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Brain Battle: The Process of Motivation

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Today's Toronto Globe and Mail has a great article on how motivation works in the brain, at the level of actual neuro activity in the various structures of the brain. I've provided the link, above, in case you want to read the whole thing. And it's a fascinating story, given that motivation is something that concerns so many of us. However, it's not exactly your "easy read", so here's the condensed version related to the weight loss experience (at least, so far as I'm I'm able to understand it myself).

Essentially, the neuroscience researcher Mark Fenske has discovered that positive motivation arises when the "reward" centres of the brain win out over the "loss" centres of the brain.

In other words, in deciding whether to pursue any particular goal -- including weight loss-- the brain performs a kind of cost/benefit analysis. The motivation story is about an internal battle between various centres of the brain.

We decide to accomplish a goal, such as losing weight. Then our brain considers: How rewarding would it be to accomplish the goal? Some areas of the brain evaluate the rewards (for weight loss, better health, better appearance . . . all the reasons we have to lose weight) -- and a positive evaluation of the rewards associated with a particular goal will result at least initially in motivation. We're gung ho!! We're roaring off all speed ahead to lose a pound a day!! Yay!!

And quickly lose momentum. Because the brain's motivation centres are continually dealing with backtalk from other brain areas. No one likes to be unsuccessful, or to pay more to achieve something than it is worth to him or her.

So these "backtalk" or demotivation brain centres ask other questions designed to protect us from the sting of failure. How likely is it that I will be unable to accomplish the goal? These negative and anxiety-stimulating brain centres evaluate the risks I won't be successful (how many times have I tried in the past and not stuck with the program, or lost weight only to regain it again? and how difficult was it to lose that weight in the first place?)

If these risk and loss factors seem very large, then the brain decides to submit to demotivation rather than experience defeat. The brain determines, for example, that weight loss would require too much effort getting out of bed to exercise, it would require too many sacrifices of delicious foods in social situations, and that in any case I won't be able to keep it up. The result? Giving up. Regaining the weight loss in that first flush of enthusiasm. And probably a few more pounds.

Do it. Don't do it. Do it. Don't do it. When it comes to motivation, or its opposite demotivation, apparently that's what happening inside our brains all of the time. A measurable brain battle of conflicting neuroactivities.

So: how can we strengthen the motivation centres of the brain and weaken the demotivation centres?

This brain battle doesn't need to be an unconscious one.

We can choose quite deliberately to focus on the positive brain signals.

We can deliberately choose to pay greater attention to the positive "do it" signals.

We can deliberately choose to pay less attention to the negative "don't do it" signals.

After all, because I had failed to lose weight up until age 50 did not mean that I was destined never to lose weight. I did lose 80 pounds between 2001 and 2002. I have kept it off, and since January I have lost about 10 pounds more and kept it off. I now weigh more than 90 pounds less than I did in 2002. But: I was yoyoing, fluctuating.

Using the Judith S. Beck Advantage Response cards (from her book, The Diet Solution) was simply a method of focusing my attention on the rewards of losing weight. To adopt her language, it was a method of strengthening the resistance muscles and weakening the giving-in muscles. It was a method of learning to think like a thin person. And for now at least it does seem to have stopped the yo-yoing of that last 10 pounds on/off/on/off.

"Do it" (motivation) is winning: "don't do it" (demotivation) is losing. My brain battle was made manifest in my body: up 10 pounds, down 10 pounds, up 10 pounds, down 10 pounds.

I stopped permitting myself to dwell on fear of failure. I stopped permitting myself to focus on how hard it is to plan my nutrition and exercise.

Instead I have deliberately chosen to pay attention to the rewards of clothing that fits, feeling slim and healthy.

And I've discovered that it isn't that hard to plan nutrition and exercise, especially with the SP trackers. I've learned that sustaining the motivation to maintain weight loss has simply turned out not to be as hard as I had anticipated.

At least most days!!

The Fenske research on the brain battle of motivation reinforces my experience with Judith S. Beck and with SparkPeople.

We're here to pay attention to the centres of the brain that focus on the rewards of weight loss: better health, better appearance . . . . all of that.

