Ep #36: Referencing the Past - It Begins With A Thought Coaching

Ep #36: Referencing the Past

Referencing the Past

When it comes to weight loss, it can be so easy to slip into a habit of dwelling on past mistakes or staying stuck living in the past. Your past is not a determining factor of what’s possible for you in the future, and instead, I’m inviting you to start using your past as a reference point.

As your weight loss journey is unfolding, you want to keep your eyes in front of you, looking at what might be coming up ahead. But having the occasional glance at your past could help you see what you need to do to navigate possible obstacles that could stifle your success, and I’m showing you how to start raising your awareness to do this.

Join me this week as I show you how your brain uses evidence from the past against you, and how to notice what you’re currently believing about your ability to accomplish your goals. Turning your past evidence of failure into a reference point is so powerful, and I hope this inspires you to look at your past as a tool to evaluate how you’ll move forward.

I have absolutely loved reading your reviews and doing the giveaways! Knowing how the podcast is helping you on your weight loss journey brings me so much joy, so I’m going to keep reading and sharing your awesome reviews each week on the podcast. I’ll be sending a special gift to each week’s featured review, so if you haven’t already left one, head over to Apple Podcasts and click here to let me know!

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why our brains love habits, comfort zones, and certainty.
  • How our predictions can be misleading when we base them solely on the past.
  • Why your past is not a determining factor.
  • How to use your past as a reference point.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

Full Episode Transcript:


This is Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown, episode 36.

Welcome to Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown. If you’re a successful woman who is ready to stop struggling with your weight, you’re in the right place. You’ll learn everything you need to know to lose weight for the last time in bitesize pieces. Here’s your host, certified life and weight coach Natalie Brown.

Hi everybody. This week’s short and sweet review comes from Blakely. This is what she had to say about the podcast. “Love it, first of all. Love the episode on shoulds. Different than any other weight loss I’ve seen before in the best way.”

You bet. Doing it different over here. Different is good. Thank you, Blakely. Your gift for that review will be headed your way shortly. The episode she’s referring to is episode number seven called A Case of the Shoulds. But you hear me talking about should all the time on the podcast.

Should is made-up garbage and you need to question it every time your brain offers it to you. That is my thought about it in a nutshell, just in case you were wondering.

So I currently have a teenager who is learning to drive. And 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 my side mirror. And I was sitting in the passenger seat, being the teacher, and it felt like slow motion, kind of watching it fold backward the wrong direction, and the mirror glass shatter, and the whole mirror glass popped off and flew across the driveway from the pressure.

Sadly, it did not survive. And 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. And 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 at a glance helps me keep me bearings and navigate what’s around me so that I can get where I’m going safely and effectively.

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. Kind of like a point of reference, like that mirror.

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 an example like crossing the street. You have to take in information from all of your senses, use knowledge you have about the patterns of street lights and traffic and how fast cars are moving and how that relates to how fast you then have to move and on and on and on.

Just to move from one side of the street to another. 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.

Why even though we know overeating doesn’t create the ultimate results we want, we turn to food in the moment because 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.

As 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, when we base them solely on the past, can be very misleading.

So imagine I am holding a pack of 30 marbles. You can’t see them, but you know they’re in there. And 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 eating all the things 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?

So 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 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.

Think about Halloween. It’s nearly upon us. For many of us, we have some thoughts about our relationship with Halloween candy. How many Halloweens have you told yourself that you’ll only eat one piece? And in reality, you end up at the bottom of a bag that was meant to be handed out to trick-or-treaters.

Or that you don’t need to eat any candy and then you end raiding your child’s trick-or-treat bag at 11pm after white-knuckling it all day. Your predictive brain might now be telling the story that you can’t handle Halloween, that Halloween is hard, Halloween is the beginning of your holiday downfall.

So what if instead of using the evidence of the past as a predictor, you used it as a reference point? Here’s what we might notice at a glance. You like candy. Candy is around on Halloween in appetizing bitesize pieces. You want to lose weight. Eating mountains of candy, even bite-sized ones hasn’t been helpful in that process of weight loss in the past, but neither has banning yourself from eating candy.

Then we might be able to come up with a plan forward that uses this information to help us decide what we want to do differently. Notice in my at-a-glance observations, there was no judgment or shame or beating ourselves up about everything. It was just observing. It’s a really important part of this process.

Maybe it makes sense to work on your thoughts about what you can and can’t eat. Because we all know that telling ourselves that we can’t eat things is, first of all, a lie. We can eat whatever we want. And it triggers our rebellion response and typically drives us to eat more than we actually want to.

Maybe it makes sense to make candy a part of the plan on your terms. You allow candy, but you decide ahead of time what candy you really want to eat and how much, and then you give yourself permission to eat it with full pleasure and joy and zero guilt and shame. Because we know what guilt and shame drive.

Or maybe it makes sense to really question your desire for candy. Why do you want it? How do you feel when you eat it? How does your body feel after you eat it? Does your future self eat candy? How often and how much? What is her relationship with candy? Why does eating Halloween candy feel so important? What is it you really want?

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. 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. Raise our awareness of them and come up with a plan of what to change and how to execute it.

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

And the 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.

And their brain settled into predicting mode. And then 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.

Then they 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. So 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. Okay friends, quick fun bonus side note. If you listened to last week’s podcast and wish I had created a template for you to create your own what I want manifesto, your wish has come true.

I’ll link it in the show notes of this episode as well as last week’s episode, so it’ll be super easy to find. You’re welcome. Thanks for listening everybody. Please leave me a review if the podcast is helping you on your weight loss journey. So fun to hear from you that you are losing weight as you implement some of these tools and questions and get really curious about what’s going on for you.

Your reviews help other women like you searching for help on the way find the podcast. So if you haven’t left one, go leave me one. And I send a gift to every review I share on the podcast, so after you leave your review, don’t forget to submit the title of your review to me at itbeginswithathought.com/review so I can send you your gift. See you soon.

Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown. If you want to learn more about how to lose weight for the last time, come on over to itbeginswithathought.com. We’ll see you here next week.


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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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