Woman Stressed

Why Can't I Control My Food Habits For Longer?!

posted on: March 15, 2018. posted in: Weight loss, Nutrition

We've had a question sent to us privately...

[warning: this post contains some swearing, not mine!]

"I am tired. Tired of worrying about my weight. Tired if trying the fads - and wow have I tried them all . . . WW, SW, Cambridge, Lighter Life, Dukan, Atkins. Fuck me.

I was chubby as a child, an emotional eater by the age 10 (my old pops, lovely as he is now, was a bit of a stern hand when I was young so I ate to comfort myself). I have had periods in my adult life where I seem to have been able to be a great weight without food/diet issues, but I've struggled now since my late 30's. I'm now almost 46.

I went into a shockingly difficult (physically & emotionally) early menopause at 37 and whilst I go long periods of enjoying exercise (I've done bootcamps at 5:30 am, zumba, running and had a PT for a while), I know I can't out-run/zumba/gym a bad diet.

I am now doing weights every morning Mon-Fri, along with boxing, insanitei, and strength & conditioning circuits 6 times a week (a mixture of at nights). It's great and I've maintained going for almost a year. I love it and don't intend to stop.

But why - why !! - did that text from my friend to tell me she lost 9lb this week on fucking Cambridge make me lie awake thinking maybe I should go back???

Why can't I control my food habits for longer? Why the second someone says 'oooh, you're looking slim' do I then eat my own bodyweight in cream cakes, biscuits and choccy??

Ffs. I know you're not a therapist. I know you must get a thousand emails a week like this.

Frustrated, feel like I'm always chasing quick and easy results which don't last and make me depressed when they go. FML."

Hello and welcome to Rebelfit 😊

I'm not a therapist, I'm just a humble personal trainer who has spent a lot of time geeking out on the science of nutrition, fitness, weight and all the psychology that drives it.

And that's helped me understand the many "whys" you've just thrown at me, so hopefully the following will help!

It's all about your ancient brain.

Well, brain... sss.

You see, we all think of the brain as this singular thing, this single organ, but actually it's formed of many different parts that evolved to perform many different functions.

A nice way to think of it?

Like a computer, with lots of different parts and lots of different software to help us solve different problems.

Now the four main problems this computer evolved to solve are really easy to remember - "The Four Fs".

Feeding

Fighting

Fleeing

Fornicating

You've asked...

"Why did that text from my friend to tell me she lost 9lb this week on f**king Cambridge make me lie awake thinking maybe I should go back???"

This is the Fornicating part of your brain.

It all comes down to a phenomenon called "intra-sexual competition", which means that behind the scenes a part of your brain is competing with your friend for a potential mate.

Obviously you're not.

But your ancient brain doesn't know that!

It's hard wired to be keeping an eye out for sexual competition!

Your ancient brain sees your friend's 9lb weight loss as an advantage in the mate chasing game (by looking younger and slimmer), edging you out of this competition.

Which is why instinctively you feel you have to compete, and lose more weight, so that you can win this attractiveness race, and ensure the survival of your jeans (well... genes) over hers.

So this is a great example of an ancient part of your brain, the Fornication / Reproduction / Sexual Selection part firing up and driving what you perceive as "why why why!!!" behaviour.

The why is your ancient brain(s).

Which leads nicely on to...

"Why can't I control my food habits for longer? Why the second someone says 'oooh, you're looking slim' do I then eat my own bodyweight in cream cakes, biscuits and choccy??"

We're now moving into the Feeding part of your brain.

Whilst the Fornicating part of your brain evolved to maximise your chances of reproduction, the Feeding part of your brain evolved to maximise your calorie intake, protecting you from starvation.

So this part of your brain is responsible for all your appetite, cravings and emotions around food, which again you're seeing as "why why why!!" behaviour, but it all comes down to survival.

The more you diet and starve your body, the more you strengthen this Feeding part of your brain, making it want to eat more, binge more and ultimately store more fat, to protect you from starvation.

And so...

The Fornicating part of your brain wants you to be slim to attract a mate (and out-compete bitch features who just lost 9lbs, cow). Whilst the Feeding part of your brain wants you to be fat, so that you can survive all those famines (you know, WW, SW, Cambridge, Lighter Life, Dukan, Atkins).

So what's happening is that you're experiencing a conflict between two very different parts of your brain.

A bit like when two pieces of hardware or software in a computer clash and cause it to crash.

The Fornicating part of your brain wants to chase quick weight loss results, to make you feel more attractive, the Feeding part of your brain wants you to chase quick weight gain results, by making you obsess over biscuits.

What many slimmers feel is "greed" or a "lack of willpower" is actually this Feeding part of their brain altering their psychology to increase their appetite, cravings and emotions around food, to force them off their diet and into the nearest biccy tin.

You can resist for a while.

Driven by the willpower you're generating from the Fornicating part of your brain that wants you to be slimmer and feel more attractive.

But when someone says to you...

"Oooo you look slim!"

That's a signal to the Fornicating part of your brain that you've achieved attractiveness, so it can switch off and relax. Which then opens the door for the Feeding part of your brain to jump in and say...

"Great!! Now we can eat and get fat!"

And when you gain the weight again?

The Fornicating part of your brain kicks in again, telling you that it's time to go back on a diet, and suddenly you feel motivated to starve yourself again.

So this relatively modern science called "Evolutionary Psychology" explains a lot of yo-yo dieting behaviour.

Weight loss is driven by the ancient Fornicating part of your brain that wants to feel attractive. Weight gain is driven by the ancient Feeding part of your brain that wants to survive famine.

The solution?

Well if I had that I'd be composing this response from my Bentley, as this Fornication vs Feeding conflict is a big one!

But my experience tells me that it's a game of keeping both parts of your brain sweet, rather than allowing them to scrap with each other.

Learn how to feel attractive in ways that aren't related to your weight. And learn how to fuel your body in ways that don't involve starving it on diets.

The moment you can convince the Fornicating part of your brain that your attractiveness isn't based on a number on the scale... whilst also convincing the Feeding part of your brain that you aren't going to starve it on silly diets anymore...

You stand a chance of being happy, and ending your yo-yo dieting pain.

Liam

p.s. For anyone who's interested to learn more about this, and explore "body positivity" and "healthy nutrition" as ways of ending this conflict around bodyshape and food, join us on the Beach Body™ mission! You can find out more in the Warm Up group here!

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