How To Get Better Weight Loss Results By Referencing The Past

How To Get Better Weight Loss Results By Referencing The Past

Just because you haven’t learned how to lose weight for the last time yet doesn’t mean you won’t ever be able to. Learn how to use what hasn’t worked in the past to create better results in the future.I currently have a teenager who is learning to drive. On one of her first attempts at backing the car out of the garage, she got a little too close on the passenger side and caught the side mirror. I was sitting in the passenger seat and it felt like slow motion watching the mirror fold backward and the glass shatter and then the whole mirror glass pop off and fly across my driveway from the pressure.

Sadly, it did not survive. Because of COVID and shipping delays, the new glass didn’t make it to me for two weeks. So, I spent two weeks driving around without a passenger side mirror. I quickly learned that though seemingly small and insignificant, that little mirror makes driving safely so much easier.

It became so apparent to me how much I rely on looking in its reflection to get where I need to go, even though most of the time it’s just a glance, just a few seconds. Obviously while driving, it’s necessary for me to focus on what’s in front of me, but having a mirror that shows me what’s behind me helps me keep my bearings and navigate what’s around me so that I can get where I’m going safely and effectively.


The past as a point of reference

In the process of weight loss, we don’t want to dwell on past mistakes or live in the past. Instead, we want to use the knowledge and experiences from the past to help us create success in the future. Like with a car mirror, the past can be a point of reference.

Our brains are designed to catalogue information from the past and create models using that information to predict the future and make decisions about what to do in the present as a result. This happens on many levels and is a very complex process.

Just think about crossing the street. You have to take in information from all of your senses, use knowledge you have about the patterns of street lights, traffic, and so on.

Our brains want to avoid prediction errors as much as possible because prediction errors could mean danger. Think about what’s at stake in the crossing the road situation if your prediction about how fast the cars are moving, or when the streetlight will turn red was incorrect.

Your brain is looking at most unpredictability as if it’s life or death, like this crossing the street situation. That’s how strongly it’s wired to predict successfully and avoid errors, which is why it loves habits and comfort zones and certainty.

This is why, even though we know overeating doesn’t create the ultimate results we want, we turn to food in the moment. It’s a predictable, familiar solution, albeit a temporary one.

When we set out to imagine something in the future, both our memory centers and our imagination light up. Our brain goes to the past to gather evidence and information to help us develop a safe prediction about what’s possible and what we should do and try. Our predictions, when it comes to what we are capable of, if based solely on the past, can be very misleading.


Predictions based on the past can be wrong

Imagine I am holding a pack of 30 marbles. I pull the first one out and it’s black, and I pull a second one out and it’s black. I pull a third one out and it’s black. Your brain, through inductive reasoning, would likely conclude that all the marbles are black, and would then use that information to predict that the next marble I pull out will be black.

But you actually have no idea. Just because the first three marbles were black does not necessarily determine the color of the rest.

The same is true for you and what is possible for you on your weight loss journey. Just because you haven’t learned how to lose weight for the last time yet doesn’t mean you won’t ever be able to. Just because you have a pattern of “doing really well” for a few days and then overeating doesn’t mean that has to remain your pattern forever.

There are 27 more marbles in there that could be all the colors of the rainbow. Totally worth being wrong to find out, don’t you think?


Looking back while still moving forward

Typically, we use the past as evidence of what’s possible in the future. We use our experience of what usually happens as a predictor of what will happen. It’s almost as if we see the past as a determining factor. 

But what if we use the past instead as a reference point? Kind of like the way we use that side mirror on our car.

We can check it to make decisions about how we want to move forward. Our eyes stay on the road in front of us, on the journey as it is unfolding, and the glance in the mirror just helps us see what we need to do to navigate around obstacles that might inhibit us from moving forward effectively.

You can change lanes, you can stay where you are, you can speed up and get off the freeway, slow down and pull over. Your past “mirror check” will help you navigate what’s next.


Questions to ask yourself about the past

Notice what you are currently believing about your ability to accomplish your weight loss goals.

What evidence from the past is your brain using against you?

How can you instead use that evidence as a reference point?

I like to look at the past and ask questions both about what worked and what didn’t?

What went well and what challenged me?

And then, most importantly, I like to use that evaluation to come up with what I want to do differently next time.

That is how we disrupt our brain patterns. We raise our awareness of our thoughts and come up with a plan of what to change and how to execute it.


Snap out of prediction mode and move forward

I learned about a study where they had mice run on a spherical treadmill watching a video game. As the mice watched the screen, they navigated through it using their own locomotion on the ball. They could move around things they saw and change their course based on the images.

Scientists studied their brains as they navigated through the game. They watched their brains light up as they were learning the game, and then continued to watch their brains change as they played over and over and got to know the game.

As their brain settled into predicting mode, they would introduce an image at an unexpected time and see what happened in the little mouse brain. Eventually, the mouse started generating a prediction about that image showing up at a certain time, and it no longer caused a reaction as they came to expect to see it.

The scientists then removed the image to see what would happen. Every time something changed, and the prediction model was disrupted, there was a huge jump in the brain activity as the mice had to snap out of predicting mode, update their internal model of the world, and learn.

This is what we want to do with our brains. Disrupt them, snap them out of predicting mode. Then they can update their model of the world and learning and growth can happen.

Use some curiosity about your past to generate some ideas of how to move into the future. Refuse to stay in predicting mode and move into creating mode. Ask some questions, learn from the answers, and move forward.

This kind of thought work is invaluable on your journey to losing weight for life. If you’re ready to get started, watch my free video on how to lose the first five pounds — and keep going.

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Natalie brown certified life and weight loss coach

Meet Natalie

I spent over 2 decades battling my weight and hating my body, before I found a solution that worked FOR GOOD. I lost 50 pounds by changing not just what I eat, but WHY. Now I help other women like me get to the root of the issue and find their own realistic, permanent weight loss success. Change is possible and you can do it. I can help you.

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