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Why don’t I Eat What I planned to Eat?
Sometimes it feels like a zombie has taken over your body and eaten a bunch of food. I call it —Zombie Eating.
To nix Zombie Eating, you need to know how your brain decides what to eat. There are two types of food decisions your brain makes: supermarket choices and fridge choices.
1. SUPERMARKET CHOICES—the shopping choices that you make for the future—what to put in your supermarket cart for the coming days and weeks. There are lots of influences on these.
2. FRIDGE CHOICES—the food choices that you make while looking in the fridge for your current meal. Usually they’re at the mercy of your subconscious, habit brain that likes pleasure, wants to avoid pain, and likes to be lazy.
Once you understand your brain, you can hack it to eat the good things. To switch from zombie eating, you need to put the Boss Brain back in charge of your meals. To “eat like a boss,” ask yourself one simple question before you eat:
Who’s in charge—The boss or the Assistant?
NOW ONTO THE ARTICLE...
Why You Don’t You Eat What You Planned
You know you need to make better choices to lose weight.
But, why does lunch end up being a BLT sandwich with chips instead of the salad that you planned?
Sometimes it feels like your body has been hijacked. You end up eating foods seemingly against your will.
Your hand is in the potato chip bag and half the bag has mysteriously disappeared. Or, didn’t there used to be a lot more cake in the fridge?
I call this Zombie Eating. It’s like you became a zombie, ate something, and then woke up several minutes later.
“Yeah, it be like that,” as my teenage daughter would say.
In order to get yourself to behave and eat the healthier foods you planned to, I’m going to let you in on a little secret…
For successful weight loss, you need to know how your brain actually decides what to eat--and then hack it so that you eat the good things instead.
(Stay tuned to the end of the article to learn the simple fix that can instantly destroy Zombie Eating.)
How Your Brain Chooses Food
Let’s start with a basic explanation of how you choose food. There are basically two kinds of food choices you make-- the supermarket choices and the refrigerator choices.
The supermarket choices are what you decide to bring into your house for future meals.
The refrigerator choices are the mealtime choices (the ones you make as you stare into the fridge) for what to eat right now.
supermarket food Choices
There's tons of forces that influence supermarket food choices.
These influences include how much money you have, what's available at your local store, advertising influences, cultural influences, your cooking skills, the time you have available, regional influences, what your friends eat, what you believe is healthy, and probably many more.
Let's say that all the supermarket forces worked together for your waistline’s good and you brought home mostly healthy choices. That doesn't mean that they're actually going to end up in your mouth.
Now here’s where that Zombie eating comes in…
refrigerator Food Choices
When you're hungry or the lunch bell rings, it’s time for the refrigerator food choices.
You go to the fridge and pull out your next meal. You can think about it and make a conscious choice to eat something good for you.
This is using what I call the Boss part of your brain--the conscious thinking part of your brain. The Boss part of your brain is in charge of willpower and goals like getting healthy and weight loss. (This is so important I call it the The One Weight Loss Idea to Rule Them All.)
But, more often than not, that doesn’t happen. The Boss isn’t involved in meals.
The Boss Brain delegates meals to her Assistant--the subconscious habit part of your brain.
Because eating meals is something we do every day, several times a day, the Assistant subconscious part of your brain has taken over this task.
Unimportant decisions or things we do habitually are the Assistant’s domain. And, because the Assistant is the subconscious, we don’t really know what goes on there.
But, we do know what motivates her.
Assistant brain’s motivations
The Boss part of your brain may be motivated to lose weight and get healthy, but the Assistant part of your brain is more like a teenager-- it wants pleasure, wants to avoid pain, and wants to be lazy.
Because the Assistant part of your brain is in charge of lunch, things may not turn out so well for your waistline.
You go stare inside the fridge and the Assistant decides what to eat for lunch.
Let’s see how she decides what to eat for lunch, shall we?
1. Availability —The first driver of what she decides to eat is what's available. She's going to go look in the fridge or rifle through the cupboards and see what's actually there. Convenience (remember she’s lazy) is her number one priority. It's got to be there to eat it.
2. Preferences—Then, she's going to evaluate all the choices there and decide what you like to eat—what tastes good (remember she likes pleasure).
3. Goals—Then, she may or may not consider any goals that you have--like weight loss or eating what you had planned earlier in the day.
Teenager In Charge of Meals
Having the Assistant part of your Brain in charge of feeding your one-and-only precious body is like having a lazy, irresponsible teenage babysitter in charge. That teen would be happy to feed you hot dogs and some M & M’s for lunch.
Now once in a while, a hot dog and M & M’s are ok, but not every day, several times a day.
The Assistant can play havoc on your health and weight when this derelict teenager is in charge of what you eat at every single meal.
But, all is not lost…
There’s actually a super, simple fix.
Ask this Question to Eat Like a Boss
Training yourself to ask one simple question before you eat can destroy Zombie Eating for good.
Ask yourself before you take your next bite, ”Who’s in charge here--the Boss or the Assistant?”
Are your eating habits driven by the teenage-like impulses of the Assistant?
Or is the grown-up Boss in charge?
Just taking a second to ask, “Who’s in charge here?” breaks you out of Zombie Subconscious Assistant Mode and gets you back into Weight-Losing, Goal-Achieving Boss Mode.
If it’s the Boss that’s in charge, then go ahead and eat what you planned. (Click here if you want help figuring out what to eat for weight loss).
If it’s the Assistant, then refuse to eat whatever she’s craving. Put the Boss back in charge and eat what you planned to instead.
Remembering to ask this one question before anything goes in your mouth can be a weight loss game changer.
So, go ahead and eat.
But, make sure you eat like a Boss.
Remind Yourself to Eat Like a Boss
It’s so easy to ask yourself the “Who’s in Charge Here?” question, but you’ll probably forget to. To be sure you remember, download this graphic and set it as the wallpaper on your phone and/or print it out and hang it on your refrigerator.
want to be sure that the boss is in charge?
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Until next time,
I'm a dietitian, personal trainer, and health coach who started asking all the tough health and weight loss questions-- like how do we get more willpower, why can’t we stay motivated, and why is getting healthy and losing weight so tough?
I discovered that the answer to all these questions is simply--Your Brain.
I help frustrated people end their health and weight loss struggles by understanding their brain and then working with it—instead of against it. Then, I teach them how to put their personalized health habits on autopilot for results that last.
You deserve the health and energy you need to live your best life.