How to Out-Smart Your Brain to Achieve Health

How to Out-Smart Your Brain to Achieve Health

Dear Jill,

I know what I need to do intellectually, but I can’t seem to get myself to do it. For example, I know that ordering pizza is an unhealthy choice, yet, I order it anyway in lieu of cooking a healthy meal. I know it’s good to exercise; yet, I lay on the couch and can’t seem to move or I over schedule myself so I don’t have the time or energy to exercise. Am I crazy?


Good Intentions

Dear Good Intentions,

You’re definitely not crazy. In fact, you are far from it: your brain is in top working order if this is your experience. Let me explain….

First, a quick brain anatomy lesson: Inside your brain, you actually have three separate brains, not just one: your cerebellum & brain stem are in charge of keeping you alive: breathing, heartbeat and anything out of your conscious control. Your neocortex is your logical, or conscious brain—you do all your thinking, reasoning and creative thought here. Your conscious brain is what makes New Year’s resolutions and promises to make healthy choices. It has great intentions. The limbic system, which is your emotional, or unconscious brain, is where the good intentions get stuck. The unconscious brain runs purely on survival instincts. Very simply: it moves us toward pleasure and away from pain. It moves us toward safety and away from danger. If your limbic system senses danger or discomfort, it will propel you in the opposite direction.

If you are making sudden, drastic changes to your diet or exercise regime (which is what most people do around January 1st), you might only get a few days into your routine before your limbic system detects a serious threat to your survival. Suddenly, your string of positive, healthy choices comes to a screeching halt and you find yourself back on the couch or sitting with a bag of potato chips asking yourself “how did I do this again?”

The way to over-ride the emotional brain from taking over is to make very small changes. Like, really, really small changes—so small that your unconscious brain does not detect a threat. How do you know if your changes are small enough? You have consistency. If you become inconsistent, then, chances are you are taking on too big of a change and you need to bring it down a notch or two.

Some questions for exploration & discovery: Ask yourself: What is the smallest change I can make to my eating that I am willing to make right now? What is the smallest action I can take right now to get my body to move more? What is one thing I can do to take care of myself today? What is something I can do today that will be fun & enjoyable to me?

Change is not easy. A life coach can support you with moving from where you are now to where you want to be. As a life coach, I am trained to support you through the internal emotional & psychological change that must come first before you can make lasting physical change.


Wishing you peace, clarity and power,


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