Here’s a very relatable scenario, a pattern shall we say, many of us may find familiar:
Healthy food, gym visits, excellent choices. Nurturing our bodies and our minds and feeling the payback of vibrant energy and strength. We feel great, we’re on a roll, we can keep this up for as long as we need to. For we have Wills of Steel.
Until we don’t.
I am not an expert.
My curiosity has taken me down some interesting roads in search of answers to the problems that plague me. I’m ruthlessly in pursuit of Why. I have learned a lot about myself and why people follow the patterns they do. We make decisions we identify as not in our best interest, but like sweeping the matter under the proverbial rug we choose to deal with consequence later.
Why do we tend to self sabotage? Why does it seem so easy to make decisions we know aren’t aligned with our goals? Why is it so hard to stay on track?
Our belief in ourselves wanes and vanishes.
As we dive back into that familiar rut, we see the walls go up between where we stand and what we want. We wonder why, and whether or not we will be here forever.
You only need to ease off the gas a little
Imagine we all have little rivers running around our brains.
Some are deeper, faster running. Others are slow and shallow. It all depends how long they’ve been there and how strongly you feel about them. Size and establishment determine how good of a hold they have on you.
These rivers are called Neuropathways. They are synaptic connections of information and energy that travel along certain routes, creating our habits. This is the mesh of information pathways that you have created through your choices, your living behaviours, and of course, the instincts that keep you alive.
These pathways are like living, breathing entities. Every day you interact with them, feeding them with emotion, spending time with them. The ones you spend the most time with are the ones that grow the strongest over time.
We all have our favourite ones. The ones we thrive on. The feelings we habitually return to for a momentary high of justification. We have the emotions we try not to feel.
Just like the neuropathways, they can either be torrential rivers consuming all in their path, or faint trickles that can be expressed with nothing more than a teardrop or an eye roll.
These two aspects of being human play huge parts in why we do what we do. They drive us day by day, guide our long term choices, and determine some of our successes and failures. They are our habits and reactions to the world we live in.
Weightloss and Lifestyle Choices
Millions of people have a hugely difficult time achieving their weight loss and fitness goals, not to mention maintaining these goals after the fact. 50 million people EACH YEAR go on a diet. 5% actually manage to keep their weight off*. That’s staggering.
What’s more frightening is many people don’t question why, simply assuming it’s an internal weakness of their own they can’t overcome. It’s their fault, their flaw, their impossible. Tear themselves down, they become mere drops of power while those rivers of old habits run strong.
In truth, the neuropathways we’ve built over years of practice go further to guiding us than many realize. It’s not the spaghetti that has a hold over you so much as the neuropathway that has forged itself deeply in your subconscious over years, telling you that it needs that meal more than you need anything else.
If you’re standing next to a raging river that has been running for the last thirty years, it will be more gratifying to feed it than the little creek of a new habit you built two weeks ago. This new baby habit needs some time to fortify itself. It hasn’t even begun to grow yet.
This is why, for so many, a matter of willpower alone is inadequate against years and years of giving in to cravings, or choosing the easier route of excusing yourself from a run. Likewise, a new habit or lifestyle change will take some time to build enough power within itself to overcome the torrent of the old habit.
And, as always, a bad habit which we find quite gratifying, is more difficult to overcome than the new, good habit you’re seeking.
So with that said, in the future, consider the rivers of habits you’re trying to overcome, and how fast you’re attempting to swim. It’s an exciting and beautiful process, creating change, but it can be a tiring one. Remember to put your puddle jumpers on and wade a little first.
When you’re feeling great two weeks into your new body fuel regime and you suddenly find yourself off course, smile and know its just a beaver dam on your path to success.
Pick yourself up and keep going. You have some creeks to turn into rivers; and that, my friend, just takes a little time.
*Ref. Colorado State University Extension