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Your Most Important Weight Loss Tool

Hi there!

Our emotions play a significant part of our world when it comes to eating. In this podcast, we uncover what can be done to identify those issues, analyze the data, and then make appropriate adjustments.

Some of this weeks episode highlights are:
7:17 Making your decisions ahead of time allows you to use the higher functioning part of your brain to make those critical eating determinations and be more successful.
10:25 Tracking your food by writing it down allows you to catch when you're eating for emotional reasons.
22:08 The beauty of being a human being, is you don't have to be perfect at any of this. You just need to be making progress.

--- Full Raw Transcription of Podcast Below ---

Introduction (00:00):
You are listening to the, keep the weight off podcast with Dr. Angela, Episode number 17,

New Speaker (00:06):
Welcome to The Keep The Weight Off podcast, where we bust all the dieting myths and discover not just how to lose weight, but more importantly, how to keep it off. We go way beyond the food and we use science and psychology to give you strategies that work. And now your host, Dr. Angela Zechmann.

Dr. Angela (00:27):
Hey everyone. Welcome back to the podcast. I'm super excited today. I, I had this idea that I wanted to talk about something that I actually consider to be like the most powerful weight loss tool out there. And it's something that I don't really talk about all that much, but it's becoming more and more clear to me recently, just how important this tool is. And so it's something that I'm just curious, like Marchelle say hi first of all, I forgot to introduce you!

Marchelle (01:08):
Hey Everybody!

Dr. Angela (01:11):
Do you have any idea what that tool might be. I'd be surprised if you knew, because, because I don't, I haven't really explicitly talked about it all that much.

Marchelle (01:23):
I would say for me in the past, it would have been the scale. Yeah. That's not the right answer.

Dr. Angela (01:30):
Yeah. Because we've already talked about how inaccurate that thing is. Right, right.

Dr. Angela (01:35):
Yeah. Okay. So, so a lot of people, and, and so for you in the past, it would have been the scale, but now, you know, better. So a lot of people think, you know, like what about some sort of diet plan, or maybe it's their gym membership that's really going to help them lose weight, or maybe it's their personal trainer that's really going to help them lose weight. Or maybe it's like, they'll order a Peloton and think that that's going to help them lose weight. And so what I want to say is that none of that's going to work. I mean, it's, it might be helpful, but it's not your most powerful tool. And so what I want you to understand guys, your most powerful weight loss tool is very, very simple. It is a piece of paper and a pen, a piece of paper and a pen.

Dr. Angela (02:31):
In other words, a notebook or a journal and a pen. You could use a pencil too. That's fine. But but those, that's your most powerful weight loss tool. And so I want to explain why I feel like this is so freaking powerful. And the reason is because if you want to change anything in your life, you need data. You need to know what you're doing. You need to be able to catch yourself doing things that you didn't recognize that you were doing. And you need to be able to catch yourself in thoughts and feelings that you didn't know, you were thinking and feeling, and you need to be able to use your higher level brain, your human brain, not your primitive animal brain. So we all have sort of, we actually have three levels of our brain, but the prefrontal cortex, which is the most evolved part of your brain is that part of your brain, that's in touch with your long-term solutions, long-term goals and ideas and dreams and hopes.

Dr. Angela (03:40):
And then, you know, there's this animalistic part of your brain that just wants pleasure in the moment. Right. So how would I recommend that you use this powerful tool of a pen and paper? The first thing is with meal planning. So you want to plan your meals at least a day ahead of time. So I always do it in the evenings after dinner. And do you ever do that, Marchelle? Like, do you plan everything in, in the evening or do you do yours mostly in the morning?

Marchelle (04:17):
I do mine, like during the weekend for the whole week.

Dr. Angela (04:21):
You do? Oh, good for meal planning. Yeah. That's actually a more advanced skill. That's great. You've been at this for a while now, so yeah, so we all have our there's the early weight loss skills in the more advanced weight loss skills and planning for a whole week in advance advances, an advanced weight loss skill.

Dr. Angela (04:38):
So, so I, you know, obviously I do go to the grocery store and get every, get the food, but, but the night before is when I really started thinking, okay, what am I going to do tomorrow? What's my day gonna look like tomorrow. And I think it through, where am I going to be? Is it going to be an office day? Is it not going to be an office day? Because I'm not in the office every single day. And so you actually, what, what I want everybody to understand is that your day begins the night before. Okay. Everything about your day begins the night before, because the night before is when you decide what you're going to eat. It's when you decide how much sleep you're going to get and how well rested you're going to be. So all of those decisions that you're making at night are directly going to affect the next day.