On a cost/benefit analysis: yeah. It's worth it. So worth it.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BELLEFAITH42 6/27/2011 8:36PM

    I saw this last week and didn't have time to read it, but remembered it and had to go back and find and read the whole article tonight. Very fascinating how the brain works. It makes you think of what some of your issues might be and how to change the pattern! Thanks for the link emoticon

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BLUESKY_321 6/24/2011 8:45AM

    Thanks Ellen -a great read for another rainy day! So easy on these days to feel unmotivated! And it's the kiddos first day of summer vaca which means more snack food in the house ... time to exercise my resistance muscle!!!!

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OPHELIA105 6/24/2011 6:34AM

    We can deliberately choose to pay greater attention to the positive "do it" signals.

We can deliberately choose to pay less attention to the negative "don't do it" signals.

I luuuurve this

And think it is so right - it clearly puts the responsibility for our behaviour on our own shoulders - it is very empowering.

We are the masters of our own destiny..

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PENNYAN45 6/24/2011 1:14AM

    This is so interesting. Thanks for the synopsis. It is one more source reinforcing the idea of emphasizing the positive benefits and downplaying the negative arguments. That is the constant battle we deal with. Apparently, just like every other behavior or habit we are trying to change, the more we win that battle, the easier it gets to win.

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BRIGHTSPARK7 6/24/2011 12:17AM

    Cheers and hooray to making the process more conscious! It helps to have a compelling vision to work toward: healthy vibrant body, clarity of thought, positive self-image, being one's best in the world.
I am wondering if it is time for me to read Beck's book. Maybe I can get a used copy on Amazon. I'll take a look.
Thank you, Ellen! You rock!

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TBANMAN 6/23/2011 10:07PM

    Most of the time, if my motivation flags, I can get it back by returning to something that the "demotivating" part of my brain can't argue with, explain away, or wriggle out of:

Eating in my calorie range and meeting my exercise goals leads to weight loss.

Every single time, without fail.

When I do it right, it works.

Kinda hard to get around that.

Besides, nothing tastes as good as healthy feels, right?


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ERIKO1908 6/23/2011 9:33PM

    I'm working hard daily to have the "Do it" win out!!! Thanks for posting the "condensed" version... :)

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SLENDERELLA61 6/23/2011 8:59PM

    You are so right. It is absolutely worth it! And I am doing many of those things to make the debate more conscious. I will continue. Thanks for reminding me and increasing my understanding of motivation and our brain functioning. Good job! -Marsha

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CARRAND 6/23/2011 8:18PM


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PHEBESS 6/23/2011 3:55PM

    I think part of it is also the entire issue of delayed gratification - I can either eat a brownie sundae NOW and enjoy it immediately, or I can NOT eat it now (or any day for a year) and probably be a size or two smaller at the end of the year. The child in us usually kicks and screams and throws a tantrum, and then we relent and eat that brownie sundae NOW for the immediate enjoyment, and hope that we do better and still are a size or two smaller at he end of the year. Which, obviously, doesn't work if we keep giving in to that inner child.

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KALIGIRL 6/23/2011 12:32PM

    Focus on the positive - can't do much better than that!

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PUDLECRAZY 6/23/2011 9:22AM

    Fantastic blog, Ellen!

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NANCY- 6/23/2011 9:02AM

    so true...
At the store, practicing resistance... I ask myself one question:
"Will this take me to my goal?"
Dr. Beck was wonderful in helping me clarify my goal. Knowing what we want gives us that direction .. so we can choose our actions.
Aversion therapy doesn't work for me... I'm all for the benefits side ... what good I am doing for me.
WTG on liking how your clothing fits.

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Back End of a Caterpillar

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Love those tubes of fresh herbs.

Nobody else in my household is really keen on fresh herbs. For me, they add flavour and vitamins and colour to my soups and salad dressings and omelettes without much in the way of additional calories. So I'm a big fan.

