Cheeze-Its: Crunchy, salty, cheesy bites of cracker that crumble in your mouth and melt on your tongue. They taste best by the handful. They don’t need any preparation. They are quick and easy to grab. Such a quick relief from stress! Especially good when you are hungry to boot.
You can just continue to pop them as you are discussing something stressful or working on your computer…
Yum, yum, yum… crunch, crunch, crunch… handfuls are going in… stress is subsiding a bit… man, these are good… crunch, crunch, crunch… OK, getting a little full… munch, munch, munch… just a few more, I swear this will be my last handful…
No, this one will be my last one… well, just those few on top before I shut the bag… hmmm about half the box is gone… and… then… BAM!
The guilt, frustration, and self-judgement sink in and oh, by the way, you just ate 1200 calories that wiped out your deficits from the past four days.
WHY DO I DO THIS!!!???
Does this sound familiar to you? Do you have any eating habits that you partake in that give you a net negative consequence but you keep doing them anyway? Does it feel like you don’t seem to have control over it? Do you do it and then feel guilty, telling yourself you must stop? Do you ever wonder: I know what to do, why don’t I do it?
IT’S JUST PROGRAMMING
Don’t worry- you are not alone and nothing has gone wrong! It’s just part of our primitive brain programming that worked well for us in our survival days, but is not working well in modern day societies. All we have to do is de-program and you’ll be as good as gold. Let me explain…
Your primitive brain is wired to seek pleasure, avoid pain, and use as little energy as possible. Those three motivations are always buried underneath the newer part of our brain and when left “unattended” in the unconscious mind, it can lead to behaviors that we don’t necessary want for our lives. When we are not aware of this, it can feel rather uncontrolled, as if something is propelling us to do something against our will. But when you can bring consciousness to it, you gain some authority over your primitive brain and let your brain know it is OK, we are not going to die if we don’t have the Cheeze-Its.
It’s very easy for our primitive brains to create desire for something that is quick and easy, delivers a hit of dopamine (which will be bigger with sugar and flour), and sooths our negative emotions. After all, that is pleasure-seeking, rewarding, and reduces negative emotion! What a perfect loop! Negative emotion, think about something yummy, eat something yummy, feel soothed. Unfortunately, these “perfect little loops” can also be the loopholes in your daily habits that are preventing you from attaining the results you WANT.
BAD NEWS, GREAT NEWS
Here’s the bad news: That relief you feel when you eat to buffer another emotion or to create pleasure is TEMPORARY and if the activity is not in line with your long term goals, will typically lead to a net negative consequence, including incremental negative emotions as you judge your actions.
Here’s the great news: You can decide that you are tired of these brain loops that are not serving you and do something about them. See steps below!!
Here’s the neutral news: It will not be easy, but it is simple. Rewiring your brain, especially after years of programming, will take time and energy. But it is worth it in the long run.
- Gain consciousness over your habits you want to change and recognize how your brain has wired those thoughts, feelings, and actions into autopilot (which uses as little energy as possible)
- When you have the urge (desire) for something that will give you a net negative consequence, notice the thoughts and the feeling of desire
- Allow that feeling of desire to be there without resisting
- Do not react to the urge or give in. Allow it to just be there. Your primitive brain may have a hissy fit. It will tell you there is danger, you are going to starve and keel over and die. It will tell you this is the most important thing right now, you HAVE TO DO IT. But now you will think: It’s OK brain. We are not going to die. We’re going to be OK. I see you, I feel you, I’m going to let it be.
The more you practice this, the easier it will become. That thought loop will start to lose its grip and you will gain the skill of allowing a feeling without reacting and being in complete control over your own actions.