Those of you that have been around for a while know that I am kinda the peace-love-hippy type. Those that are new, you’ll figure it out soon enough :). I like to think that the way our groups and blog approach this lifestyle is the reason for the success of our family members. From day one, we have been about acceptance, understanding, sharing knowledge, keeping the good science in, the bad science out, lots of good food, and most of all – learning that we are worth it. If you need someone to berate you, tell you there is only one path to success, make you stressed out, feel stupid\lazy\broken\failure, then you are in the wrong place. These groups got started because we saw how other groups were run and it wasn’t working for us. If it wasn’t working for us, it probably wasn’t working too well for a few other people. My gut told me that you can have all the science you want, but if you cannot wrap your head around it, the science doesn’t matter. It has to be distilled down until it is smooth and easy to digest. Just as important – if not more important – was to recognize WHY we got into the situation of needing this lifestyle change – it couldn’t all be bad luck, bad advice, genetics, McDonald’s, and Oreos. It isn’t. A huge part of it is between our ears. This is why I have always felt that being the peace-love-hippy wasn’t a bad thing. If we could just help even 1% of the people we come in contact with to improve their lives by feeling better about themselves, it would be worth it.
Heal the mind, you heal the body. Heal the body, you heal the mind. If you feel better about yourself, proud of yourself, less anxious, less depressed, less unhappy, you take better physical care of yourself. If you take better care of yourself physically, you look better, you feel stronger, you feel attractive, you are proud of yourself. It sounds so damn simple, doesn’t it? How many have heard – either directly or indirectly heard that all you have to do is have some willpower, stop being lazy, stop being afraid of a little pain, etc? I know I have. Too many times. It just isn’t quite that easy for some of us. So, what do we do? We need to get our head and heart on the same side – our side. We know the very real relationship between food and neurotransmitters. If you missed those discussions, let me know and I can post the link to them in the comments below or you can search for “neurotransmitter” in the group, I’m pretty sure the majority of results will be one of those posts. There’s a slew of neurotransmitters involved but the two important ones you most likely have heard of at least in passing – serotonin and dopamine. Most anti-depressants work on these (one of the “S” in SSRI and SSNI-classes of medication is “Serotonin”) two chemicals. These two not only have a intimate relationship with how we feel, they also have one with our desire to eat. Note that I said “desire to eat” and not the typical “hunger.” Yes, serotonin (along with leptin and ghrelin) play key roles in hunger, but we as humans don’t always eat just because we have rumblies in the tummies. Depression, anxiety, stress, and boredom can all trigger the desire to eat in the absences of the need for nourishment. This is because eating can raise dopamine and make us feel better (yes, this includes boredom, being “bored” is a lack of contentment with our current situation. It’s not “I don’t have anything to do” as much as “I don’t know what to do and I don’t feel at peace with myself at this current time.”. Eating to sooth the mind is fleeting, it only lasts as long as the dopamine stays up. Additionally, the relief isn’t hit the instant we pop something into our mouth so we run the very real risk of eating too much, too fast, pursuing that relief from the darkness. We even know that doing this invites its own darkness, creating a cycle of relief and loathing that feeds (pun intended) itself. One is too many, 100,000,000 is not nearly enough.
Recent studies have shown that individuals who attempt weight loss by “dieting,” medication, or surgery have a 6-9% success rate. where people who combine it with cognitive behavior therapy (basically teaching the brain to make different, better choices in decision making based off current reality and sense of self vs patterns\defenses learned in the past) have a 27-44% success rate of losing at least 50% of the goal weight. Those who embark on a systematic lifestyle change average maintaining 83% of their weight loss at the end of 3 years, with those who stick it out to 5 years increase that to 91%, and only 31% of them accomplish this with the support of a paid, licensed therapist. Those are not too bad odds.