But when I buy a whole bunch of dill, or cilantro, then generally speaking I won't get it all used up before it's gone a bit slimy. Which has gotta be sub-optimal. Whereas a tube of fresh chopped cilantro comprises three average bunches and stays fresh to the end. And in addition, if I want, say, "Italian" then I'd have to buy a bunch of basil, and a bunch of rosemary, and a bunch of Italian parsley, and a bunch of . . . you get the idea. Which means that the tube of mixed chopped fresh herbs in whatever "ethnic" variation is also a terrific idea.

So yeah. Getting a tube of fresh chopped herbs is a huge bargain.

And this morning when I was preparing this week's pot of curried lentil soup, I added a big squirt of the fresh cilantro right at the end. Mmmm. Delicious.

As a person who looks for and raises Monarch caterpillars every summer on milkweed leaves until they spin up into their jade green chrysalises, and then ultimately hatch and fly away, I'm really not all that squeamish about the back end of caterpillars either.

Still, while making my soup this morning it did occur to me . . . and I immediately suppressed that thought. Firmly. Because I really like fresh herbs. And am not a vulgar person, not at all!!

Just sayin'.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

LEGALLYBLONDE81 6/21/2011 7:48AM

    I never even thought of using the tubes. I got so sick of composting 3/4 of a bunch of herbs that I planted cilantro, chives and mint (for mojitos!) in my side garden. I'm going to try this. Where do you get yours? I can't remember where I've seen them.

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PENNYAN45 6/21/2011 7:46AM

    Thanks for the tip. I also like to use fresh herbs when I cook - and often wind up with a slimy bunch of stuff in the bottom of the refrigerator.

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BRIGHTSPARK7 6/20/2011 11:46PM

Thanks for sharing this tip! I'm really enjoying fresh mint from the garden at the moment. It's great minced into yogurt with salt and pepper, eat chilled.
You have also reminded me of the cilantro my mother planted in the garden a couple of years ago. Last summer it reseeded itself. I'll wander out into the corner in the morning and see if it's growing this year.

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NEWKAREN43 6/20/2011 8:39PM

    Thanks for sharing this bit of info and the link. I grow basil and use it all summer but as I get too much, I make pesto from it and freeze it in ice cube trays to use as I want through the fall, it never lasts much into winter, I have a pesto eating family!!! Herbs...love them...I added you as a friend, I hope you'll add me too. Blessings on this journey of health and fitness. Karen

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BARBIETEC 6/19/2011 6:50PM

    omelettes!!!! I have not thought of that!!! Wow I am going to try that out!

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FLOWINGWATER 6/19/2011 5:15PM

    Hmm...gotta check out those tubes. I've never seen them, but herbs are so darn PRICEY! It's a shame when the go slimy. I'm trying to plant as many as I can, so I don't have to buy, but things like cilantro, basil, and parsley are annuals, so they're a pain.

Thanks for the tip!!

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NANCY- 6/19/2011 4:21PM

    Thanks for the info about the tubes. I hate it when good herbs go bad.

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WATERMELLEN 6/19/2011 3:31PM

    The tube herbs I've been buying are called Gourmet Garden, manufactured in Australia and imported into North America through a California distributor:


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IMAGINE_IT 6/19/2011 3:28PM

    I love to experiment with fresh herbs..even though i just started a few months ago...i usually 'throw' a little bit of "this and that" into my soups..and other dishes...and nothing tastes better!! But i am not sure if we have 'Herbs in Tubes'...that is probably another cool Canadian Thing?? emoticon
Ellen..you raise Monarch caterpillars??? Awesome!!
I love Butterflies..and been looking into planting more Butterfly friendly shrubs...etc... emoticon

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CAROLJEAN64 6/19/2011 3:06PM

    Give us some information about how to get these herbs, sounds like just what I am looking for. I love the fresh herbs and hate the slimeys when I don't use them up.

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CARRAND 6/19/2011 2:35PM

    I'll have to look for those fresh herbs in tubes. I don't think I've seen them.

I make a curried lentil soup that I love. I just finished the last bowl of it out of the freezer, so it's time to make more.

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LESLIELENORE 6/19/2011 1:07PM

    I had never heard of fresh herbs packaged like that, so thanks for the info. I love fresh herbs, but usually only get them in the summer from the farmer's market or my parent's garden.

