Transforming Your Habits to Transform Your Health Part 20

Now we are making some progress! We’ve recognized our cravings. We understand that they’re not personal, that they developed over time, and that we have a strong desire to create new pathways that result in the behaviors we want. The process to achieve this is based on a relatively simple concept. In fact, it’s so simple, people often won’t try it. They just don’t believe it’ll work. I discuss it in my book, Authentic Health.

Essentially, when you experience a craving, regardless of what it is, whether it’s to smoke, eat, drink, watch television, or any other behavior that’s not supporting your best health, you will pause and observe it. You’ll remind yourself of what you want for yourself, meaning you’ll use the power of desire and future continuity. You will not beat up on yourself for having this issue, as you actually have strong desires to be the best version of you. And you will then pick an activity that provides well-being. Pick from the list we described in our post, “Is Well-being Something I Have or Something I Feel”? Perhaps it’s gardening, or taking a walk with your dog, or meditating, or turning on some music. But you will pick a new activity that promotes higher mind activation and well-being.

Couple walking hiking boots in woods fall

Give yourself at least 10 minutes in the new activity before reexamining the craving. You should take that 10 minutes and engage in whatever the new activity was, whether it’s taking a walk or some other activity. You’re allowed to consider giving into the craving after that 10 minutes. But you don’t have to. You’re not fighting it. You’re just accepting it for what it is and creating a new pattern.

Essentially, when you experience a craving, regardless of what it is, whether it’s to smoke, eat, drink, watch television, or any other behavior that’s not supporting your best health, you will pause and observe it.

As you do this, you’ll begin to create a new pathway in your brain in response to the craving that results in you doing something good for you.

Ten minutes later, after you’ve been working in your garden, you’ll probably find the craving has diminished significantly. It has far less power over you. So then you should just continue the activity that’s giving you true well-being. I want you to pick something and practice this.

You can try different activities and journal about it, figuring out which ones are the most powerful and effective for you. With regular application, strong future continuity can change this pattern for you. I promise you, you can do this. This is based on a mindfulness process that has solid science to support why it works. You can trust this process. But you do have to actually do it.

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Transforming Your Habits to Transform Your Health Part 19

Another important aspect of willpower is recognizing that whatever cravings you experience, they are just neurological pathways based on prior conditioning and habits. You want to depersonalize them. You no longer want to feel bad about yourself because you struggle with them. The neural networks that trigger these behaviors were established long ago and probably in a non-conscious way.

You should stop feeling bad about yourself for this. You should accept it for what it is, that you have these neural networks that are associated with powerful emotions and feelings. But you also have a strong desire to create new networks that will create new behaviors, and you will be able to do this by focusing your energy in the direction of what you truly want for yourself. You will no longer react to the cravings in an emotional way. You’ll begin to reduce the power of the old neural networks that aren’t supporting your good health and increase the power to the new neural networks that you are building that will automate the behaviors that support your best health.

Four Step Mindfulness Process

I’ve written a paper that describes a four-step process based on a model developed at UCLA of how to use mindfulness to create new brain pathways to support your behavior. I recommend you read that article, as it explains it very clearly, and outlines the four steps. It’s beyond the scope of this blog post to provide all of the details because it’s a fairly lengthy article. But if you’re interested in this topic, it will teach you how to implement the process. I promise you, if you apply it regularly, you will establish a new habit pattern, and the old one will slowly disappear.

woman alone sitting on a rock being present

So we want to acknowledge that we experience craving and that when it occurs it’s powerful. We also need to recognize that it’s based on prior conditioning patterns and we just want to observe it. We don’t want to try and fight it or suppress it; trying not to think about it will not work. Instead, we want to see craving for what it is and move into a new behavioral pattern. Essentially, we want the old pattern to trigger a new behavioral routine.

We will use a pattern of substitution to achieve this. That’s what I discuss in the paper I recommend you read, and what we’ll cover in the next blog in this series. We have a wealth of information on willpower and the other key habits to your authentic health.  

If you’re interested in personalized healthcare, you’re exactly where you’re meant to be. Please enjoy the free resources available to you. For those deeply curious about their most authentic health, I also recommend my book, Authentic Health

Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 5

How do we decide what we’re going to eat? There are two primary driving forces behind eating. 1) There is homeostatic eating, which is where we eat so we can get the energy and nutrients our body needs to maintain homeostasis or a normal internal environment. 2) Then, there is hedonic eating, which is where we eat for pleasure or to manage our emotional states.

Hormones and Eating

Almost all of our meals are a mix of both homeostatic and hedonic eating. There are many hormones that influence our appetite. One of them is known as ghrelin. It’s often called the hunger hormone. It will stimulate our appetite. It peaks before meals and falls to lower levels during and immediately after eating, as our body knows we’re now getting the energy and nutrients we need. But this is not the only hormone that influences our eating.

There’s also a hormone involved in satiety, or a feeling of satisfaction, called leptin. Leptin is secreted by our fat cells and helps regulate energy balance. What’s supposed to happen as we gain weight is that leptin levels will rise and tell an area of our brain that we should not eat as much, that we have adequately stored energy in our body. However, for many people, as they continue to gain weight, their leptin levels proceed to rise, but they continue to be very hungry. The brain stops listening to the leptin. This is thought to be due to leptin resistance and is one of the challenges of losing weight if you’ve had chronic obesity.

This is a hormonal issue, and not under your conscious control.

Doctor’s Conclusion

Your hunger and eating are shaped by many factors, including your genetics, social cues, learned behaviors, environmental factors, your circadian rhythms, hormones, stress and emotional states, getting enough sleep, and your physical activity. So you see, it’s very complicated. Science still does not have the secret to hunger and eating, although we’re getting closer. We don’t really understand everything that makes us start eating.

But we’ve learned a lot about what causes us to stop eating. There’s more on that in our next post in the series.

There is an uncomplicated and understandable truth about eating and health. We want to make it easy for you. Join us at Health Shepherds, follow us on Instagram, and like us on Facebook.