Dr. Angela (05:27):
And that's one thing that took me years to figure out. I always thought my day got began when I woke up in the morning, your day begins the night before. So I figure out exactly what my day is going to be like the next day and to the best of my ability, obviously things happen, but to the best of my ability and I plan exactly what I'm going to eat the next day. And so in the beginning, I recommend that you actually write it down, write down exactly what you're going eat, so that there's absolutely no question in your mind. Okay. And I recommend that you get as much of it ready ahead of time as possible. So what I do is the night before and so tonight I'll do it for tomorrow. I get my, I get my breakfast ready. I get my lunch ready.

Dr. Angela (06:19):
I get my I know exactly what I'm going to have for dinner. I get any snacks ready. I put it all in the refrigerator. And then I have a little cooler that I carry with me. And I just throw everything in the cooler in the morning and I'm out the door. So, so that's, that's like, and, and I have had people stay with me and they're like, what are you doing? Like, I'm like, I'm getting everything ready for tomorrow. Like I, I'm not gonna wing it tomorrow. So why would that be important? Any idea Marchelle, like, why is that so important?

Marchelle (06:53):
So that when you're tired, well, for me, I would say, if I didn't do it the night before, then I can get caught off guard and I'd be more slip or ...

Dr. Angela (07:06):
Yeah, exactly. That's exactly it. And you don't have to necessarily do it the night before.

Dr. Angela (07:12):
Although it's easier for me to do it the night before you could do it in the morning. But if you make your eating decisions ahead of time and you're using your prefrontal cortex, you're, you're not using your primitive brain. In other words, you're using the executive more human, more evolved part of your brain to make your eating decisions. You're going to be much more successful because here's what happens. You also have this primitive brain, your primitive brain, which is your animal brain has only three motivations. It has three motivations seeking pleasure, avoiding pain and reducing effort. So your primitive brain is like a lot like a toddler in a candy store. It's like, gimme, gimme, gimme I want this. I want that. I want that. I'm tired. You know, all of this. And so it's going to come up with all kinds of reasons all day long for why you should indulge in something pleasurable or more convenient.

Dr. Angela (08:13):
And if unprocessed food that's good for you is not readily available. You leave yourself at the mercy of this primitive part of you. And I actually say, you leave yourself at the mercy of the food industry, because you're going to fall prey to their tactics because the food industry is very, very happy to lure you in. And I bet we've already talked about it on earlier podcasts where they're living. You're in trying to get you to crave stuff. They're trying to make things very convenient for you. They're trying to get your primitive toddler brain hooked when you're a young child and they do all of this so that they have control over you. Right? So what you want to do is you want to take over the control and you want to use your pen and your paper to plan your meals ahead of time.

Dr. Angela (09:03):
So people always ask me when I bring this up to them, they're like, well, because when they come into the office, I give them a food journal and I'm like, here's where you're going to track everything. And they're like, well, I've been doing, I've been doing my journaling on a smartphone app. So, you know, maybe they've been using my Fitness Pal or Lose It, or one of those carb counter apps, one of those things. And so they always ask, well, can I just keep it on on that? And I say, yeah, you can do that. But use that for data collection. You also have to analyze the data. Okay. So there's data collection and then there's data analysis and the data analysis is best done with paper and pen. The research shows that when you're actually writing things down with a paper and pen, you are going to retain it a lot more and you're going to just learn a lot more.

Dr. Angela (09:58):
Okay. So that's called hybrid journaling. If you collect the data on, you know, some sort of a smartphone app or some other bit of technology, and then you analyze the data with, with a pen and paper. Okay. So that's called a hybrid journaling. Okay. So how's that sound doable? Definitely, definitely doable. If you want to be successful, it's definitely doable. Now I do have a second reason for planning your meals and writing things down. And that is you want to be catching yourself in emotional eating. We all eat for emotional reasons and boredom. By the way, I had a lot of people say, well, I don't eat. I don't eat over my emotions. I just eat when I'm bored. Well, boredom is an emotion. So you want to catch yourself eating for reasons other than nourishing your body. And the best way to do that is to plan all your meals ahead.