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ONEKIDSMOM 6/19/2011 12:58PM

    LOL... love it! I have a recipe that calls for fresh cilantro but it's rather a big deal when I make it... this suggestion might make me more likely to prep it!


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PHEBESS 6/19/2011 12:36PM


I have to add that certain herbs freeze well, rosemary being a prime example. Also oregano and thyme. Basil, not so much. Not as good as green and fresh, but better than dried. (I LOVE cilantro!!!!! Mmmmmm, so much like the taste of summer!)

And I'm thinking that I need some milkweed in my garden......

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To Waste and Not To Waist: That is the Question!!

Saturday, June 18, 2011


CMRAND54 has a wonderful blog -- link above -- about learning how to waste food. Not eating everything on your plate. Discarding part of the cheese. Setting aside the top half of the bun. Selecting only the most perfect fries, the ones that are "just right": neither too limp or too dark. Then dumping the rest because they're just not good enough to be worth the calories.

This blog reminds me of my mother, who had the same super-efficient metabolism I "enjoy" and that my daughter "enjoys" as well.

Mum was a fitness instructor in the early 50s at the local YWCA, long before fitness classes were the norm. When we went dress shopping together (mother in her girdle and bra and garter belt and nylon stockings and slip and heels and day dress and short white gloves and small hat with a veil: my sister and I in matching Mary Janes and ankle socks and slips and crisp starched hand-smocked cotton dresses), she prided herself on fitting into a size 16. The very same size, she'd tell us, as Marilyn Monroe.

Back home for supper? She did not require us to "eat everything on our plates, or no dessert". She did not entertain us with harrowing tales about the starving children in India.

She'd shake her head when my father offered her a second helping of roast beef and potatoes. Take just a sliver of her own superb home-baked apple pie. Then push aside part of that portion, and sip a cup of black coffee instead.

"Better it should go to waste than to my waist," she'd say.

Self-regulation. That is the question. And the necessity, if that's the reality of your biological legacy.

Unfair? Maybe so. But on the other hand, both my daughter and I also inherited my mother's double cheek dimples!!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

LEGALLYBLONDE81 6/19/2011 10:40PM

    This questions can be rhetorical, but I'd be curious to know whether your mother (or her family) were comfortable during the depression.

Now I'm dreaming up a whole blog on weight and class.

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PHEBESS 6/19/2011 12:39PM

    I always feel so virtuous when I leave something on my plate. Although I don't throw it away, it goes into the fridge for another meal. Even an uneaten baked potato from a restaurant meal comes home and gets scrambled into eggs for dinner in a night or two.

I don't want to waste, but I don't want to waist either!

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BRIGHTSPARK7 6/18/2011 9:52PM

    One of my favorite experiments a couple of weeks ago was to go to an all you can eat soup, salad and bakery bar. I allowed myself a taste of the breads I wanted, the top of a blueberry muffin, a bite of brownie, and let the rest go to waste. A taste was enough. Not all calories are equal in nutritional value, as you know.

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WATERMELLEN 6/18/2011 8:39PM

    Eating food I didn't need is just another kind of waste: a "waisting" waste, in fact, because that's where I'll wear it!!

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CARRAND 6/18/2011 7:42PM

    You're lucky you learned from your mother not to clean your plate. My parents hated to waste food. It took me 60 years to realize that the food is just as gone whether I eat it or toss it.

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INSHAPE2011 6/18/2011 6:04PM

    I tried the Beck suggestion of overloading my plate and eating only what I planned recently and it was amazingly difficult but I did do it and feel proud of it. I was brought up to finish my plate and struggle badly with that. I aim to practice again and as prescribed by Beck before every major outing to strengthen my will. "rather to waste, than to my waist!"... I love this, I'll remember it next time!

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SLENDERELLA61 6/18/2011 2:04PM

    Oh, your mom was wise. Glad you learned the lesson. I had great family that was caring and nuturing, intelligent, responsible and hard working, but no one was wise about food. Sometimes even today I eat more than I truly want because I don't want it to go to "waste". Foolish. Thanks for making me stop and think again.

