Our brains are hard-wired to seek out high-sugar and fat-laden foods. Why? Because that’s what kept our ancestors alive during the feast or famine days of being hunter-gatherers – and why you always fancy chocolate but never desire broccoli. But while these survival strategies of our ancient ancestors are the reason you’re here reading this right now, craving high-calorie foods isn’t conducive to building a leaner and fitter body in the 21st century. Luckily, help is at hand, says New Body Plan creator Jon Lipsey
Here’s something that I’m confident you’ve never done…
I’m willing to put money on the fact that, however long you’ve been on this planet, this isn’t a scenario that has ever played out: you have never said to yourself, “you know what, I really fancy a bowl of steamed broccoli”. So you make the broccoli, you eat the broccoli. And then you go back for a second bowl. And then a third, even though you feel full.
That’s never happened, right? Nope, I didn’t think so.
But this probably has… You really fancy some chocolate so you find the slab that you know is at the back of the cupboard. You say to yourself that you’ll just have a couple of squares. So you have the two squares. But that’s not quite enough, so you go back for two more. Then another two. And before you know it, all that’s left is an empty wrapper and some creeping guilt.
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So why does that happen? Why is it so much easier to overeat chocolate than it is to overeat broccoli? And, more importantly, what can you do about it?
The simple answer is that, on some level, we’re all still cavemen. We have caveman brains that crave fat-laden, sugar-rich foods because they’re calorie dense so they’ll prevent us from starving. And because of that, these foods light up the reward centres in our saber-tooth-tiger-fearing brains that cruciferous vegetables just can’t reach.
So, you’re basically pre-programmed to stuff your face with chocolate and shun green things, right? Well, not quite. Because even though we have these hunter-gatherer consumption instincts, we’ve also got the capacity to intervene and override them. Here’s how:
Your brain is constantly looking for rewards so it can produce feel-good hormones. If you leave it to its own devices, it will think cream buns are an excellent reward. So you need to take control of that situation and re-frame how you think about stuff.
If, for example, you want to shrink your waistline then every time you choose broccoli over confectionary you take a step closer to your goal. And every step forwards is a victory in itself. So, in this instance, the thing that’s leading to the reward of achieving your goals is the broccoli, not the chocolate.
If you want a simple system that you can use to help you take control of any situation, ask yourself these three questions every time you’re faced with the choice between something that seems like if offers immediate gratification versus something that seems like it’s hard work without an immediate reward. We’ll run though these three questions imagining that you’re faced with the choice between doing a training session or sitting on the sofa eating snacks.
1. What would be the immediate benefit of doing the workout?
• You’d get a post-workout feel good hormone hit that will boost your mood
• You’ll feel like you’re in control of your own destiny, rather than being helpless
• You’ll feel proud that you didn’t take the easy option
• You’ll be another step closer to your long-term goal
2. What will the benefits be in a few weeks if I do this training session and then continue to do the programme?
• You’ll get all of the above benefits plus…
• You’ll have lower body fat levels
• You’ll have increased muscle mass
• You’ll be stronger
• You’re likely to experience better sleep and less stress
• You’ll be looking fitter and healthier and that’s something people will start complimenting you on
• Your clothes will fit better and you’ll feel better about yourself
3. What would the benefits be if training sessions were just part of my life over time?
• You’ll get all of the above benefits plus…
• You’ll look amazing
• You’ll feel like you can do anything
Now, I could add a bunch of other benefits to each question but you get the idea. When you think of your choice in these terms, there’s a huge incentive to select the active option.
The strange thing about fitness is that you already know roughly what you need to do. You know that doing a progressive training plan while using a smart and sustainable nutrition system will get you into great shape. It’s not like you think sitting on the sofa eating snacks will get you there. No, the challenge is all in the mind and all about sticking to the plan.
So remember, if you’re letting your brain get stuck in the dark ages, don’t expect to make much progress with your body shape!
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