I use these analogies a lot with my clients. I don’t mean to belittle anyone or compare them to a dog but these are tactics that I’ve used on myself and they have worked SUPER successfully.
Essentially, although we are all-powerful humans, rulers of the world, landers on the moon etc etc, at a basic level we are animals with animal instincts and desires. This means we want to eat, have sex and be the big dog in our tribe (high status).
This means that although we can control these desires a lot of the time, they do have a huge impact over our decisions so instead of fighting them, we might as well harness them and use them to a positive effect where we can.
So here are 5 ways you should treat your dieting brain like your pet dog to maximise your chances of success.
You don’t store your dog’s food out in the open and expect your dog to leave it alone
Don’t leave food around the house and expect yourself not to eat it. You may be able to resist the cookies in the cupboard right now but at 11 pm after a long day, when you’re hungry as hell and you only have raw ingredients in the fridge you are 100% going to go for the cookies.
Take this one step further and put healthy, food in easily accessible places. Fill your cupboards with it. Have a healthy meal pre-ordered or prepared in advance when you know you’re going to be up late and hungry. Optimise your environment for success (here’s a post all about exactly that). Your dog brain will eat the easiest food available so make sure your human brain makes good food easily available.
“My dog loves potato chips. He always enjoys them so much and will come running when he hears a packet opening.”
This kind of talk is fine for your pet (he doesn’t understand what you’re saying), but not for you. This kind of self-talk will be ingrained directly into your subconscious and become like a mantra on repeat “I love potato chips, I love potato chips.”
If you’ve watched my Fat Loss Clinic, then you’ll know the absolute key of long term sustainable health is identity shift. To achieve this you need to ‘vote’ for your new, ideal identity. Don’t screw that up by voting for unhelpful attributes. I have a friend who always says: “I love cake, if anyone ever brings cake to the office, I’m going to try some.” I have huge issue with this and always call him out. Why? Because it means people will go out of their way to bring him cake and he’ll feel obliged to eat it even if it looks dry and shitty and was bought in the discount store because this is his identity. I enjoy cake. I don’t reinforce this identity however as I don’t find it useful to me. If there is a cake, I will make an assessment based on how good it looks and what my goals are at the time (and what the rest of my day or week has looked like so far). If I want it, I’ll have it, if I don’t then I won’t. THAT is power. Don’t build an identity that doesn’t serve you.
Imagine letting your dog loose in a butcher shop
I imagine it would eat until it was full, be sick and then do it again. Can you blame him? The human equivalent is the “All you can eat buffet”. Just don’t do that to yourself. For whatever reason, we seem to take these as a challenge. We WILL eat until we feel uncomfortable to get our money worth or just to prove that we are the dominant male in the group because of how many plates we’ve managed to put away. It IS possible to go to these places without over-eating but it’s hard. Why make your life hard? Just avoid as much as you can and when it comes to free food in general (hotel breakfasts for example), practice the abundance mindset. You are not a caveman, you can buy any food you want, you don’t need to ‘take advantage’ of the free food. You can come back another time if you want more.
If your dog doesn’t finish their plate they are either ill or they know you are going to feed them better food from the table
Don’t automatically finish your plate. The plate is arbitrary. Often you fill it just because. Often someone else fills it. If you had a smaller plate you’d put less food on it. A plate is for carrying food not for measuring food. So eat, be present, be aware, when you are full, stop eating. This may be halfway through the plate, the entire plate or a plate and a half. All of the above are fine. But automatically finishing your plate is what your dog does (with the typical canine licking of the corners). I appreciate we have been trained in this since childhood but it’s a habit we need to break. And don’t worry about wasting food. If it’s already on your plate it’s already wasted – if you throw it away it’s wasted, if you eat it and didn’t want or need it, it’s still wasted (you just now have to deal with it). The best way to avoid waste is to put less on your plate in the first place.
Don’t beg or whine for food
You know what it’s like – the puppy eyes, the sad sounds. Lifting their little cute fluffy paws. They haven’t eaten for nearly 10 minutes and are DESPERATE for food.
Don’t do it. Hunger is largely in your head. There are some physical symptoms for sure (rumbling tummy etc.) but these are more likely down to habit and routine than any real NEED for fuel. Using ‘hunger’ as a hard and fast rule is a mistake. Hunger is natural sensation, contrary to popular belief, if unlikely to kill us. In the modern world, we are not used to it. The second we get hungry we start to panic and go and find some calorie-packed ‘snack’ (usually in the region of 800 or more calories). Phew. WE’re good for another hour.
The main issue with it is that we are not used to it. Realistically, most of us have enough fuel stored on our bodies as body fat to last for months. We literally don’t NEED food for that time (think cavemen in the winter or hibernating bears using body fat for food). There was even a study of an overweight chap who fasted for over a year (it was medically supervised and I don’t recommend it BUT it proves a point – here is a link to the study and my review of it). He was fine. He even stopped getting hungry after a few days (it’s a habit).
Learn about hunger and how you react to it.
At the very least, don’t fear it.
Some people may feel a little shaky or lightheaded when they get hungry. This is most likely just your body getting used to the process of accessing its own stores (body fat). You’ve not had to do it for a few years so you may want to let your body off for struggling😉