve seen this very same state in many of the clients I have worked with. They own the process of getting healthier. It consumes them, almost like a hobby. For many, it is the first time they have ever had a purpose in life. Consciously they want to get healthier, but subconsciously the idea of succeeding becomes a threat to the very process of achieving. Or as Pillay writes, “the challenge of being starts to erode the achievement of becoming.”
Enamoring yourself with the process of becoming healthy can result in the letdown of actually being healthy — that is, if you can’t find some sense of continued meaning in succeeding.
Anyway, I’m running up on my 3-Page Rule. The rest of Dr. Pillay’s Fears of Success are:
* The disorientation of success
* Fear of not being able to maintain success
* Fear that success will attract opportunistic people that will prey upon us
* Fear of losing our identity
* Fear of competition
* Fear of being “found out”
Later this week, we will talk more about how to resolve the conflicts in our heads and turn them into action. In the meantime, listen to THIS INTERVIEW I recorded with the doc on UW Radio.
Down with mediocrity!!!
I Like to Spend Hours Upon Hours By Myself Reading and Stuff…
“The brain always chooses to shine the spotlight on fear above all other emotions.”
Ain’t that the truth.
As you learned yesterday, fears that we aren’t even consciously aware of can trump even our most stalwart attempts at reaching our goals. The oversensitive, fear-mongering amygdala brings to mind an anxiety-ridden driver’s ed instructor who taps his brake whenever his student approaches the speed limit.
You’re going too fast!
Watch out for the pedestrians!
You’re too close to the car in front of you!
In its efforts to protect us from harm, the amygdala pumps the brakes on the action centers of the brain, known as the motor cortex. This battle between our unconscious motivations and our conscious intentions keeps us from sticking to our fat loss programs, from leaving our miserable jobs, and from earning incomes that will allow us to do the things we want in life.
No matter how badly you want to lose those 30 pounds, your brain attends to fear above all else and would rather save you from the consequences — real or imagined — of ruffling a few feathers (by changing the way you eat when with friends and family) or diverting from the path of familiarity. Sometimes, there’s nothing scarier than the unknown.
I can imagine that after reading yesterday’s post, many readers were left with a feeling of hopelessness (my bad!), likely wondering if it’s possible to overcome the amygdala’s wrath when the origins of its fear circuitry are outside of conscious awareness. How do we fix something when we don’t even know where it comes from?
Well, I’ve got good news. First off, anything is possible. In fact, throwing our arms up and calling anything impossible is a great way to further empower the amygdala. Think about it. Again, this a battle between the conscious and unconscious. When the brain gets the message that something is impossible, the action centers takes its orders — from YOU! — and surrenders. Who wins?
Dr. Pillay writes, “Just because unconscious fear is outside of awareness does not mean that we’re hopeless and cannot tap into it.”
Although you were probably told, at some point in your life, that the brain is fixed and cannot be changed, this is simply untrue. Both conscious and unconscious nerve cells can be changed by way of neuroplasticity. In other words, the brain can make new connections and associations. But it takes practice, attention, and maybe even a little help.
Pillay advocates understanding the meaning as well as the existence of our fears. Once we understand the reasons we are afraid, the conscious brain can make new connections with the subconscious and dim the lights on our fear circuits.
I can personally attest to this idea of bringing subconscious fears up to the conscious level to be worked on as a way to quell fears. Every Friday at noon, my therapist (I call him Yoda) digs some stuff out of me, regarding intimate relationships, that I didn’t even know was there! The stuff works, and I’m a much better communicator because of it.
Once the conscious mind becomes aware of our unconscious fears, the conversation in our heads goes from a monologue to a dialogue. The conscious mind can now talk back, thus deflecting the amygdala’s disruptive forces. Whenever I feel fear creep in — it never really goes away, by the way — I just say my amygdala is acting up. Simply knowing where fear comes from can be therapeutic in itself.
At the end of Chapter 1, Dr. Pillay introduces a plethora of ways to quiet the amygdala. I’ll touch on a few that stood out to me. For the rest, you gotta read the book.
Meditation and Yoga: People get hooked on this stuff for a reason. Kundalini yoga has been shown to be effective in people with obsessive compulsive disorder, as it calms the fears surrounding the consequences of what will happen if they do not perform their repetitive rituals. Transcendental meditation (you may know it as TM) increases frontal coherence in the brain, in which the the parts of the frontal lobe work together harmoniously. Frontal coherence enhances inner calmness and reduces fear. (Pillay, 33)
Attend to Positive Things: The strength of the fear emotion is what captures the amygdala. So, do your part to overwhelm it with positivity. Turn off the news! In my home, you can find positive movies like Finding Joe looping while I work. People make fun of my fixation with documentaries and flicks that have to do with triumph. Become a master of input control. Even if you have to fake a smile, your brain will learn to associate it with happiness through practice!
Impossible versus Difficult: I touched on this one earlier. Remember, the amygdala wins when you label your goals as impossible. You’re done! Replacing impossible with difficult keeps the conscious mind engaged. And don’t think that your brain is fooled when you really think your fat loss goals are impossible but you go to the gym anyway to clear your conscience. The brain knows!
Embrace your Fears: I love the idea of going to Courage Gym, something I first read about in Brian Johnson’s awesome book, The Philosopher’s Notes, and discussed with him during THIS PODCAST. Move closer to your fears with courage. Inch by inch. This reminds me of when I was a kid and I would slowly submerge myself into a swimming pool. Toes first. Then my legs. Then my body. Then I finally plunged my head underwater. I’m in! Love your fears. They’re yours, right? When you’re constantly fighting with your fears, you’re so busy fighting that you’re no longer open to the possibilities that may come to you. (I stole that line from a guy in Finding Joe, by the way.)
A few more from the doc:
* Know that fear never really disappears.
* Find a safe environment where you can let yourself go, such as a therapist’s office or a journal.
* Use calming visual imagery to positively influence amygdala activation.
Stuff like that!
That’s it for the day. Thanks for reading!
Tomorrow’s blog will be a recap of tonight’s UW Radio show with Reed Davis. Next week, we’ll tackle fear of success, things you didn’t know about magnesium, and maybe even squeeze in a Friday Fun Day workout video!
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