Your brain isn’t always looking out for you. It isn’t always the good guy.
In fact, often it is the bad guy.
Imagine a person 10,000 years ago. They have the same brain as you yet their environment is totally different.
Frequent life threatening dangers were faced and dealt with.
Food was sparse and hard to come by. It took a lot of effort to either hunt down food by tracking it or by foraging for different foods in the wild.
Days could pass without a solid meal and when food did come it was nothing like what we eat today.
Contrast this environment to the modern western environment.
We don’t usually go more than 8-12 hours without food. When we do eat it is a large portion of food and the idea of going a day without food is not even considered.
We must exert almost no effort to get our food and the food we have is incredibly dense in calories yet low in nutrients.
Food is in ABUNDANCE. You cannot walk more than a minute down a city street without several vendors selling food. Vending machines line every walkway and office. Food energy is so easy to come by for most the population that obesity is something that takes an effort to avoid.
Kitchen cupboards are packed full of all sorts of high calorie, low nutrient foods.
Every event is over-catered with cakes, cookies, chips, soft drinks, alcohol
You are more impulsive than you think
We humans like to think of ourselves as smart.
We are the top of the food chain and have developed the modern world to cater to us. We have changed the environment around us and developed tools that give us the power to make things happen the way we want them to.
The trouble is we are still ruled by our primitive brain.
As mentioned above we have evolved with a rough history. Only the strong survived and the human body and the genes we have as modern humans descend from the hardiest of our kind.
We are made to survive with minimal food.
We are made to seek out and eat whenever food is available.
We are made to store FAT as fuel so that if food is abundant we can literally save it for later in our own body.
When you see or smell some nice food and immediately want to grab it and eat it your brain is doing exactly what has kept humans alive over time.
This DRIVE for food and to consume is what allowed us to be the strongest in the jungle.
The trouble is this drive now exists in a completely new world.
Beware of your environment
What does your environment look like?
Is it conducive to good health?
Whilst willpower and determination are important parts of becoming healthier, we cannot discount the influence of the physical environment on our behavior.
You want to have your environment set up for success not for failure.
You want to get healthy and fit and lose some weight. Why would you want to have ice cream, lollies, chips and biscuits in the cupboard when you know very well they aren’t helping achieve these goals?
Do you have your gym clothes ready to go in the morning so you can’t avoid seeing them on your way out the door?
Consider your home, your office and any other place you spend a lot of time. What could you change there to make it more conducive to your health goals?
Accept your limitations
We all have limitations. The key to moving past them is first accepting them! Once you have accepted that you have things you crave and things that are ruining your health efforts then you can move forward with addressing them.
What foods do you find you can’t stop eating?
What barriers limit you from exercising?
What stops you getting up early to workout before work?
There is nothing wrong with having cravings. There is something wrong with not admitting what your weaknesses are because without admitting them you can never change them!
Setting up your kitchen
Take a look in your kitchen. Is it tidy? Are there packaged foods filling the cupboards?
The kitchen is generally the source of most of the food energy that goes into your body. It makes sense to ensure that it is set up in the best way to encourage healthy habits!
Preparing each day
Do you have your meals prepared for the day?
Do you know what you are going to be eating for lunch and dinner?
If you go by chance without any planning at all then you are leaving your health up to the influence of your impulsive brain.
If instead you have planned out your day, you have your lunch prepared and your dinner either prepared or planned then you are setting yourself up for success!
Do you want to eat better food? Preparing healthy foods at home is one of the best ways to make sure this happens.
Have you prepared your workout or time to relax for the day? Again, if you have not planned it then chances are it won’t happen!
Preparing each week
How do you spend your weekends now?
Do you prepare for the week ahead?
Ideally this is the best time to purchase the food you want for the week ahead and plan your healthy habits!
When will you get your three workouts in this coming week?
What healthy meals will you prepare each day?
Do you have the food available for it?
What things look like they will get in the way of your healthy plans?
How can you overcome them in advance?
Use your weekends wisely and try to remove the barriers BEFORE they happen!
Pro-active not re-active
If you want to overcome your impulsive brain then you need to switch from being re-active to being pro-active. All this means is anticipating problems and working out how you can stop them from happening in the first place.
As an example. You wake up and head off to work without having prepared any lunch the night before. Lunch comes and you are starving and head off to the local fast food place to get your lunch.
This is a RE-ACTIVE approach to your day.
The PRO-ACTIVE approach would be to plan the night before what lunch you will have and make sure it is ready to go. It is preempting what you know will happen and doing everything you can to ensure that it doesn’t go badly.
You can use this approach with every aspect of your health.
Are you being re-active or pro-active?
Your environment will determine your success as much as your willpower. Make sure that your environment is not setting you up for failure.
Take control over your environment so it does not take control over you!