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REJ7777 6/18/2011 1:44PM

    Thank you for recommending that blog. I'm going to go take a peek at it. You had a good model in your mother, as far as controlling food intake goes!

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FLOWINGWATER 6/18/2011 1:11PM

    I must say, I do struggle with not wasting - especially in restaurants. The other day, at Red Lobster, I asked them to pack up half my meal before they brought it to me. I had heard of that tip, but never had the guts to actually ask for it. I'm glad I did, but, they didn't pack up half the dessert and I couldn't stop eating that little devil!!! emoticon

I like the idea of thinking of food as "not good enough to be worth the calories". I'll have to use that one!

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Friday Evening

Friday, June 17, 2011

Work all done: and it was a fairly tough slog.

Isn't Friday evening one of the best times of the week?

Saturday and Sunday stretch ahead. Twenty-four hours in each one! Chores, sure, they need to get done: and I wanna go to the gym, too.

But there will be time to unwind. Relax. Have fun.

Jammies, a book. No need to set the alarm.

Friday evening. Ahhhhhhh.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

PHEBESS 6/18/2011 12:28PM

    YAY for Fridays! There's a whole 48 hours of possibilities ahead!

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IMAGINE_IT 6/18/2011 11:19AM

    Have a wonderful weekend Ellen :)

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NANCY- 6/18/2011 9:36AM

    Each day is a treasure.
Enjoy your weekend.

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MIRAGE727 6/18/2011 7:16AM

    I do look at Friday evening as special too. After dinner, I spent time in my pool and it was wonderful. I slept better because of it. Enjoy the weekend!

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TRYINGHARD1948 6/18/2011 2:28AM


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BRIGHTSPARK7 6/18/2011 12:56AM

    A well deserved rest. Enjoy your weekend!

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CARRAND 6/17/2011 9:21PM

    I love Friday evenings!

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ONEKIDSMOM 6/17/2011 8:05PM

    Ah, sounds like a great Friday evening! Wanna swap? I've got the overnight shift tonight and SHOULD be headed for a nap right now. emoticon

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Kindergarten Marshmallow Test, Self-Regulation and Obesity

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Toronto Globe and Mail is running an interesting series on all-day kindergarten, and the impact full-day kindergarten may have on early childhood development.

In Ontario this past year, there has been a controversial experiment with tax-payer funded all day kindergarten for junior and senior kindergartens at selected schools. Lots of parents like it, because it reduces the costs of daycare for working mothers and (when integrated with in-school daycares before and after kindergarten) creates a seamless day for little people without those worrying transitions to the daycare provider. On the other hand, lots of tax payers don't like it, because obviously all-day kindergarten dramatically increases early education costs.

My own kids are long past kindergarten age: they were lucky enough to have every day half day kindergarten still available to them, which seemed to me the happiest compromise at the time. And I was able to be home with them for the other half day, no daycare required. We did all kinds of fun things during those half days together. But I've got to acknowledge, very few kids now will be at home with mum if they're not in school. So it's a debate I've followed with some interest.

So far, the early results do seem to indicate that most children make big big gains with the all day kindergarten programme. But it's not so much about rapid intellectual prowess with reading or numbers: the all-day kindergarten program has focused on a "play-based" curriculum. It's when kids first learn to love school and learning that they will later learn to love reading and writing and everything else that is part of the academic world: you can get kids reading early, but if they hate it they won't continue to build upon those early academic gains. So the full-day play based kindergarten program gains have been mostly with social and emotional development: EQ (emotional quotient) gains. Here's the link if you'd like to read the whole story.


What's this got to do with Spark topics of weight loss/weight maintenance? It's the old IQ/EQ debate: and yes, EQ matters so much more.

The article references a 40-year-old Stanford study in which kindergarten-age students were subjected to the "marshmallow test": the child was left with a tempting marshmallow for 15 minutes, and told that if he or she could resist eating the marshmallow, then at the end of the test he could have two marshmallows.

About 30% of the children tested at age four were able to "self-regulate". Regardless of whether they were early readers, or had early numeracy skills (indicating high IQ, intellectual quotient) those self-regulators were the kids with high EQ (emotional quotient).

