Friday, May 31, 2019
A Personal Insight Into Monkey Mind and Yo Yo Weight, Part 1
I have struggled with weight issues and anxious thoughts for a very long time.
I never thought of myself as someone who 'suffered' from anxiety, but I did have trouble sleeping due to random thoughts which evolved into worried thoughts. I would wake up and if some worrisome thought didn't pop into my head, my brain would scan for something to worry about....at least that is how it felt. This became my pattern, never sleeping a full night without the negative thoughts invading my rest.
I have gained and lost so much weight over the years that my thought pattern became that I could lose weight and I could gain weight, but I couldn't maintain weight. The trouble with this thought is that it became a belief. A core belief about myself which drove my actions. The result...I was either in gain mode or loss mode, but the time I was the happiest was in maintain mode...BUT my mind told me I did not have the ability to stay there. Hence my yo yo weight.
Despite the cycle of weight and anxiety, I continued on the same path and not surprisingly getting the same results....continued weight fluctuation and continued sleep disruption. Recently (courtesy of one of my teachers and a yoga workshop I attended in Toronto), I was reminded of my university days and my neuroscience studies involving the purpose and impact of learning and memory, as well as the way our brains learn and develop habits, and why. BOOM! The biggest Ah Ha moment I've ever had.
My issues with weight and with anxiety stem from the same source! The patterns my brain had developed, over my entire life, were so firmly ensconced in my brain that I was fighting an uphill battle to change what my brain saw as a comfortable, reliable way of life. My routines had become super highways in my neural connections and it was time to get off that super highway and start taking the country roads!! No longer was the 'familiar' going to be the default. Change does not have to be bad. The stereotype of this behaviour is the abused woman who stays with an abusive husband because remaining with the familiar is 'safer' in the brain than the fear of something new. Another example is that of the butterfly...the caterpillar goes through the change to become the beautiful butterfly....the key word being 'change'.
We learn by making neural connections in the brain. The first time we drive to a new friend's house we are watching every road sign, driving slowly so as not to miss anything and checking the house numbers of every home we pass. Once we have gone there a few times we can easily get there while conversing with another or planning our grocery list. WHY....because our brain has incorporated the route into our working memory and now it is part of the default, background information on which we build our life. We did this a lot as a child when we learned virtually everything! Once a child learns to walk, there is no stopping him, he no longer wobbles, he quickly learns to run.
Unfortunately, these same neural connections are the reason why I can not SEEM to control my weight or my anxious thoughts.....my brain has these strong neural connections to how I eat and how I think. It was time for a change.
The good news is that change is possible, but not by struggling with existing neural patterns but by creating new ones! No longer will my brain find that eating an ice cream cone is the answer for loneliness and no longer will my brain think that night time is the time for rehashing every decision I ever made. No longer will my weight fluctuate and no longer will my mind dwell "in the cellar" during the night (and sometimes during the day) but I WILL create new patterns so that when I am functioning on autopilot (as we most often do) I will have different patterns....and as I have proved with my lifetime of dysfunctional patterns, once these patterns develop into super highways, life will change dramatically, with little or no effort on my part. But first....the work begins on creating new pathways, and I begin on the country roads.
Stay tuned for part two of 'A Personal Insight into Monkey Mind and Yo Yo Weight'.