Self-medicating with anything is at best a fleeting solution. At worst, it is deadly. Yeh, that’s bad. How did we get here? There’s many, many reasons and roads to addiction and self-destruction, most of them are sneaky, seductive bastards. No one wakes up one day and says “you know, I don’t want to be happy, successful, and at peace. Nope, I really want to just watch my world burn.” Self-preservation is a powerful instinct, but it can cloud our judgement. The primal part of the brain is separated from the reasoning part. Our reasoning part of the brain knows that too much of anything is BAD. Our primal part wants an immediate solution to the threat. Yes, our own emotions (or lack of them) can be a threat to our existence. We draw the link between our present days’ emotional triggers and painful past experiences. We are confronted with a painful gap between our intellectual understanding of our situation and how we continue to feel and react to life. We live in a culture that encourages fixing things and we desperately try to make the flaws and holes go away. We react with what we know has given us relief – if only temporarily – in the past. The primal part of our brain isn’t all that up on the whole planning for the future or long-term ramifications thing, it just cares about getting through this current crisis ASAP. But the more we try, the more we do, the more frustrated we get. We continue to cycle back and forth between resenting our past and fearing our future. In the quest to calm the demons, we end up creating more of them.
So, what does this mean for you and me? We need to stop beating ourselves up for our progress. It doesn’t matter if we think we could have done something different or could have made better choices sooner. Both of those are false, a guilty illusion. The truth is, we could not change until we could. At every single given moment in our lives, we are doing the very best out of what we know and what we have. The resentment, depression, despair, addiction, the destructive eating, the dysfunctional relationships with people and objects, are all serving a necessary function and have a reason to be there for as long as it needed to. They are our survival strategies; without them, we would not have been able to keep going. This may sound like excuses or crap at first, but our resistance is nothing but a result of years of conditioning that had led us to believe pushing hard and being self-critical is the only way to improve anything. BUT, just because that was how we got to where we are, doesn’t mean that’s how we need to continue.
You might have seen this before: be the person your dog thinks you are. That’s wrong. You are the person your dog thinks you are, you need to be see yourself as that person. To your dog, you are the center of their world. You are the most important human on the planet. You are the core of all they trust, all they love, all they depend on. You are already that person, you just need to see it too. The more we learn to accept, forgive, trust, depend on, and LOVE ourselves, the closer we come to peace. That means we need to cut ourselves some slack when we make a mistake. We need to look at ourselves and recognize that one poor choice can lead to many, but no matter how many we make, what we DO is not who we ARE. We need to know that by loving ourselves – with our all our flaws and inconsistencies – we can love anyone as no one is perfect. We can learn that just because what we did today wasn’t successful, it is over and in the past and other chances to do things different are in front of us. We can love ourselves unconditionally, look at ourselves each day with compassion instead of despair.
The best way to get started in doing this is to not set yourself up to be unsuccessful from the start. Getting your head in the game takes having some positive results. To have positive results, you need to do a little learning, it doesn’t take a degree to learn this stuff, only the willingness. Start off with induction. Learn what a portion size is. Learn that fat isn’t going to kill you. Learn that salt is critical for life. Learn that no, protein won’t turn to glucose. Learn that eating healthy and eating food that tastes good aren’t mutually exclusive. Learn that it is ok to get pleasure from eating something that satisfies you. Learn that “not hungry” feels a lot different than “stuffed until I want to vomit.” Learn that “keto” is a metabolic process, not a food. Learn that the beauty of a ketogenic lifestyle is there’s so many ways to weave it into your life. Learn that how someone else is doing keto doesn’t make it right for you. Learn that net carbs and total carbs are not the same for everyone. Learn that the scale can be a friend or a foe, but it should never be your leader. Learn that this isn’t going to be a straight line. Learn that if there was nothing ever wrong, there’d never be anything right. Learn to find the simple successes in each day. Learn that losing weight feels healthy, and feeling healthy leads to feeling better, and feeling better is what it is all about. Learn to love yourself. Unconditionally.