I use to think that all it takes for someone to achieve their body composition goals or change their eating habits was willpower. If they succeeded, great, if not, they didn’t want it bad enough.
What an understanding and inspirational personal trainer right?
After a few years now of studying training, nutrition, being in the trenches and actually getting real results for clients. I’ve discovered that there are two key things to getting lifetime sustainable, visible and mental results:
1. Consciously being aware of and re-wiring past behaviours, social conditioning and marketing.
2. Changing your biology through food.
Both of these points have one thing in common. They both contain information. Information for the brain (conditioning – what we believe is true or what we don’t know) and information for the body (biology and hormones).
Social Conditioning & Re-Wiring: Mum, Dad & Breakfast
Do you want to know what I thought was the healthiest way to eat before I became a personal trainer? A tin of tuna or chicken breast for breakfast, lunch and dinner with broccoli on the side. Some wholemeal toast for breakfast on workout days because I needed the energy and maybe even some milk in my protein shake. Why? Because that’s the information that I had exposure to… in health and fitness magazines, TV commercials and sales people trying to sell me supplements.
Even growing up, my parents would make me fried eggs cooked in vegetable oil, toast with margarine spread and Milo with milk for breakfast. They believed it was the healthiest breakfast they could cook for me and my sister. Today I wouldn’t recommend that breakfast to any of my clients and I personally believe it’s terrible, I even get a gag reflex just thinking about it, knowing the chain reaction it will cause to my body. Do I place blame on them for not putting me on the right foot for health and wellbeing? No of course not. That’s just the information they were given and what they believed to be true. I’m sure if they knew what I know now I would have been eating tiny pieces of steak for breakfast at two years old.
You don’t just grow up and choose to be fat. It’s the environment that makes you. If you grew up not knowing how to identify a vegetable because you’ve never eaten one, if your schools canteen menu had fried fish cakes, hot dogs and stuff that came out of a box, your workplace is filled with vending machines that contain soft drinks, high sugar sports drinks, your tomato sauce is filled with high fructose corn syrup and your local fast food restaurant offers $2 burgers it’s pretty friggin hard NOT to get fat and unhealthy.
The thing that grinds my gears is that the government and food industry will tell you that it’s your fault. You need to eat less, exercise more or that you’re sick in some kind of way and you need to take medications. All the while they continue to throw marketing into our faces about their latest high fibre, added omega 3, high protein, milk chocolate tasting, waist-line thinning wholemeal gluten free fairy bread.
Making habits stick is a result of how deep you can reverse and re-wire years of social conditioning. This is why I can’t just tell someone to simply eat this and eat that and they’ll get the body of their dreams. It can work temporarily but they’ll just rebound back to where they were before. What’s more powerful is to understand WHY and come to terms with some simple truths.
Here are some simple truths and information that you probably didn’t know:
- Processed food, if it comes in a package, tin, can or has an ingredients list is not normal. It may be socially acceptable but it’s not normal. When our ancestors lived thousands of years ago they ate real food. If their tribes were in the forest they would eat animals, plants, fruits and nuts in that area. If they lives near the sea they would eat food close to the sea such as seafood.
- Marketing. Big food industries care little about your health. There’s a 7-Up ad from nearly 60 years ago that featured a baby being fed 7-Up promoting health. Are you serious?! This is the ad: 7-Up is so pure, so wholesome you can even give it to babies and feel good about it. By the way, Mom when it comes to toddlers, if they like to be coaxed to drink their milk, try this: Add 7-Up to their milk in equal parts, pouring the 7-Up gently into the milk. It’s a wholesome combination… and it works! That’s ridiculous. I know that it was 60 years ago but they’re just a little more subtle about they way they go about things now. Why would you need to advertise added calcium and omega 3 in bread? If it was real quality nutrient dense food you wouldn’t need to add anything to it.
- Bid food companies like Kraft, Coca-Cola, Kelloggs and Nestle actually hire “food scientists” to invent highly addictive, great tasting processed junk food so they can make a shitload of cash. These foods are chemically enhanced to trigger the “bliss point” in your brain, the neurotransmitter dopamine (the pleasure hormone)… At first you might only need one donut to trigger the response of dopamine to give you a feel good sensation. After a while, the more donuts you eat, dopamine becomes more resistant and you now need to eat MORE donuts to trigger a response from dopamine. This is how people get addicted to food, mainly sugar. I’m not afraid to admit that when I was at my heaviest, 100kg’s I was addicted to processed foods containing refined sugar. There’s a book called “Salt, Sugar, Fat” by Michael Moss that digs deep into Big Food companies.
- Infertility rates are rising, sperm counts dropping and a 200% in male genital birth defects caused by environmental chemicals and toxins. Nearly all processed food contains some chemical being sprayed on their ingredients (vegetable oils, soy, wheat, grains) or just through the processing itself. To me this isn’t really a surprise… you walk out into the city and consciously take a look around and you can see guys with man boobs, high supra-illacs (waist) or have the “skinny fat” body shape. The documentary The Disappearing Male hit’s the nail on the head with this one.
