Why is it that when we set out to go on a diet, increase exercise, lose weight or achieve a goal we start out strong with the best intentions, but after a few days we wind up reverting back to our old ways??
Isn't it strange that we wind up on a sugar binge, not exercising at all and completely sabotaging our best efforts to lose weight, improve our health or achieve our goals?
Then come those horrible feelings of guilt, disappointment and shame because you failed again.
You don’t know what’s wrong with you, you reason that maybe you’re just not trying hard enough or you’re not good enough.
Next thing you're stuck on this dark downward spiral feeling disappointed and unhappy, saying I’ll try harder next week.
Then using all your willpower and strength you try again but only for so long before it happens again and you’re on this never ending merry go round that just doesn't stop.
I want to let you in on a secret.
This is not your fault.
It has nothing to do with you not being determined, driven and focused enough. You see, that behaviour that you revert back to, be it binge eating, sleeping in, staying out late drinking or not exercising, well guess what
.....It has a positive intention for you.
That’s right this behaviour is benefiting you in some way, a positive way – even if it doesn't seem like it. Let me briefly explain.
The primitive part of our brain known as the amygdala is wired instinctively to protect you for your safety and survival.
It makes automatic decisions outside of your awareness to ensure your safety and comfort at all times.
This part of your brain (sometimes called the lizard brain) doesn't like uncertainty or change.
It sees change and striving for goals to be high risk because change brings with it uncertainty.
When it senses uncertainty, for example when you start to make changes to lose weight or increase your health and fitness it sends off alarm bells and warning signals which we all know very well as the voice of fear.
This fear will always attempt to drive you back towards what is familiar, your comfort zone that place of certainty and safety.
Your lizard brain already knows you can survive doing what you've already been doing. It doesn't rationalise or make judgments about if you’re happy, healthy and fulfilled.
Crazy right? Who would have thought that your current unwanted behaviour actually has a positive intention to benefit you, protect you and keep you safe?
When you understand this, it is easy to see why we have difficulties making changes to lose weight, increase fitness or reach any goal in life, because our lizard brain is sensing danger in uncertainty.
How you can understand and stop your self-sabotaging behaviour in four steps
1. Accept where you are now and that your behaviour is trying to protect you
This is a mindset switch to simply acknowledge there is a benefit for you to engage in that behaviour. You don’t have to understand it or know what it is yet. Just simply acknowledge this. This step is so important because it allows us take the pressure off ourselves.
2. Replace judgement and criticism with curiosity
Now that you understand that your unwanted behaviour, be it overeating, binge-eating, or not exercising, has a positive intention to help you, you can replace your harsh judgement, criticism, disappointment and disapproval with curiosity.
Instead of beating yourself up when you find yourself giving in yet again, bring your natural, playful desire for curiosity to the situation and ask the following questions:
- Hmm isn't this interesting that this is happening again?
- I wonder how this unwanted behaviour could possibly be benefiting me?
- I wonder what change my lizard brain is trying to protect me from?
- What would have to occur so that I feel safe when I …(lose weight, run that marathon, or become full of life and energy)?
3. Celebrate Change
Change is challenging, confronting and uncomfortable. This is a fact of life. Embrace it. Accept it.
Achieving anything in life requires stepping out of your comfort zone and into uncertainty despite the fear. Remember that this discomfort with uncertainty is simply your lizard brain doing it's job, trying to keep you safe.
The truth is the discomfort is a sign you are growing, you are on the right track. Growth causes growing pain.
Fear will always be present. Go forth in the face of fear and discomfort anyway – and celebrate, for it is a sign you are on the right track.
Finally to really embrace change and uncertainty we must have trust.
+ That you have everything you already need within you to be yourself and who you want to be.
+ That you don’t need to know all the steps and how it’s going to work
+ Trust in the beauty of the process and allowing it to unfold, knowing that you will figure it out along the way. It is the only way you will figure it out, by trying, by showing up, by diving right in and giving it a go.
+ Trust that you are supported along the way and anything that you will need will show up at the right time, be it a person, an article, an event, or an opportunity. Keep your mind open and trust that what you need will always be available to you.
I hope this has helped to shed the light on why we fall back to our old patterns and into our comfort zone. Give the steps above a try and see what you discover. If you are still having difficulty with your confidence, losing that weight or achieving your goals this is where a coach can help provide another perspective and guide you through the processes to remove the blocks that are holding you back from living the life you desire now. Find out more by clicking HERE.
I'd love to hear from you in the comments below any insights or new realisations you might have had.
To your health and happiness,