Dr. Angela (10:56):
And then if you want to eat something off plan, then you get to ask yourself some questions. Is this an actual physical need for more nourishing food? And if it is, then I say, eat, go ahead and eat something. But if there's any question in your mind whatsoever, it's probably an emotional need. That's popped up. And there's a term for this. When we are eating emotionally what, what we're doing is we are trying to distract ourselves from feeling negative emotions. So for example, from the boredom or from like, I get this feeling of restlessness every day at about three o'clock in the afternoon. I don't know what it is, but it's just kind of like, eh, and that just seems like a normal part of my Workday is just this restless feeling. And that's when I want to eat. Right. Well, it's called buffering.

Dr. Angela (11:51):
If you eat, instead of allowing yourself to feel those negative emotions, it's called buffering. Have you heard that term before Marshall?

Marchelle (11:59):
No, but a lot of this is really hitting home for me.

Dr. Angela (12:01):
Yeah, exactly. With food. We buffer with alcohol, we buffer with Facebook, we buffer with all kinds of things. And so you want to be somebody who learned how to not just manage, but identify and manage your emotions without buffering your way through them.

Dr. Angela (12:24):
This is the real work of weight loss guys. This is the real work. This is where it truly absolutely happens.

Dr. Angela (12:31):
Anybody can go on a diet plan for awhile and force themselves into deprivation and misery. And it's not going to work longterm. The term, keeping the weight off the long-term solution is to really learn what's going on inside your head, that you are trying to eat your way through.

Dr. Angela (12:53):
So, right. Cause that's what, that's what we do. So if you, you know, if you've got a meal plan ready to go and you're wanting to eat off plan, that's the time to ask yourself. Now, if you're physically hungry, absolutely go find some nourishing food. If you're hungry for chips, it's not physical hunger. Okay. If you're hungry, hungry for something nourishing like some nuts or some apple slices with some peanut butter or some cottage cheese or something like that, then you know, then you know, this is probably a physical need for more, more food. I love vegetables with hummus too. I like that something that's going to nourish your body, go for it, right. If you're not physically hungry, then it's time to get to the bottom of what's going on for you emotionally. And this is the second reason why you need a journal or a notebook and a pen, because the best thing you can do is to just start writing what's going on for you?

Dr. Angela (13:58):
What is it that you're feeling? What what's going on in your life? What are you trying not to feel and why are you trying not to feel it? So I have a really good example. I was back when I was learning all of this stuff, I would find myself, I would go to the gym every morning and then I would come home from the gym and my kids were in school and they were in grade school and I would take them, I would feed them their breakfast and take them to school. And then I would come home and I would have my breakfast. And then shortly after that, I would find myself in the pantry. I had one of those walk-in pantries. Right. And I would just be in there and I would just have this kind of feeling of urgency. I know we've all felt this feeling before.

Dr. Angela (14:40):
It's just this very uncomfortable feeling of urgency. And I was working with an eating disorder specialist at the time. And she said, well, when that happens, what you need to do is to go sit down on your sofa and write out a page, just write a page, hand-write it. And I was like, okay. And she said, and tell yourself, you know, if after you've written, you still want to eat, then go eat. But not until you've written first. And here's what I discovered. I just started writing. And under the surface of that uncomfortable feeling, I wrote down, okay. I was at the gym and I was watching women in the bathroom. I had gone to the bathroom and I had watched women in the bathroom and they were getting ready for work. And I was like, wow, they're doing important things. At the time I was home with my kids.

Dr. Angela (15:36):
Right. And I realized that that feeling, that felt so uncomfortable for me was jealousy. I was jealous. I was like, these women are doing important things and I'm going home to my kids, which at that time I didn't feel like I was doing anything important. Now I realize I was, but you know, they were off at school all day and I was bored at home and I was jealous. And so the rule was that you do something, you take a baby step. So a baby step is something that either takes about 20 minutes to do it or it or it costs less than $20. That's a baby step. So what the baby step that I came up with was I realized that I was actually being called to get back into medicine. So interesting. I worked at the state health department for many years, and then I was home with the kids and I was being called to go back into medicine.

Dr. Angela (16:35):
So my baby step was to call a friend of mine that I knew who was a practicing physician and ask her, what do you think I should do if I wanted to get back into medicine? And she was home that day. And we, I went over to her house and we had some tea and we just talked. And that's how I got back into medicine. It was, I mean, and can you imagine if I had just kept eating and eating and eating, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing right now. Right? This is huge. This is absolutely huge. These things that are coming up for us, that we're eating through are very, very important communications from our souls actually. And so we need to be paying attention. So that's why I say your pen and paper are your most powerful weight loss tools, your pen and your paper, use them to track your food, to decide what you're going to eat.

