When it comes to achieving good health and optimal nutrition, you may think you are headed in the right direction — but are you really?
This past weekend, I was fortunate to hear a remarkable message from Vince Poscente, author of The Age of Speed: Learning to Thrive in a More-Faster-Now World and The Ant and the Elephant: Leadership for the Self. While his message is not specifically about wellness, it still rang true.
According to Poscente, researchers have determined that, in one second, we have approximately 2,000 neurons of conscious thought and four billion neurons of subconscious thought. Poscente used the analogy of a small ant for the intentional, conscious element of our brain. On the other hand, an enormous elephant represents the subconscious agenda of our brain, which is influenced by memories and emotions. If an ant is facing east, riding on the back of an elephant who is headed west, it’s no surprise who is in control.
While you may know your conscious “ant” really well, are you overlooking the power of your subconscious “elephant”?
If you need to lose weight, improve your diabetes control, or recover from an eating disorder, chances are you already know, consciously, what you should do. But if you haven’t been able to follow through with that, your subconscious may be holding you back.
Consciously select what to eat; subconsciously drive how much to eat.
Consciously understanding what types of foods are best for your long-term health is an important first step. But I suggest refusing to read diet books that prescribe strict rules about how much to eat.
If you truly listen to your subconscious, it will tell you accurately how much to eat. If you under-eat because you think you “should” stop or if you try to give up foods you deem off-limits, inevitably you will crave them more and then overeat.
Similarly, if you munch on food for comfort when you are not hungry, your subconscious mind will be uncomfortable with your tactic to numb important emotions. Having the courage to work through tough emotions and examine how to comfort yourself without food is the key to achieving optimal health and weight management.
Get psyched up rather than psyched out.
What are you saying to yourself when you aren’t paying attention? If you listen closely, you might be like many people who are more critical than supportive. You give yourself more feedback than anyone else. It’s time to start giving yourself an encouraging pat on the back.
Comments such as “I’m fat,” “I hate my body” or “I’m not good enough” are powerful negative messages that grow your subconscious elephant even bigger. Trying to stop negative thoughts is often harder than you think. The more you try not to think about something, the harder it might be.
Imagine what would happen if you are unhappy with your beer belly and someone keeps repeating messages to you to stop thinking about how big your belly is. You will likely be thinking about your belly more and feeling worse about yourself the more you keep trying not to think about it.
Instead of trying to stop damaging thoughts, replace them with positive thoughts. Just as a muscle needs to be exercised to get stronger, your thoughts about food and your body need to be trained. What if each time you heard a negative thought you said to yourself, “I don’t have to be perfect, I am strong and moving toward healthy?”
It might seem cheesy, but as the old expression goes, you’ve got to fake it until you make it.
Andrea Holwegner, the chocoholic dietitian, is the owner of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. Visit www.healthstandnutrition.com or phone 403-262-3466 for more information on personalized nutrition counselling, professional speaking and to subscribe to her blog or free monthly ezine.