Want to know how to lose weight without dieting? By understanding your brain, you can change the way you approach weight loss forever. Not only will you have more compassion for yourself, you will also have a lot more weight loss success. It may even change how you view your whole life.
Change the Way You View Weight Loss Forever
I say over and over again on my blog that by using the Real Healthy Habits approach, you can lose weight without dieting and keep it off. That promise might trigger the scam alarm in your brain. I know it sounds too good to be true, but I promise it's not. Let me explain how you can be more successful at weight loss by ditching deprivation diets forever. I'm not exaggerating when I say this will change how you view weight loss forever.
To learn how to lose weight without dieting, we aren’t going to start by talking about exercise or what to eat. Instead, we are going to talk about your brain.
The Boss & The Assistant
To lose weight and keep it off for the long run, it’s of utmost importance to understand how your brain works. I’m NOT talking about visualizing yourself at your goal weight or increasing your motivation by affirmations. Instead, the key to weight loss is to understand the two different ways your brain thinks. Neuroscientists have nicknamed these different brain functions as System 1 and System 2.
The top level thinking part of your brain is called System 2, but I like to call it The Boss. The Boss is the planner, the goal setter, the creator, and is in charge of long term thinking. She is in charge of willpower and your conscious thoughts. The boss is great at her job, but thinking is hard work. She is limited to doing only one thing at a time. She tires easily. And forget multi-tasking, the Boss can’t do it.
The other part of the brain is called System 1. This is the quick-thinking, habit part of your brain. This is what I like to call The Assistant. Ask any boss how she gets so much done, and she will point to her Assistant.
The Assistant is the one who can juggle multiple tasks like walking and chewing gum at the same time. She gets stuff done. She is the sub-conscious, intuitive, habit part of the brain. She is all about building systems or habits, but don’t try to get her to change. She likes things just so.
Another thing to know about the Assistant is she is always trying to build habits with these three things in mind:
- She wants pleasure.
- She wants to avoid pain.
- She wants to conserve energy (aka she is lazy).
So the Assistant wants to overeat—especially pleasurable foods that are made to be super craveable. She wants to avoid working out because it is hard, a bit painful, and it takes lots of work. And she definitely doesn’t want to try new healthy habits because those take energy and effort.
Why Diets Don't Work Long-Term
Now here is the big problem with traditional diets.
Diets rely on the Boss brain to be in control at all times. When you start a new diet, you start eating lots of new things that you may need higher level math to figure out (calories or points). You have to think of what to eat and how much to eat and how to prepare it. Then, you have to deny yourself your favorite foods and even deal with hunger. Those all require the Boss’ undivided energy and attention.
But the Boss, has children to take care of, a job to go to, a house to clean and a myriad of other responsibilities. Plus, the Boss has to ignore the body’s hormonal signals (leptin) from losing weight which tell the Assistant that she better start eating again. A diet can work well if the Boss gets to solely concentrate on what, how much, and when to eat and what, when, and how much to move and has plenty of energy to keep up her willpower.
Unfortunately, life is seldom like that. Most of use don’t get to go to the Biggest Loser Ranch to lose 20 pounds. Life doesn't get put on hold so that you can put massive effort and willpower into weight loss.
In real life our Boss brain is occupied by how to do a new task at work or how to keep kids busy during summer vacation. In real life our Boss brain gets fatigued by getting up during the night with sick kids or negotiating traffic jams.
When the Boss part of your brain stops paying attention or is tired, then the Assistant part of your brain will take over. She will revert back to old habits of eating and moving, so the Boss can think about other things. And for most of us, the past habit systems that the Assistant will revert to are overeating and not exercising.
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Weight Loss Depends on the Assistant Being on Board
Traditional diets have abysmal rates of success. Yet, somehow we think this time will be different. We just need to find the “right” diet. We are optimistic that the new diet in vogue will make all the difference. But that isn't how it works. We've been doing weight loss all wrong.
The Real Healthy Habits (RHH) approach to weight loss is different. At RHH, I help you to put the hard work of dieting on the Assistant brain. Remember she is strong and can handle multiple things at once. She doesn’t require conscious thought, so she isn’t subject to attention, low willpower, or low motivation. The Assistant is key to losing weight without dieting and keeping it off.