Dr. Angela (17:33):
When you're writing, you're using your executive brain, use them to track it and also use them when these emotional things come up and use it to just start doing some journaling and find out what's really going on for you. Does that make sense?

Marchelle (17:52):
It makes sense to me. I think that one thing that I want to tell everybody is that when you're writing this stuff down, one thing that happened to me is I didn't want to write stuff down and for it not to be perfect because I didn't want to be accountable and I didn't want to, you know, I didn't want to be embarrassed or, you know what I mean? I wanted it to, you know, I wanted to write stuff down after I had everything all together and I was already doing it. And I think it's important to just start doing it and then you can analyze it, like she said, and then go from there.

Dr. Angela (18:29):
So, so you, you were wanting your writing to be perfect.

Marchelle (18:34):
Well, I .. no - I wanted, I didn't want to start writing everything down because I knew that I wasn't doing everything correctly. You know, I would have slips or I just skipped breakfast or I skipped lunch, you know, when I was first starting out. Yeah. I didn't want to write anything down because if I don't write it down, it didn't happen.

Dr. Angela (18:51):
Oh, that's true. Yeah.

Marchelle (18:54):
So I wanted to wait until I had my ""shit"" together and doing everything right. So that when I wrote it down and, and you know, the patients will come to you after their one month followup and they'll show you, you know, what's happened in the month and you know, their, their first journals. And I think that, I see when, when patients forget their food journal or they didn't do it, I think that they're going through some of the same emotions that I was going through is that they didn't want to actually write it down if it was, if they didn't already have it together.

Dr. Angela (19:26):
Yeah. It's important just to, just to do it, just write the whole mess down, write it all down and then start from there. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Write everything down. Those people who come in and they have written down everything, even if they've had like three or four glasses of wine on a Saturday night and a margarita written down, those are the people who do well. Right. They are honest with themselves and they are, you know, because it's not up to me, you know, I'm, I work, I'm just there helping them. Right. So the more honest you can be with yourself and what are your patterns, you know, what kinds of things do you do? And cause collecting the data is you can't change. You can't change. If you don't know what's actually happening, you have to know what's happening in order to make real lasting progress and real lasting change.

Dr. Angela (20:18):
So write it all down, who cares, you know, who cares if it's not perfect. So I skipped breakfast, big deal, you know, what am I going to do? And then, you know, you review it and you analyze it. So what am I going to do to make sure that I get my breakfast in tomorrow? We know this is how you learn. It's really, really important. It does. It forces you to be honest with yourself too, when you're writing everything down, if you do it correctly, and you're honest with yourself, you don't want to judge yourself though. You know, you want to do it more with curiosity. Like I wonder why I wonder why I skipped breakfast every day. I wonder if that's something that I could shift. I wonder why this thing happens to me at three o'clock every afternoon. I wonder why I wonder what's going on here.

Dr. Angela (21:02):
And you're just curious, you're not judging yourself. You're not beating yourself up. You're not mean to yourself. Like you're not going to, you're not going to be able to lose weight and keep it off. If you beat yourself up all the time, like it just doesn't work. So that's, that's huge. Thanks for bringing that up Marchelle ... that's really huge. I know a lot of people really struggle with that. So I did. Yeah.

Marchelle (21:25):
I still, I still struggle with all of this. Like when you, when I have to write stuff out or I, you know, when I'm paying attention, especially with snacking, because I could literally snack all day long, you know, from, from morning till dinner. And if I'm not conscious of that and I don't try to work through that then I can, you know, I just can be out of control and nothing ever gets changed.

Dr. Angela (21:52):
Yeah. Yeah. Well, you've made massive changes. So you've been, I mean, it's been, it's been a perfectly imperfect journey,

Marchelle (22:03):
Well said, thank you.

Dr. Angela (22:06):
A perfectly imperfect journey. That's the way it was for me too. You know, I, you know, getting all of this, understanding all of this, it's just been really, really imperfect. And that's the beauty of being a human being is you don't have to be perfect about anything. You just have to be making progress and that's what matters. So, and being kind to yourself while you're, while you're learning. And I always like to compare it with a baby walk, learning how to walk like a baby is perfectly imperfect in their efforts to walk. Right.

Marchelle (22:39):
I think the more we learn about you know, the primitive brain, the, the less that I get mad at myself because I realize that that, you know, that's a thing that actually exists and we all have it.

