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The Real Reason You Sabotage Your Diet

07/09/2015 05:11 EDT | Updated 07/09/2016 05:59 EDT
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Caucasian woman's feet standing on scale

"I've heard it all before!"

That's most probably the response you would give me if I were to address diet and lifestyle changes with you.

And yes, I believe you have. In order to be healthy, you need to eat right, move right and manage your weight. Same old rhetoric right?

My only question to you would be: "Do you have the results that you want?"

Proof is in the pudding (literally) I always say. If you want to achieve a different result, you will have to change how you do things.

I've spent the greater part of my medical career asking myself, "Why do we embark on these negative behaviors if we all want to be healthy?" We all look at ourselves in the mirror and tell ourselves that we must change yet go through the same motions the next day. Those voices in our heads repeat the same justification story time after time:

"I can't work out because..."

"It's alright to treat yourself to ..."

".... is perfectly acceptable in moderation"

"I'm too tired...."

"I'm too busy.."

To be honest, I do it myself as well. The question remains then, why do we sabotage our health on a daily basis if we truly want to look and feel great?

Over the years, and through treating and consulting with thousands of my patients, I've come to realize that the underlying issues are not the behaviors. The root of the problem lies with our emotions. Emotions and beliefs are what dictate behaviors. Overeating may be the behavior (this would be the symptom), but on an emotional level you may feel lonely, bored or isolated. Perhaps you feel unhappy or unfulfilled because you miss someone. You then attach a behavior to make you feel better and real. It works, even if just for a short moment. This then becomes your go-to reaction any time you get even the slightest whiff of that same emotion. See what I mean?

I was banging my head against the wall for years trying to get patients to change their behaviors by throwing statistics and logic at them. I now realize and see that I was going about this all wrong. What we need to do is see what emotions and feelings are attached to the negative behavior and address them. We need to be able to feel them and work through them rather than suppressing them with learned behaviors.

I know this is starting to sound like a psychology lesson from a gastroenterologist, but I assure you this is real. The driver for your health decisions and behaviors that will re-enforce or sabotage your wellness goals stem from the emotions and beliefs you have attached to the behaviors.

I read a great book by Alan Deutschman called Change or Die where he highlights the fact that nine out of 10 patients do not follow their cardiologist's recommendations after one year. This is even if they were told that the change was necessary to prevent death! That little passage struck me at the cellular level. I was thinking to myself the exact same thing. I was approaching behavior change completely the wrong way. I have now shifted my practices and try to connect with each of my patients, getting them to relate to me. It is then that I am able to help them in their journey by asking them to identify someone in their surroundings that has the behavior that they desire. This is the first step in a gradual process to change.

Some simple steps that you can take right away would be to ask yourself a few simple questions:

"Do you do anything that sabotages your progress towards a vibrant health?"

"What emotions do you attach to this behavior?"

"Who can you turn to for help?"

Uncovering and addressing the root emotion behind a behavior will begin your journey to achieving and maintaining the healthy lifestyle you know you want.

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