Why You Keep Giving Up
So you’ve decided you want to make a change in your lifestyle. You are GOING to lose weight. You are GOING to start eating healthier and exercising. You are GOING to change your habits and reach your goals!
You bought a new, expensive planner and some new pens, you got yourself organized, you bought a ton of healthy food and some workout gear or a gym membership. You made a schedule. You’ve created your vision board as a visual reminder and you set your goals. You are ready to go. You say to yourself, “It’s going to be different this time.”
You get one week in and you feel great. You are on top of the world, you are proud of yourself, you’re checking off that ‘To-Do’ list. Your second week starts and you’re starting to get tired. Maybe you’re sore from exercising. But maybe you’ve also already lost some weight or have seen some progress, so you start telling yourself, “I got this. I’ve already completed one full week.” Your third week comes and your boss gives you a huge project with a strict deadine, or the in-laws are in town, or you’re traveling, or you really really want your favorite junk food. Or, plain and simple, you just aren’t “feeling it”. You think to yourself “It’s ok, life happens, I will just take today off. I’ve worked really hard, so I’ve earned it.” So you take a day off. Then that day turns into a second day and a third day. Before you know it, you’re back to your old routine and nothing has changed. You’ve given up, for the tenth time. (Or first, twentieth or millionth.)
We have these wonderful dreams of change, but we just can’t seem to make the change stick. Why does this happen? Why do we have such a hard time following through with our plans? Why are we so resistant to change?
Change takes us out of our comfort zone, and let’s be honest, NO ONE likes going out of their comfort zone. Our brains are programed to choose comfort over discomfort. We would rather hang on to that extra weight because it’s uncomfortable to give up our favorite foods and start a workout routine. We choose to stay in the same, dead end job because the idea of learning a new skill can be terrifying. We make the same mistakes over and over again.
Your brain is made up of 3 essential parts; the Cortex, the Limbic System and the Brain Stem, also known as the ‘Lizard Brain’, ‘Reptilian Brain’ or what I like to call, the ‘Critter Brain.’
Your Critter Brain is in charge of all things physical – your heart rate, your breathing, your blood sugar... anything to do with keeping you physically alive. This is also where your Fight/Flight/Freeze response lives. The Critter Brain's job is to constantly be on the lookout for anything that could potentially harm our safety. It doesn’t like change or anything unfamiliar or unpredictable, because that is out of the spectrum of ‘safe’. It’s risky. The Critter Brain likes routine and comfortability. It likes to play it safe because safe keeps us alive. This is what creates our patterns. When we survive an experience, physically or emotionally, your Critter Brain says, “Well, we didn’t die... so I guess this experience is okay to repeat.” It recognizes that experience (even if it’s not an experience you want) as safe. So then if we go to repeat that experience, it’s not so scary anymore.
The Limbic System is what is in charge of our emotions. This part of our brain uses emotion to promote safety and overall wellbeing, which helps to drive us towards, or away from experiences.
Then there is the Cortex. This is the part of the brain that loves learning, growth, expansion, etc. This part of our brain is also in charge of logic. The Cortex makes logical meaning out of experiences and our emotions and justifies our choices and behaviors.
So let’s take another look at the above scenario in which we’ve decided we want to make a lifestyle change....
You decide you want to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle. You take action and probably even start to succeed. But then your Critter Brain kicks in and says “Woah! Things are changing! We’re in unfamiliar territory! Danger! Run for your life!” The Cortex then tries to make logical sense of what the Critter Brain is screaming and tries to justify it by saying, “Well, there’s no time for change because the boss gave you that huge project and deadline.” Or, “Well, the in-laws are in town, so it’s too hard to eat right or exercise with them here.” Or, “You’re traveling and not at home, it’s too hard to eat healthy and you don’t have your exercise equipment.” Meanwhile your Limbic System is trying to keep the peace between the two by saying, “But I’m tired of feeling overweight, embarrassed and insecure.” And then the cycle repeats itself. Hence, yo-yo dieting.
Now how do we break this pattern? Here are a couple of tips:
- When you find yourself in freak-out mode, remind yourself that it’s just your Critter Brain. Even just acknowledging that your Critter Brain is at it again will help calm you down.
- Write down exactly what you’re freaking out about. Map out a streamlined process and make small, achievable goals on how you’re going to push forward.
- Remind yourself WHY you started working towards this new goal in the first place.
- Have an accountability partner to help remind you of why you’re doing what you’re doing.
- Work with a Health Coach. A lot of Health Coaches are trained in the Transformational
Coaching Method which gives us an amazing toolkit to help our clients change their habits and get results that last for good.
Here’s to NOT living in the Critter Brain!