LilySlim Weight loss tickers

LilySlim Weight loss tickers

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Path to the Holy Grail - Reprogramming Your Reward Center

The human heart needs sense of purpose and accomplishment.  The energizing why behind the what.  Obesity is a destroyer of lives , not only physically but emotionally as well.  When I was 295+ pounds, my entire existence was defined by what I could not do.  The clothes that I could not fit into, the stairs I could not climb, the walks I could not take, the inability to fit comfortably in a chair or a booth at my favorite restaurant.  My world revolved around "I can't"!  The larger I became the smaller my reward system became until the only thing left to stimulate or satisfy me was FOOD.  It was always there.  I was slowly robbed of my life as the weight crept on.  With each pound that I put on, my brain adjusted to the new normal, until I was seeing the world through rose colored glasses.  Everything was fine and normal until someone took my picture.  Stupid camera's they never catch my good side.

Kristin 11-1-2007   295+ lbs

I can honestly say things are different now.  I operate off of a totally different system.  What I unwittingly did was begin to reprogram my brains reward center.  The human brain is the most complex computer system known to man and we have yet to tap into only a fraction of its capabilities.  With my disordered eating, there have been associations and behavioral patterns deeply ingrained into my system so that when certain stimuli are present, I would almost automatically "execute" the script......see food, eat it!!

Like any other addict, I had to learn to replace one addictions reward with another set of rewards.  You cannot take away a treasured reward system and replace it with nothing.  For the exchange to take place and addictions to be surrendered voluntarily, the addiction has to be surrendered for something perceived to be of equal or greater value.  This is why deprivation diets do not work.  You are trying to exchange something of great value with something worth nothing.  Who in their right mind wants to replace pleasure with lack and suffering?  So long as there is nothing of greater value, addictions will always have power.  

This is one reason that I have spent so much time hammering out the different avenues that my quest for emotional stability has taken me.  It was the path to calm the storm within.  To get me to realize that I too have worth and value.  That I am worthy to be loved.  That I am worthy to be respected and that I am a worthwhile person.  I do not need food to sedate me anymore.  I am no longer a slave who needs approval of others to validate me.  I now stand on my own two feet.  Without this realization, it is impossible to let go of an addiction.

Zumba, swimming and running have all been a game changer for me.  While this is not a cure all for everyone, there is a point to be made here.  I was able to derive a sense of accomplishment from challenging myself, and working out until I could cross over to even more strenuous workouts.  The "feel good" associations in my brain were being created, linking self worth, empowerment, and a sense of accomplishment with something other than food.

Recreating new response pathways in the brain is key to overcoming old behavior patterns.  This is why emphasis is made on creating a competing behavior.  When you are feeling down, instead of eating this, make yourself do XXXX instead.  Over time, new response pathways will be created and will eventually take hold if they are nurtured.

I soon learned that if I set my sights on a seemingly "out of reach goal" and managed to make it, my sense of accomplishment was a powerful motivator for me to keep going.  It proved to work.  My first ZUMBA class I stayed for 20 minutes and left, it would take me months to go back, but I did and I finished the class.  I began to swim laps, only 6 minutes the first time I dove in.  I kept coming back, until I can now swim 85 minutes without stopping.  When I began to run and thought my lungs would burst, I kept forging ahead until now I can run/walk 5k.  Who would ever have believed it?  Not Me.  I keep coming back for more, pushing myself a little harder.  I recall where I became afraid of exercise in was gym class.  I was thin back then, not heavy at all.  Still, I was laughed at in gym class, I was not as cute or pretty or whatever...ahhhhhh the scene of every negative reinforcement that associated physical exercise with public humiliation.  Why was I always picked on as the, weak and uncoordinated one, the girl who was not athletic.  Gym, the class paid for by public funds that would ensure that I would grow up hating exercise, because it validated that no one liked me because I was always picked last, and because every class highlighted that I was not the most athletic person among us.    

The finishing of a ZUMBA class, or a 3.5 run/walk, or swimming laps longer became my prize, my reward.  I became addicted.  I learned that I am not a quitter.  I now have tangible proof that I have the courage to do the most unthinkable goals and actually succeed.  My new addiction was born.

That day I found that I not only had the courage to start but I also had the will to finish.  That day I earned my own self respect.  That day, I looked at myself in the mirror and I saw a champion staring back in the mirror.  That day, at 250 pounds I became a runner and I have not looked back.

That is the day I exchanged one addiction for another.  Taking on greater challenges has proven to be greater than the cheap thrill that food abuse delivered.  Overeating is seen as a threat to the reward much in the same way that you do not want to be standing between a junkie and his fix.  I crave the reward so much now that nothing else will do.  Food cannot touch it now unless I allow it too.

The point of a dedicated commitment to daily goals, even just 10 minutes a day, goes beyond simply burning a few calories.  This is reprogramming the habit and reward center of the brain.  Don't just shrug off a short session simply because you do not have enough time to create a significant calorie burn.  There is a sense of reward every single time we   honor a commitment.  Over time, the desire for the positive reward will become stronger and more influential in your daily decisions.  This is what is often termed motivation.  The rewards of accomplishing your goals will never grow to a competitive strength unless it is fed daily.

It takes time to find what empowers you but it is worth the effort to find it.  Finding it puts you one step closer to finding your Holy Grail.

Next.....Drying out.....My Food Addiction Recovery.


Jacquie said...

I adore you and love reading your posts....they always give me something for me to take away. I'm sure you write with me in mind, yes? Anyway, thank you for another great post!

MandaPanda said...

Fantastic post!

Catherine55 said...

You go, Kristin!! That was such a great post!!

banded bella said...

Wow what a great post!! Your words are so inspiring. Thank you so much for the comment on my blog that really touched me.