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We are fundamentally wired for survival.
Designed primarily to hunt and gather in times of scarcity, we are built to seek out sugar. With no guarantee of the size, timing or even certainty of the next meal, we became finely tuned to search for sugar and instinctively wired to gain pleasure from consuming it. The body, as a result, has become highly efficient at utilising sugar and storing the excess to fuel a future famine.
Aligned with this evolutionary drive to eat, we have been gifted with a ‘Hunger Management System’ policed by our old friends’ the hunger hormone Ghrelin which signals hunger and counterbalanced by the anti-hunger hormone Leptin which signals satiety by disrupting our natural desire to eat.
Fast forward to the present time.
Sugar and calories now plentiful and equipped with a finely tuned Hunger Management System: Why is portion control, calorie intake and our ability to say no to that second or third piece of cake so difficult?
Food availability has changed. How we choose our food sources and the ease with which we are able to sustain our energy needs has been hugely transformed. Our physiology has yet to catch up with this transition that we see from food scarcity to food abundance.
Whilst we wait for that 4.0 systems upgrade by Mother Nature or further research to give us answers and possibly an external solution; we need to find a strategy to deal with this desire to consume more than we need.
STRATEGIES TO HELP CURB CRAVINGS AND PROMOTE FEELINGS OF BEING SATISFIED.
There is some research around the possibility that green tea and exercise can help stave off cravings. There are also some robust findings that show increasing the protein content of our meals can reduce hunger and increase satiety. Dehydration confuses the brain into making you feel hungry and reaching for food. These can all be worked into healthful strategies to help us make the right choice.
BUT FIRST WE NEED A MINDFUL PROTOCOL
A set of rules we can follow to help us make the best choice at that particular moment.
STEP ONE. THE SENSATION.
You feel hungry, you crave something salty, sweet or crunchy or you feel/hear/ experience some rumbles in your tummy.
STEP TWO. THE PAUSE.
Most mental, emotional and healthful strategies start the same way; with a pause.
Many of our daily choices are made unconsciously, without mindfully engaging with intention. Like me, you may have polished off that family-sized bag of crisps or a pack of biscuits and when faced with an empty plate or the bottom of an empty packet thought:
“Where did they go?”
“How did that happen?”
For a strategy or plan or resolution to be effective, there needs to be a mindful protocol that is initiated by habit. A form of Learning to take place that is attached to our internal and external cues.
This then over time becomes a Learned Mind Memory intricately woven into our conscious thought processes from emotional responses and repeated action.
Failure of diet plans, resolutions or routines is due to failure to repeatedly work on this very first step.
Why Develop your own personal Mindful Protocol?
Successful athletes, entrepreneurs and fitness experts will have their own mindful protocol that they have worked on daily for years and has enabled them to make the right choice and become who they are today. Bruce Lee, a legendary hero of mine, often spoke of mental preparation as the foundation of his success.
I speak of our evolutionary drive to eat, the mechanisms we have to guide our eating habits and the strategies researched to work, but if I fail to address the mental preparation we need to do behind it all, it remains a strategy and fails to become a Protocol, or set of rules, by which we can impact our health on a long-term basis. Not just for 28 days, not just for the month of January post new year resolutions, but long past any milestone… a code if you like for the rest of our lives.
How do we develop a Mindful Protocol?
We first need to initiate the pause and then choose the protocol.
To initiate is to engage conscious thought. Take the plane off auto-pilot and engage the thought process to determine the direction, magnitude and velocity of our next action.
To initiate thought we need to pause and it is here in this moment of pause that we take ourselves off the common high-speed freeway with our bodies and minds going at 70 m.p.h, slow down or stop and present ourselves with a crossroads; a decision to make.
A great deal is spoken about mindfulness and how we need to take time out of our day to have a mindful practice. RIGHT here in this moment of PAUSE is your mindful daily practice.
Slowly over time with practice, as we realise that our core needs are met, (Click on this link to read my post on Managing our core needs- Blueprint for life) we can stop trying to survive and we can start living a mindful life in every decision and thought of every day.
So Here we are.
We have come off autopilot and managed to press pause before we reach for another handful of sweets. We are now presented with the luxury of having to make a choice. Do we get back on the freeway back on cruise control and eat the whole bag or do we come off at this junction and consider our options?
Building the Mindful Protocol. Keep it Simple.
Feel the Sensation of hunger, boredom, thirst? You may not be able to tell what it is but your learned reflexes are to reach for food in response.
To build this protocol is to unLEARN our automatic responses and replace them with mindful choices.
- It starts with the first sensation.
- Press Pause to Initiate
- Consider your options for your next choice.
- Think of the strategies available to maximise your next action.
- Go for it!
Right there is your mindful practice.
OK, so we feel a sensation we associate with hunger.
Pause and consider one or all of these strategies that may serve you in this moment.
We have an evolutionary drive to eat.
We also have the capability to manage this to reach and maintain our goal of Optimal Health.
We need to build our own MINDFUL PROTOCOL and initiate it at every sensation we feel to then empower us to make the right decision.
- Feel the Sensation, Press Pause and Consider the options for your next choice, REPEAT.
- Practising this daily will make the process easier in every aspect of your life and become a LEARNED MIND MEMORY.
- Start where you Are.
Even if you make one mindful choice today- right there is a win.
Write it down, share it, celebrate it, journal it- this releases dopamine which makes us happy and more likely to do it again.
Make the right choice for You.