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How To Stop Eating Sugar When You Know You Shouldn’t: Understanding Levels Of Change

Have you been in a position where you know you shouldn’t eat that sugary treat or cake but you dig in anyway? Cool, I’ve done it too. There are a lot of people that know the difference between right and wrong. Some people I speak to on the gym floor know that if they consistently eat highly processed sugary meals, that’s not going to give them the best results in terms of their energy and body composition but for some reason they still do it anyway; or they tell me they can’t help but do it.

That’s crazy right?

My usual response to clients when they know they’ve done something they shouldn’t is “don’t do it then”, it’s very logical to know if something is bad for you not to do it, but because members on the gym floor aren’t paying for me to hold them accountable I’m less harsh and more empathetic.

Anyway, the reason behind why this form of self sabotage happens is because they’re only operating on the lower levels of a change model called; The Neurological Levels of Change.


You see from the name itself, Neurological Levels of Change (a model developed by organisational psychologist Robert Dilts); there are levels. You have your beginner levels and then you have your advanced levels; most people are who keep repeating the same mistakes even when they know what they should be doing are on the beginner levels.

I’m going to show you how you can always work your way up and get to the advanced levels.

The advanced levels are when what you want to do starts happening autonomously and effortlessly.

Step 1: The Neurological Levels of Change

Level 6: Purpose

Level 5: Identity

Level 4: Beleifs & Values

Level 3: Capabilities

Level 2: Behaviour

Level 1: Environment

So when someone knows what they want; e.g. the result of having six pack abs, that’s Level 1, Environment. When they know they have to start changing some of their behaviours to get those six pack abs; eating healthier, working out and tracking their progress, that’s Level 2, Behaviour.

They still have 4 more levels to go.

So don’t give up if you feel like you’re repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

You’ve got heaps more to go, that’s a good thing.

From experience being around a lot of successfull and non-succesfull personal and physical tranformations in the health and fitness space; where most people fail is not spending either any or enough of their time on levels 4,5 & 6. Level’s 4,5, & 6 are the levels where you have to do the work on yourself, you’re no longer being given tips and strategies by others on how to be more healthy. You most likely know enough at this stage. Now you have to research, experiment and decide on your own core beliefs and values (Level 4), decide what you really think of yourself and how you identifyyourself to be (Level 5); and decide on your mission and purpose; your true north (Level 6).

In the modern world of social influencers, crazy work demands, crazy working hours and in some cases percieved pressure from your environmnent to increase your status and keep up with the Jones I can understand why so little time and effort are placed on levels 4,5 & 6. Everyone’s looking for the quick fix so they can do and have, without actually being.

Without 4,5 & 6 you might get what you want but it won’t be forever.

You can cut sugar out for a week and lose 1-2kg’s but if you don’t identify yourself as healthy person who eats healthy foods you’re going to go back to eating sugar next week and gain the weight you lost back on with interest.

For permanent results, there are no shortcuts.

Step 2: Know Where You Are On The Levels of Change

This is where you have to get real with yourself and know where you are on the Levels of Change; that way you know what you what you need to do next to level up. Say you want to permanently improve your body composition, the way that you look and feel and you know what behaviours you have to take; eat healthier and exercises. For some reason even though you’re eating healthier and exercising more you’re not seeing any results, this can mean that you’re on Level 2, Behaviour, but now you have to work on your next level, Level 3, Capabilities. Are you demonstrating best practices for your nutrition and training? Have you spent enough time at it to develop a habit and become compentant at it so you can see results? Levelling up from Level’s 1-3 is deliberate practice.

Step 3: Always Work On The Level Above Where You Are

If I want to see more effortless and consistent results I’ll immediately work on the level above where I think I’m at. For e.g. If I’m eating healthy, training and getting results (I’ve demonstrated competance in Level 3, Capabilities) but every now and again I self sabotage and fall off the bandwagon by going out and getting smashed, I’ll work on Level 4, Beliefs and Values.

To become competant at Level 4 I’d first have to challenge or break some limiting beleifs; for e.g. my current belief and value could be “To have a good time I have to always go out for drinks with my mates every weekend”. I would challenge this belief by doing something else on the weekend which doesn’t involve drinking to see if I still have fun. After doing the work and experimenting now my current belief and value is “I get more enjoyment and have even more fun spending time outdoors with my fiance Emily or creating content to help our clients, trainers and business”.

For each Level-Up there requires work.

Step 4: Let It Sink In So Myelin Can Do It’s Work

Now that you understand the Levels of Change and how you can level yourself up; you can really progress through the levels quickly and easily depending on how much time and effort you’re willing to put in. Still, you have to let your mind and muscles literally catch up to the work so it becomes autonomous and effortless. When thinking about or performing a new action your body will call upon nerves to help create that action through electrical impulses. The more that you practice your thought process and actions the more your body will create myelin sheaths that wrap around those nerves to help prevent the number of escaped electrical impusles; thus the more myelin sheaths you have aroundthose particular nerves the more effortless your thoughts and actions will become.

The No Sugar “How to Guide” – Neurological Levels of Change

Levels 0 to 1 – Environment

Here you get clear on your training goals. I want to lose X amount of weight, gain X amount of muscle or squat double my bodyweight for 10 reps. Whatever the result it’s going to involve either a small or big change in nutrition to reduce the amount of processed sugar. The more influencing the environment the better also. It’s normal to eat healthy and train when most of your friends and peers eat healthy and train also.

Levels 1 to 2 – Behaviours

If I want to hit my training goals which also involves minimising my processed sugar intake? What would someone who has already achieved my goal do with their training and nutrition? How would they train? What would they eat? How would they approach suagr cravings? Seek advice from between 1-3 experts in that field and do the common answers across the board.

Here as I’ve personally overcome this goal I would prepare my meals as best as possible with whole foods, actually research the effects of sugar on your body, how it affects your insulin and energy balabce, where it gets stored when training and not training, start by walking only the perimeter of the grocery store, clear out any processed sugary foods in my house to eliminate temptation, I would also structure in a carb up/cheat meal so I could have something to look forward to and not have it feel like I’m eliminating sugar all together.

Levels 2 to 3 – Capabilities

Am I hitting my goals? Is it easier to eat foods that’s nourish my body? Do I have more energy and less sugar cravings? Here I’m looking for feedback so I can continually get better or see where I need to develop. For e.g. If I get sugar cravings at night after dinner I would then add in a prepared high protein, low sugar “treat” such as a mousse or pancake to deal with it.

Levels 3 to 4 – Values & Beliefs

Your why; I value getting stronger and being healthier to so I have my best chance of living a life of longevity. I can be more active and spend more quality time with my family. I can be fit, lift heavy stuff and not get injured. I can have more energy to get more done in a shorter amount of time.

Levels 4 to 5 – Identity

Use affirmative statements and take actions based on where you want to be, not where you are right now so you start identifying yourself as someone who is fit and strong. “I’m a healthy person who eats healthy foods, who builds and nourishes my body”. Say it, think it and live it so much that it becomes normal.

Levels 5 to 6 – Purpose (Bonus)

Something outside of yourself, e.g. I train and eat healthy to inspire others to be healthy, resilient and strong. Another e.g. Something negative happened to me, I’ve overcome it and now I want to share it (Joseph Campbells – Heroe’s Journey).

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