Despite government efforts, obesity continues its relentless rise around the globe. For instance, some 71% of the entire American population is overweight, with the average adult being 24 pounds heavier than they were in 1960. Not only is this a major health issue, it’s a fiscal one too – obesity adds $200 billion a year to annual healthcare expenditure in the US alone.
Sadly, medicine has not yet discovered some magical pill we can take to just lose weight and keep it off. While diet and exercise can help people in the short term, they usually tend to regain the weight over time. With regard to weight loss surgery, It seems to have a positive effect on diabetes, however it cannot be credited for lowering mortality rate, cancer and cardiovascular disease.
If the magical pill is ever discovered, it will likely make changes to the wiring in our brains, particularly the primitive areas such as the mammalian and reptilian brain. This is because those areas are responsible for regulating stress levels and the stress-related emotions that elevate them, as well as associated behaviors. If we do gain the ability to rewire these parts of the brain, then there will be a strong chance for us to address the root cause of stress-related problems, including obesity. With that being said, genetic factors that play a role in the development of obesity must not be discounted.
A team of researchers recently set out to develop a neuroscience-based approach to weight management, in other words focusing on the brain in order to make drastic changes to the body. This involves using neuroscience-based tools to ensure that common excesses eventually fade away. To date, it has shown promising results.
When we’re stressed, our fear, reward and starvation centers are affected, promoting overeating and weight gain. This is because stress increases the reward value of food, particularly carbohydrates. Another effect that stress has is to decrease our body’s metabolic rate, meaning that we digest food at a much slower pace than we normally would. So how do we change this in ourselves? Find out in the next section.
Try it yourself: Healthy Brain, Healthy Body
If you want to get your weight under control using this method, the first thing you need to think about doing is de-stressing your emotional brain. Take a few breaths, check in with yourself and identify your stress level. Once you’ve done the latter, use the following tools to reduce your stress rapidly:
1. Stress Level #1: Very Low
Tool you need for this stress level: Compassion Tool
The Compassion Tool involves three incredibly simple steps. First, say to yourself: “feel compassion for myself”, and allow a wave of compassion to flow through your body. Next, say: “feel compassion for others”, and feel yet another wave of compassion flowing through your body. The final thing you need to say is: “feel compassion for all living beings”.
2. Stress Level #2: Low
Tool you need for this stress level: Feelings Tool
This tool involves asking yourself questions. The first you need to ask yourself is: “how do I feel?” Three feelings are likely to make their presence felt, but wait until you know which one of them is the strongest. Once you’ve done that, ask yourself: “what do I need?” and follow that up by asking: “do I need support?”
3. Stress Level #3: A Bit Stressed
Tool you need for this stress level: Flow Tool
Say: “I feel angry that…” and take note of the words that arrive in your mind to finish the sentence. Repeat the sentence seven more times, consecutively replacing the word “angry” with one of the following feelings: sad, afraid, guilty, grateful, secure and proud. You will be surprised to notice the glow in your body and how the stress has disappeared. The reason for this is that when we allow ourselves to feel negative feelings, the end result is that they fade away. This allows the brain to focus on positive feelings.
4. Stress Level #4: High
Tool you need for this stress level: Cycle Tool
To use this tool, you need to be completely honest with yourself. Start by saying what’s bothering you, then say: “I feel angry that… I can’t stand that… I hate it that…” paying close attention to the words that come to mind after you say each one. Then, pause and say: “I feel sad that… I feel afraid that…” and pay close attention to the words that come to mind once again.
After you’ve done the aforementioned, you need to give yourself support by saying: “OF COURSE I could do that (eg. overeating) because my unrealistic expectation is…” Words or phrases will bubble up from your unconscious mind, such as: “I find my safety in overeating”. Update this outdated memory glitch by saying the opposite expectation, for example: “I cannot get my safety from food because… I can get my safety from connecting with myself”. This process unlocks a circuit in your brain, allowing you to change its expectation to one of your choosing. This new expectation will eventually become dominant, resulting in your emotional drives toward various excesses fade. This allows easier modification of the behavior.
5. Stress Level #5: Very High
Tool you need for this stress level: Damage Control Tool
When you’re completely stressed out, you need to be held and comforted, however you can also try rocking in your chair or deep breathing. Another tip is to say calming words, such as: “Do not judge. Minimize harm. Know it will pass. It’s only stress, and stress eventually fades”.
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Last But Not Least: Keeping Weight Off
There’s no denying that keeping weight off is hard, however if you improve your brain’s 'emotional setpoint', then it becomes easier to do so. What all of the above attempts to achieve is to raise an individual’s emotional setpoint so that their resilience toward new stresses is increased. This makes them less likely to regain the weight they lost and ultimately experience more joy in their lives.
Content Source: IFL Science