Spit-Second Choices and the Impact on Our Health [Subtitled: Open your mouth wide, but don't fill it with Oreo cookies]
I have recently been on a quest to get to the bottom of my impulsive over-munching which I believe I can't quite blame on that post-menopausal weight gain. I am determined to find new strategies to help my thoughts and brain deal with making better split-second decisions that positively impact both my physical and emotional health and well-being.
First let's divide our decision making into two separate camps.
CAMP 1: There are those rational, analytical, evidence-based, pro/con decisions that we may spend days or even weeks trying to analyze and consider, such as buying a car, setting goals, and selecting a new wall color. We do our research, turn over every "stone," seek counsel, come at it from many angles, make lists of the pros and cons and their outcomes, weigh each selection, etc., and then we execute.
Often these types of decision results are not irrevocable, although they may be costly in time, money, and energy. We can readily learn from any "mistakes" in this arena and position ourselves to do considerably better in the future if need be.
CAMP 2 Then there is another decision making camp that is more reactionary and survival based. We don't have days or weeks to come to a decision -- we must act quickly and now! Those decisions you make during a crisis, like seeing a snake on the trail or a baby bear cub in the distance as you're deep in the forest, are often instinctual and lead you to fight or to flee.
The more prepared and rehearsed you are in advance for these types of situations, the better the outcomes. (Hence all the tornado and fire drills you remember from your school days.)
Often, survival based decisions are not only triggered by immediate threats. And THIS is what is so curious to me! Those fight/flight reactions also are driven by the emotions and hormones that surround them. These triggers can actually be situation-based such as when we find ourselves without much sleep, feeling irritable, hungry, angry, lonely, afraid, or conflicted.
And herein lies the crux of this issue of impulsive eating. Stay with me on this. I've discovered that when I am experiencing a negative emotion or feeling, my fight/flight mechanism automatically engages and before I even know it, I am downing that bag of Doritos or that row of Oreo cookies. Why?
The answer is kinda simple: My brain is telling me to find immediate relief, distraction, comfort, security...and junk food always delivers. Basically, we've just painted a pretty good picture of the cycle of destructive behavior that may lead to addiction.
The great news is that because I now understand what is going on, I can develop a new strategy to starve impulsive eating (pun? is this possible?... :) okay let's say "stave off" instead) that is fueled by my emotions and conditions. I can learn to calm myself down by de-activating that crisis mode status that creates a domino effect that only leads me to a bulging waistline, increased discouragement, and added frustration.
We can apply these tips to just about any tempting behavior (not just mindless munching) we tend to succumb to, such as impulse spending or choosing to say something that we really shouldn't!
TOP 3 TIPS TO OVERCOME IMPULSIVE DECISION MAKING
What we're doing is not easy. Basically, when the "arrow" launches, it is too late. We are trying to learn to recognize what is making us pick up the bow in the first place and then train ourselves not to pick it up--ALL within a split second!
When a part of our brain is engaged to fight or flee but there is no real danger, we have to take an emotional step toward slowing things down, buying time in order to disengage the temptation to respond impulsively. We essentially encourage ourselves that what appears to be a danger is not really a danger at all.
The alarm is sounding, but there's nothing to fear! Hit the snooze button and make a choice to settle down yourself down.
So the trick to handle the trigger thoughts to stuff our sweet little bellies is to keep an extremely close watch on the thermostat of our emotions and feelings (those pesky, uncomfortable triggers). Then, when our hands reach for a "book" to guide us in that conditional scenario, we need to ask God if that book contains wise and truthful information.
BOOT CAMP: RETRAIN MY BRAIN
It's long been known that our brain is an entity of chemical habit. The more we think about something, the more fixed it becomes in our brain (good, bad, or ugly). Pathways are firmly set in place. Some studies suggest that we are making decisions way in advance. Neuro-scientists have even been able to predict someone's decision literally seconds in advance!
Again, good news for us!
This tells me that I can retrain my brain to think about healthy reactions to take when I need comfort or distraction. I can choose to eliminate from my emotional perception library those "books" that are false, destructive, and contrary to God's Truth.
After all, food (or any vice) was never designed to nourish my soul. It can't. It's not the function of food (or drugs or sex or money or success or fame...) to do this. In other words, if I decide to wash my car with maple syrup in an attempt to clean it, I only complicate the process and I will not make it to my desired outcome. What I need to use to clean my car is soap and water.
So how do we find nourishment for our soul?
I've looked in so many places over my life, but I've ultimately found there is One who can truly fill my soul, quenching all spiritual thirst and hunger that incessantly and greedily gnaws on my soul. He's the whole package that I have ever needed: A Loving Father, A Sacrificial Son, and A Powerful Comforter. The key is walking in that relationship practically and personally every moment of every day. But how?
In other words, how is it that I would ever choose Doritos and Oreos over GOD? Well, welcome to the human condition and a fallen world. Of course, my condition could never condone or excuse my behavior and choices, but it does explain them to some degree.
Humankind is conditioned to want instant and fast, yet God doesn't always work that way. We want that immediate dopamine hit, yet God sometimes delivers a steady flow or needs us to patiently wait. We hide from God, yet He wants full exposure. We want quick distraction from discomfort, yet God says "focus on me." We give way to temptation, yet God desires we resist and operate with self-control. We chase the "Baals" of this world, yet God says, "I am all you need."
You still with me?
Let's take a deep breath and regroup a second in our quest to practice self-control in the heat of the moment.
First, we constantly monitor our thought life, emotions, and feelings. Second, when the needle drops to what our brain perceives to be a danger zone, we pause giving ourselves time to analyze the situation. Third, we decide to handle the "danger" in a healthy and favorable manner. We ask for the Holy Spirit to help us, to invade our soul! In this way, we disengage the temptation, and we "stuff" ourselves with God instead of those dratted Doritos.
Let's also remember that we need a prayerful plan in advance to help us gain the victory.
I'm going to put this 3-tip plan into action today, AND I am going to mentally prepare to be tempted especially during those times of the day that I know I may be tired or irritable, like late at night when Netflix beckons.
How about you? Wanna give it a go?
Please leave a comment below or shoot me a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to chat about this with you!
I, the LORD, am your God,
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