Follow up testing over the subsequent 40 years has apparently established that those children who at age four had high EQ and were the best "self-regulators" tended in turn to become the most successful in later years academically (intellectually) AND socially.

The early self-regulators got better grades and more education and higher-earning careers. But they were also most likely to avoid sexual promiscuity, drug and obesity problems.

Well, I guess it's too late for me to go back and take the four year old marshmallow test!

But I've been joking for some time that I can resist anything but temptation. So I try hard to avoid temptation by re-arranging my environment. If I had known at four what I know now, I would have hidden that marshmallow behind the plasticine or the building blocks and then possibly been able to wait out the 15 minutes!!

Judith S. Beck's "Diet Solution" is really about catch-up training in self-regulation: learning to think like a thin person. Beck tells us that NO CHOICE matters, that it's important not to eat standing up and to stick with the pre-planned meals -- not so much because of the calories involved (which might be relatively trivial) but because every time we submit to temptation we strengthen the "giving -in" muscle, and every time we self-regulate, we strengthen the "resistance muscle".

Makes sense. Many of us don't need more "intelligence" about weight loss: we know what we need to do. I've known so many pretty smart, pretty accomplished people who've achieved a great deal in other areas of their lives but just cannot lick obesity. That's in part what's so frustrating. Because it's so frustrating to have all the other accomplishments undercut by the (visible, constant, health-harming) evidence of failure in the obesity self-regulation area.

The difficulty is making ourselves do what we know we need to do: resisting that marshmallow, the trick we needed to have learned at age four or so.

What we need is more EQ, remedial self-regulation. And so it makes sense that so much of what we're offered on SP (teams, points, motivators, blogs) is really about building community and boosting EQ.

Thanks, SP and thanks Judith S. Beck. Looks like I've been making up for lost time. Better late than never I suppose!!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

PHEBESS 6/18/2011 12:36PM

    Fascinating! I too can resist anything but temptation - and yes, as a consequence, have built in some avoidance of situations or places that I know offer too much temptation. Not easy when I'm married to the 4 yr old who'd eat that marshmallow in the first minute, and then cry when he didn't get the two at the end of the test!

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NINJA_SMOO 6/16/2011 12:53PM

  Very interesting article! Thanks for posting :)

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DANASEILHAN 6/16/2011 12:09PM

    That'd be great if obesity were really about moral failing. But there are slender people walking around with chronic disease, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. If they're diagnosed less often with those things than obese people, we haven't yet established that that isn't because they think they're healthy because they're slender, therefore they go to the doctor less often.

I think most people who try to lose weight fail because they have no idea what they are doing, and they're going about it all wrong. There is so much scientific evidence now that the simplistic notion of weight loss being about calories eaten versus calories exercised off is incorrect. If you're not doing something right, of course you won't succeed at it. Yet every time someone comes up with an alternative explanation that is *better* supported by the science, they are roundly shouted down and then ignored.

If you are starving (1800 calories a day is semi-starvation, by the way), of course you are going to want to eat. It's not a failure of self-regulation but actually a *success* of it. If all you ever eat are foods that do not induce satiety because you heard those were lower in calories, you are going to be starving most of the time. In the end, you can hypothesize all you want about human beings being walking calorimeters, but you cannot argue with Mother Nature.

Gary Taubes is a worthwhile person to read on this topic. If you like dense science reading, Good Calories, Bad Calories is an excellent book. If you have no patience for dense science reading or you know it's over your head, Why We Get Fat is an acceptable alternative.

I used to have horrific problems being tempted to eat potato chips and drink full-sugar soda. I have completely kicked both (very rarely, I'll still have sweet potato chips--like maybe twice a year), and it wasn't from telling myself I was a non-self-regulating failure, it was from getting all the stuff out of my diet that was making my insulin and blood sugar spike and crash all over the place. Hunger is a biochemical response, not a failure of character. Work with your biochemistry, not against it, and see what happens.

P.S. I daresay children would develop an even better EQ if the adults most important to them in their lives would bother raising them instead of giving birth to/fathering them and then offering them up to the state for rearing. A kid's job is to learn how to be an adult, and they want more than anything else to learn that from their own extended families. That's what they're wired for, that's what they expect, and that's what is routinely thwarted at every turn when they are institutionalized at age six or earlier. John Holt and John Taylor Gatto are good writers to read on the subject.