There are plenty more truth bombs and studies out there as well. It’s just a matter of researching or learning.
I happily write about this not only because it may help you but because it re-enforces and helps me to re-wire my past social conditioning.
TIPS on how to re-wire:
- If you believe something to be true, the opposite is also true. Find and understand both sides, experiment and see which one gives YOU the best result.
- Let go of your attachment with food. If it triggers a feel good response, you can get that feel good response in another healthy way. For me I like working on my business, lifting weights, looking good and doing things outside of my comfort zone. Be consciously aware of what makes you feel good and just do that; instead of piling your face in plates of pasta.
- Get real deep and personal. How does it all affect your highest values? If your highest value is supporting your children what role model do you want to be for them and what kind of environment do you want to bring them up in. I have clients who tell me their kids don’t eat potato chips because they understand that it’s not healthy for them. Again it’s probably not socially acceptable but it’s physiologically normal for them to think that.
Changing Your Biology Through Food: Sending the Right Signals
Our primitive behaviours are controlled by our lizard brain. It sits at the top of our spine and is the command centre for our prime behaviours:
- Fight or flight: Stress, should I fight or run away?
- Food: Is it edible?
- Reproduction: Sex, making babies
- Overall survival: Breathing, heart beat and maintenance
It tells our body what to do and when to do it, automatically, using chemical and electronic signals.
Basically what our lizard brain is designed to do is avoid danger (starvation, death) and seek pleasure (satiety, safety). When cavemen and cavewomen would eat food they’d store the excess calories as fat to get them through rough times where they wouldn’t have access to it. The thing is, today…. we store excess calories as fat and there’s really no famine or scarce time where we don’t have access to food. Food is around us more than ever in first world countries.
When we over consume processed foods that contain sugar and HFCS two things happen:
1. You become more insulin resistant (the fat storing hormone), your body has to produce more and more insulin to keep your blood sugar normal. When we eat food, it raises our blood sugar, sugar in our blood is toxic, so our body has to produce insulin to take it somewhere else (muscles, liver and fat cells).
2. You become leptin resistant (the appetite suppressing hormone). Your brain cannot read the signals or it’s become numb to the signal to tell you that you’re full. Think of it like this, you’re lounging around with your partner watching TV and your partner tells you to pass them the remote. You might do it the first and second time but after the 9th or 10th time you’re probably going to tell them to shut up and get it themselves. Basically that’s what happens, leptin stops listening to insulin.
The outcome of both of these things happening: You eat food but keep eating because your body doesn’t know that you’re full.
Sugar and the Pleasure Centre, What Makes it Worse: The Milk Shake & Nucleus Accumbens Study
A milk shake study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition proves that higher sugar, higher GI foods are as addictive as cocaine and heroin. A summary of the study is this:
Twelve overweight or obese men were given two milk shakes, one low GI and one high GI. Four hours later after each shake they had brain scans measuring their nucleus accumbens, a pleasure centre of the brain that controls addiction. It lights up when we receive something that makes us feel good and drives us to seek out more of that feeling. After the high GI milk shake the participants reported an increase in hunger and cravings and also their nucleus accumbens lit up like a Christmas tree. In comparison to the low GI shakes the nucleus accumbens showed no such response.
So can you see how shit can get really messed up? You eat processed foods that contain sugar and HFCS, insulin get secreted to drive the excess calories to your fat cells, your leptin signals become resistant so you don’t know when to stop eating and because your nucleus accumbens is lighting up like a christmas tree you only want to eat more of it.
How to reverse this and start sending the right signals to our body:
- If it’s a type of processed food that you can’t control, you cannot have it all. A cocaine or alcohol addict just can’t have a little bit of cocaine or alcohol. They must stop completely to stop “lighting up the christmas tree”. If you can’t stop eating protein bars, donuts and other sweet stuff you have to find the main ingredient… it’s most likely sugar.
- Repair your gut. Your gut is your second brain and produces more neurotransmitters than your brain. Take glutamine, a probiotic and eat whole, unprocessed foods.
- Eat low GI to reverse insulin and leptin resistance. You know the saying “You don’t realise how much you miss something until it’s gone?” This is what we’re trying to do here. Eat low GI foods so you produce less insulin and leptin and then what will happen is that insulin and leptin will start to work better. You’ll feel fuller eating more nutrient dense foods and your taste buds will go crazy over less sugary foods.
- Conscious eating, when you eat something, have a think about what’s going to be happening inside your body. Where did the food come from? How was it made? What chain reaction is it going to have on my body? Will I feel more energised or will it make me feel tired?
The funny thing about the nucleus accumbens is that it doesn’t just relate to food. When you start seeing visible results, feeling and looking good. Do you think that pleasure centre is going to light up? Of course it will and it will keep you coming back for more.
Ready to have your own team of personal trainers helping you every step of the way with your nutrition and training quality? Along with having your own specific programs handed to you on a plate? Make sure to let us know about your training goals and book in a training consultation with us today.