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Thanks for stopping by! I'm young, I'm in love with my man, and I'm a mommy. We're busy, but happy. I'll share with you how to eat natural, healthy, whole foods while balancing family life! Learn to love your food, it will love you back!
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Friday, September 21, 2012

Teaching Our Brains New Habits

I just got back from a conference discussing how our brains learn habits. The lecture was given by the Institute of Brain Potential and the presenter was Dr. King, Ph.D. He has a strong background in Neuroscience.  It went into a lot of insightful information about how people get into bad habits and how they can change their way of living. I took this course for continuing education as a health care worker, but the whole time I was in the lecture I kept relating everything he said to food, diet and healthy living!

He used obesity and overeating as an example a lot so it wasn't that hard to compare the two. He gave a statistic about obese individuals and dieting. He said that only 20% of people maintain a 10% weight loss over a period of five years.

How can this number be so low? How is it that with so many diets in the world that we continue to get larger and larger?

This is where the word habit was dissected and explained to us how we can really train our brains to learn new habits.

Most dieters simply do a diet to reach their weight loss goals. This is the first clue for failure, a habit change needs to be a lifestyle change. You will not be as successful if you simply do it to meet a short term goal then return to your old habits. This seems obvious, but I myself have done it before. I have met weight loss goals then I think magically the pounds will stay off if I return to how I used to eat.

Another interesting point he made was habits are not formed by repetition, they are formed by reinforcement. We have an area in our brains that subconsciously makes our choices for us. The Prefrontal cortex of our brains has the ability to override our decisions-this has been termed "willpower". This obviously takes a conscious effort, if you've ever been in a mental battle with yourself this is what is going on. The idea of reinforcement changing our habits comes from the idea that we will the majority of the time choose the option that has the greatest return with the least amount of effort.

He compared this to choosing a piece of chocolate cake to a plate of celery. Instantly most people will feel that is is the same amount of effort to eat a plate of celery or a piece of chocolate cake- but the chocolate cake will in most cases beat the celery, because the sugar in the cake gives us a stimulant which our brain does not soon forget from past experience! do we stop this vicious cycle of junk food always winning against health food. This is where you need to find the benefit of health food and fight the brain against choosing the junk food. Soon your brain will start to see the benefits, like a leaner body, less sugars and refined carbohydrates so your brain can function at a normal level. He explained that certain carbs like refined sugar can heighten our dopamine receptors in our brain which gives us a level of pleasure- this is why it is so hard to change your food habits. Your brain loves the pastas and candy bars!

It takes time, I know this from experience. It is very easy to fall off the horse. I know that if you give it longer than a week- I'm talking a month or more you will start to feel a difference and making healthy choices will become just what you do! It will become second nature. Can it change back to old habits in no time at all? Yes it can- I myself am still struggling with my chocolate chip addiction- but my brain knows the difference now. I can't eat a plate of cookies, cake or ice cream without knowing it isn't good and feeling a level of guilt. Because my brain knows. A habit has been formed and it will always know what the benefits of healthy eating are compared to the benefit of a delicious, dangerous sundae!

My suggestion on trying to change your habits- stop doing short term diets! Make a commitment to change your life! Fight those mental battles for a few weeks, until before you know it you will make the good choices without even thinking about it! It isn't easy- I've been there. I think people forget that I have since I'm the author on this blog- I have been there...remember I've said before I'm the cheese quesadilla girl!

It isn't easy, but it's so worth it to feel what real normal feels like! You can do it! I'd love to help anyone anytime, just message me and you have yourself a cheerleader!

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