The popular radio star, Kyle Sandilands, has publicly announced he is a new man and determined to improve his health.
His secret – coca-cola is out, and pre-prepared meals are in. No secret really – starve yourself and your body rapidly drops its weight; fat, muscle and water weight. Well at least for a period of time, until that weight comes creeping back, when the body realises that you are threatening its very survival through starvation tactics and reacts through weight regain.
Even since obesity became a problem in the 1980s, we have been brainwashed to believe that the answer is in a continuous cycle of calorie restriction, largely driven by a multi-billion dollar dieting industry. We all know that a large weight change is possible through dietary restriction. But, when a stress is imposed on the body, it starts to work differently - to defend its level of fatness and go back to its starting point – otherwise known as our ‘set point’. Consequently, 95% of people fail on their attempts to lose weight. And of the fewer than 5% that succeed, many of them teeter on the edge of obsessive behaviour as they apply extreme ‘self-control’ in order to kick the old habits. Just think of those annoying gym-junkies and their endless banal social media 6-pack posts!
Kyle, the key to sustainable weight loss lies in these three simple lessons:
1. Sustainable success is about ‘freedom towards’ not ‘freedom from’
What I mean is, when you give something up you always feel its loss. Giving up what we love makes us feel resentful and angry, and that we are somehow missing out. Eventually, in the psychology of missing out we say something along the lines of “stuff it, I’m going to do what I want”, which normally means a return to the bad habit. This is the classic Yin and Yang of internal dialogue, another way of describing the angel and the devil within us, which guides our every reaction.
We can all cut certain foods for a period of time – typically one to three months – but cravings for high fat and high sugar foods will come back with vengeance. Research utilising brain imaging has confirmed this - there is a heightened activity of the limbic (reward) system in the brain following weight loss, which drives an increased desire for those foods which had been cut from the diet.
2. The ‘hard-wiring’ of the brain is in fact ‘soft wiring’ that can be retrained
A lifetime of learned behaviour and poor habits does not change overnight.
For many, dieting success lies within the architecture of their brain. Our brain structure can change over time and a lifetime of poor food choices may mean you find it harder to change your eating habits and re-wire your brain so that healthy food choices become the default option. For example, a cake is on the table and the family is eating the cake. How do you say no to a slice when you would previously always say yes?
You can change the architecture of your brain and it does respond to new situations, environments and lifestyles. A major step to adapting to success is making that very first positive choice. Applied repeatedly over time, positive decision-making becomes a wiring – the connectivity between your neurons in your brain - that is worked and strengthened. It might be saying NO to that cake or NO to those chips or snacks as your friend heads to the bar. This first step is most important. Repeatedly applying correct choices will lead to success.
Routine is a thief’s best friend, yet repetition is the mother of learning.
3. In the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty
This is not to look down on people and say they are foolish. The knowledge that we have been given is foolish. When people are given foolish information, their response can only be foolish.
Australia is regarded as one of the leading countries when it comes to obesity and medical research – Charles Perkins Centre at The University of Sydney, the Global Obesity Centre at Deakin University, and Baker Heart & Diabetes Institute, to name just a few.
But the industry is being poisoned by cancer – anecdotes that we hear from celebrities and read about in fad magazines, social media and the internet. This poison then becomes people’s truth.
We have all of the information; we must stop seeking for more. It’s time to reevaluate where we are getting our sources of truth.
My advice: take this disease seriously, otherwise you will end up bigger than before you begun.