Thursday, December 4, 2008

Stop the Insanity!

Do you know the definition of insanity?

When you do the same thing over and over again and expect different results.

This often applies to wellness in the realm of habits like food, lack of exercise, smoking, drinking, stress, and many many more. When we try a new diet without changing the way we think about food, we're setting ourselves up to be unsuccessful. Many people do it over and over again---try the latest diet (low carb, low fat, calorie restriction, weight watchers, LA WeightLoss.....SlimFast, NutriSystem, etc....), and then when it doesn't work blame themselves. The problem is that you can try a new diet by saying you're going to do it and learning the new protocol....but you're not changing anything about the way you think and feel about food. In fact, many times you're thinking more about losing that 10 pounds.

So why is this a problem?

Humans are creatures of habit. We spend our lives developing our habits (based on our genetics and our experiences), and then we decide we want to change something and expect to do it instantly and to get results instantly.

Our bodies actually develop neural pathways according to our habits. Do you ever feel like you're on autopilot? Even if you don't, if you do things the same way for a long time, your brain and body are actually conditioned to keep doing it that way. The insanity part comes in when all we ever do (through whichever diet we choose) is try and break those pathways instantly and switch to a new lifestyle.

Don't get me wrong, sometimes it works (think quitting smoking cold turkey or changing diet all at once and following it for the rest of your life). In those cases, there are many factors present---you may call it "mind over matter" or just having the sheer determination to make the change. We are all capable of this, but in general, we do not have the deep down determination, faith, and follow-through to make it happen in an instant. That is not a weakness, it's biology.

For most of us, if we take a more gradual approach, we will be more successful and make it a lifestyle change as opposed to a crash or yo-yo diet. What this means for practical application is that we have to recondition ourselves about the way we think about food. Ease into it. Pick one thing you could change, and plan a way to do it slowly in a way that's comfortable to you. This isn't how we normally try and change ourselves----but haven't we proven that the old way doesn't work?

No comments: