Just like all skills, health and well-being can be cultivated through training and practice by using mindful eating and the positive effects of CBT
Whether you’re learning to play the piano, moving from a sedentary life to an active one, or developing more effective ways to handle emotional triggers, the same type of neural circuitry is at play. One of the most inspiring advancements in recent neuroscience is that the neural pathways in our brains are ‘plastic.’ What this means is they change in response to training and experience.
Now, this is wonderful news! What it means is we’re not stuck with any set of thoughts, feelings, or behaviors if we don’t want to be. If we’re willing to commit to learning, training, and practice, we can change anything that’s not working for us.
One of the reasons I love CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) is because it’s basically all about changing neural circuity. Instead of focusing on rules about when, what, and how much you ‘should’ be eating, CBT guides you through a process of rewiring yourself from the inside out. By using this rewiring process, you can begin to think differently, address emotions and other triggers more effectively, and make choices that support greater well-being.
Positive Effects of CBT
Because this change in neural pathways is based on awareness and intentional decision making, it has far reaching consequences in other areas of your life, not just eating and activity. For example, CBT guides you to identify thoughts and feelings that might be driving your desire to eat when you’re not hungry. You can then pause to intentionally decide if you’ll eat anyway, redirect your attention, or meet your real needs.
If you choose to eat anyway, instead of doing so automatically and out of habit, you’ll be fully aware of the likely outcome and can then enjoy eating mindfully and without guilt. If you choose to redirect your attention until you are hungry or meet your underlying needs, you’ll have a different experience that will propel you one step closer to your desired future habits. Whichever choice you make, you’re re-training your brain to pause in the face of an impulse or urge, weigh your options, and then consciously decide what to do next.
Pause, Think… Act
You can probably see how applicable this process can be to virtually everything else in your life – and most of my clients quickly see that connection too. For example, let’s say you notice that you feel irritated because your child’s room is a disaster… again. Instead of automatically reacting with a disciplinary yell — which doesn’t feel great and doesn’t seem to help in the long term anyway — you pause, weigh your options, and decide whether and how to respond.
Or perhaps you receive yet another email from your boss with a tight deadline with more work than you can reasonably do. Before complaining to your co-worker or sending off a return email you’ll later regret, you pause, weigh your options, and decide whether and how to respond. It’s hard to think of a situation where this process of identifying, pausing, and intentionally choosing wouldn’t be valuable for you.
However, as with most things in life, there is a catch… This type of rewiring takes training and practice. Caring for ourselves and making decisions that support our greatest interests are skills — skills that can undoubtedly be developed if we’re committed to doing the work. And, like most worthwhile life changes, the outcome is well worth the effort!
As you work on sharpening your mindful eating skills, think about what other areas of your life have you started to shift too?