Marchelle (22:53):
And once I started to understand that I needed to shift the way that I was thinking and be more conscious of what I was doing, that it became an issue that I could overcome. Yeah. So, yeah. So I mean, I, I understand the struggle. I, this is a great topic. I would never have thought ever before. I started working with you that a pen and a paper would be such an important tool. I use all the other, all the other, you know, prepared meals with Jenny Craig and you know, the scale and you know, and all the other things -

Dr. Angela (23:34):
And the gym. I remember the gym. Yeah. I don't ever go to the gym.

Marchelle (23:44):
For a while there, you were going all the time after work. I remember that more after after I had, I was making an effort to change the way that I was eating, then I just added going to the gym for just, you know, for fun. I was going with my girlfriend just to keep active. Yeah. I know a lot of people have the mindset that if they work out really hard, they can eat whatever crap they want to eat.

Dr. Angela (24:09):
Yes. That's so true! That's so true. So it doesn't work like that doesn't work like that.

New Speaker (24:19):
I had a Zumba instructor one time - I did Zumba for about four weeks with a bunch of the office girls when I was working in urology and the guy was super awesome, such a nice guy. And he must've, I can't even, it probably four classes, you know, every day and probably three or four days a week. So he was really active, but he was really overweight and I couldn't figure it out. And so I asked him one time we were kind of talking and, and he said, you know, I do this so that I can go home and I can drink a two liter of Pepsi and eat a pizza and I don't have to worry about it.

Dr. Angela (25:00):
Oh, that's interesting. Yeah.

Marchelle (25:04):
But he's, but he was still, I mean, he, he was still overweight because what he was eating was a bunch of crap and and he wasn't healthy. So I don't know, just put it into perspective for me that a lot of people use, you know, the exercise so they can misbehave with the other part of their life. But yeah, this has been a, you know, it's a struggle to do all this. I mean, it's, especially if you're having to attach, you know, emotions to your cravings, because for me, if I'm craving something, I have to be really careful. I mean, any, I think any time I crave something, it's probably because I'm not physically hungry it's for another reason. And it happens a lot.

Dr. Angela (25:48):
Yeah, it does. It happens all the time. So that's the other thing is, you know, these urges to eat emotionally are probably always going to be there.

Dr. Angela (25:58):
The question isn't are you ever going to get rid of those urges? The question is, are you going to learn how to manage them without giving in? Right. So, right. And the way you do that is with pen and paper or figure out what's going on, you know, figure it out. So that's great. So remember your toddler brain, your primitive brain has three, three goals in mind, it's seeking pleasure, avoiding pain and reducing effort. And of course the food industry is all over that constantly tempting you with pleasurable food, trying to make it more convenient for you. So you have this industry that is totally on the side of your primitive brain, and you want to recognize that if you want to stop this whole crazy cycle, you want to get your pen and paper out and use it for meal planning. So the night before you plan all your meals ahead of time, so you're using your, your prefrontal cortex to make the plan, right?

Dr. Angela (27:09):
And then during the day, if you find that you were not following your plan, you use your pen and paper to find out what's going on. Like, if you have urges to eat off plan, maybe you're not actually eating off plan, but you're having urges to eat off plan. Then you use your pen in your paper to actually sit down and do some writing and find out what is the underlying emotion that I'm feeling here. And what can I do? What's something that would cost less than $20 or take less than 20 minutes. That would move me towards my future towards my future in a baby step. Okay. So a baby step way to move you into your future. And that is going to, that is just absolutely huge. You do this, you'll lose weight and keep it off. So that's awesome. And if you want more help and you want a supportive community I do have an online course and community called Journey Beyond Weight Loss, and we open it up three times a year.

Dr. Angela (28:19):
So that's something to consider as well. So cause, cause we're all helping each other out and it's very nice when you're going through this stuff to have a community of people. There's matter of fact, it's almost, imperatively important to have a community of people that you're doing this with because you've got a whole, a whole society that is not on your side, so. Okay. Do you have any other comments or questions or anything?

Marchelle (28:47):
Thank you for talking about this subject. I think it's super, super important.

Dr. Angela (28:52):
So all right guys, so get out there, get a journal, get your pen and get going and get your planning done and get your, do some investigating and we will see you next week. Okay. Take care everyone. Bye-Bye

Closing (29:06):
Hey, if you really want to lose weight and keep it off for good, your next step is to sign up for Dr. Angela's free weight loss course, where you're going to learn everything you need to get started on your weight loss journey, the right way, just head over to to sign up. Also, it would be awesome if you could take a few moments and write a review on iTunes. Thanks. And we'll see you in Journey Beyond Weight Loss.

- Dr. Angela


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