But until now, the Assistant hasn’t been trained. We’ve let her do what she wants.
Sure we’ve tried to whip the Assistant into shape by going on a diet here or there. But going on a traditional diet is like the Boss going to a weekend work seminar. She comes back full of new ideas of how things are going to be different around here. The Boss tries too many effortful, tiring, new things at once.
The Assistant knows that the Boss will eventually get tired with this new program, and things will revert back to normal. The Assistant will go back to running the show. And remember what the Assistant does when she is left in charge—she wants pleasure, avoids pain, and stays lazy. The Assistant’s fondest wish is to eat ice cream all day while lying on the couch watching Netflix.
So how do we get the powerful Assistant to help rather than hinder our weight loss efforts?
Job Retraining for the Assistant
In order to lose weight without dieting and keep it off long term, it’s essential to give the Assistant some job retraining. Basically, the Real Healthy Habits Weight Loss & Health Coaching Program is a systematic job retraining program to get the Assistant part of your brain on the same weight loss page as the goal-setting Boss.
When you set goals, visualize your goals, and repeat affirmations of weight loss success, those things help the Boss get focused and motivated. They are important to do at the beginning of your weight loss journey. Yes, we have to convince the Boss that weight loss should be a new project. But once that happens, then the bigger challenge is to get the Assistant on board. The Assistant needs to be doing the day-to-day work of eating healthy foods in the right amounts (check out my post on meal templates), exercising everyday, getting enough sleep, and dealing with stress constructively.
To retrain the Assistant to lose weight, we need to systematically train her to do one new healthy weight loss habit at a time. We need to make the habits small and very specific or she'll feel overwhelmed and won't do it. We also need to make sure that we keep track of her progress (remember she is lazy) by using a habit chart. We also need to praise her and offer her positive reinforcement for doing a job well done (sometimes just a check on the habit chart is enough.)
It's also helpful to realize that the Assistant will try to find pleasure and get out of hard work if she can. She will throw out justifications (aka loopholes) as to why you should have cake today. She puts little suggestions in your mind, "I won't eat sweets the rest of the week, my co-worker made my very favorite red velvet cake just for me, one piece won't hurt," etc. She will also try to keep you from making it to the gym with these justifications, "It was a long day at work, your kids need you, one workout won't matter," etc. You can tell that Assistant is a sneaky gal. But, we can keep her in line by creating Bright Line Rules and knowing which habits are the most important to make (sign up for the 5-Day Email course to learn more.)
Retrain your Brain with the 5-Day Email Course
But don't worry, if you sign-up for my free 5- Day Email Course, I will give you the scoop on how to Retrain your Brain to Lose Weight and Keep it Off--All Without Dieting. The first day's email is a recap of the brain systems that I talked about in this blog post--The Boss and The Assistant. The following days will cover how to train the Assistant to make a new habit, how to notice when she's trying to get out of a habit, how to stop her from nagging you all day long, and which weight loss habits to train the Assistant on.
Sign up now to Lose Weight without Dieting
I promise that by reading these emails, it will change the way you approach weight loss forever. Not only will you have more compassion for yourself, you will also have a lot more weight loss success. It may even change how you view your whole life. Yep, It's that good.
I had a reader say this about the email course,
"Awesome. It really has been life changing for me in understanding myself and I've only read the first email so far!!!"
Another woman told me,
"I find myself thinking about the assistant and it's helping my children make better choices with me."
Sign up for the 5 Day Email Course Retrain your Brain to Lose Weight and Keep it Off--All Without Dieting. Take your first step to understanding how to lose weight without dieting and how to keep it off for the long run.
Until next time,
Hi, I’m Treva, your weight loss coach! I'm a dietitian, personal trainer, and health coach who helps women who want to lose weight, but are done with the deprivation and disappointment of traditional dieting. I help you develop a weight loss habit plan that is personalized for your body, your preferences, and your lifestyle. Want Help Losing Weight?