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TEENY_BIKINI 6/15/2011 10:20PM

    Totally fascinating.


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BLUESKY_321 6/15/2011 9:40PM

    Excellent thoughts here! Thanks so much for sharing!

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DBCLARINET 6/15/2011 6:25PM

    Fascinating post! I agree with what TryingHard said about obese people rewarding themselves with food. My husband came from a family where bonding involved bags of BBQ potato chips and his dad's homemade dip of two bricks of cream cheese, a tub of sour cream, and ketchup to taste. When I had concerts in college, I would often celebrate by going out for dessert afterward.

I think your article is spot-on with the EQ. I just think so many of us have experiences where food is part of building EQ (if I understand it correctly), instead of rewarding ourselves with other things or finding things we enjoy other than eating food.

SparkPeople definitely increased my EQ where food and exercise are concerned and gave me a community to turn to until my husband came around and joined me on the get-healthy quest.

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KALIGIRL 6/15/2011 1:14PM

    When you think about it self-regulation is all there is. We're responsible for our own behavior - choice or 'no' choice.

I agree - better late than never (good thing you can teach and old dog new tricks...)

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MSSNOWY 6/15/2011 9:56AM

    Very good points, Ellen. Thanks for sharing the article and your thoughts.

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NANCY- 6/15/2011 9:22AM

    "The difficulty is making ourselves do what we know we need to do"
Ah yes... I have seen that study... for some children it was extremely painful to wait. I experienced this with staying out of the junkfood aisle, the pull is incredible.
Changing behavior is difficult, not impossible. Resistance is needed to change a habit. Then there is a tipping point. Once resistance is a habit it becomes the norm for us and not difficult at all.
Thanks for sharing this.

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DONNACFIT 6/15/2011 12:56AM

    Love your blog..so true..we all know what to do to lose weght.. eat less/move more...it's the actual doing it that's tough.. I need that EQ..thanks :)

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BRIGHTSPARK7 6/15/2011 12:51AM

    I saw that Stanford study with the marshmallow several years ago, when I was raising my own young 'uns. Interesting what it says about resisting temptation and postponing gratification over the course of a whole life. Fifteen minutes can be a long time for a young child. Self talk makes a big difference.
My version is to allow myself small pleasures and enjoy them. Delaying gratification is built into the way I eat. For example, I generally don't eat dessert in the evenings. Instead of an extra helping reward, hopefully my reward will be losing these last ten pounds.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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TBANMAN 6/14/2011 11:21PM

    An interesting idea to say the least. I know I need to exercise my "resistance" muscle as much as I exercise my bicep or my quad.

It's just not as much fun.


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LEGALLYBLONDE81 6/14/2011 9:17PM

    I have no problem self regulating when it comes to marshmallows... they are not tempting...

This was a great blog! Really interesting. But, I would posit that there it may not be as simple as across the board self regulation. I am great at self regulating academically (I always have been). Not so good when it comes to eating... Anyone else good in one area but not in others?

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SLENDERELLA61 6/14/2011 8:56PM

    Great blog!! Very interesting concept. Now I'm debating whether to give my 4 year old gd the marshmellow test or not, but my gut instinct says she would not last 30 seconds. Guess I better read the article to see if there are some ways I can help her. Bet I wouldn't have lasted even 30 seconds at that age, but I am making progress in developing some of those skills now. And you certainly have!

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CARRAND 6/14/2011 8:31PM

    Great blog. It sounds right to me.

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TRYINGHARD1948 6/14/2011 7:25PM

    Great blog Ellen. I was interested in your comment about people who have achieved so much and still cannot lick obesity. I sometimes think that people who have achieved highly still reward themselves with something in the mouth, going back to babyhood sucking which gave so much fulfillment, and because they are so 'good' in every other area. Smoking fulfills this need for some but does have life threatening consequences which some people are prepared to risk, amazingly.

Thanks, indeed, to Sparkpeople.

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