After 30 years of studying overeating and overweight, the research published in the last 10 years has revolutionized how I think about both. The most important discovery is that the type of circuits that drive mindless eating, food binges and sugar addiction can change quickly, and changes can last even one year later.
New York University researchers showed that stress circuits can be erased, but not by thinking but by stress-activated emotional experience. This research is changing our approach to addictive and compulsive behaviors, such as overeating. Instead of forcing a behavior change, activate and rewire that emotional drive, as used in Emotional Brain Training (see the science behind the method).
New EBT Skinny Brain Challenge - EBT is a program aimed at raising the brain's emotional set point, to rewire the whole range of stress-fueled drives. It's a gentle process and like mindfulness becomes both a treatment and a practice. In the last three years, we have sharpened the tools to make them easy to learn and developed a new online program so that people could experience the power of the method more quickly.
This challenge is a novel idea, but consistent with the growing trend to base programs on neuroscience What does neuroscience say about changing these circuits that drive behavior? It's the emotional activation that changes circuits in addition to repetition. To introduce people to EBT, the program starts by making a pledge to stop dieting. Taking up mind space ("working memory") to force ourselves not to overeat, takes away from the focus on rewiring the circuits that drive it.
Next, people learn how to follow a three-day rewiring plan for a circuit, first discovering the circuit, then, for the next two days rewiring it, changing its message. Once a person learning this approach, they can use it to target circuits that bother them. In the Skinny Brain Challenge, they target the four main circuits that trigger overeating. Then they test how well it worked by taking three days to eat whatever they want, while living an otherwise vibrant lifestyle and see if the drive to overeat turned off.
UCSF and University of Kentucky researchers have studied the effectivenesses of the method (see a review of program evidence), including results from using it in the short term. In one study of 74 participants who completed a three-day plan based on EBT, 99% rated it as excellent or good, 99% would recommend it to a friend, and 94% reported that their drive to overeat decreased. Average weight loss was 2.88 pounds in three days without dieting – and that was before we added the "quick rewiring" tools.
For people who want to try out a neuroscience-based approach in just a couple of weeks and learn the rewiring skills, this challenge makes EBT very accessible. The first step in using EBT Skinny Brain is to dispel the 4 myths of dieting and replace them with neuroscience-based truths:
Dieting Myth #1: food is the problem. EBT Skinny Brain Truth: It's the brain that is in control of our eating. The brain is in charge of the drives to crave those cakes, cookies, candy, and chips – or not.
Dieting Myth #2: change your thoughts. EBT Skinny Brain Truth: Feel your feelings. We used to think that by changing our thoughts ("positive self-talk") we could change our habits. The circuits that control mindless eating, food binges, and sugar addiction are in the emotional brain that only changes through emotional experiences. We can't think our way out of a food binge.
Dieting Myth #3: we have issues. EBT Skinny Brain Truth: We have glitches (that we can rewire). We used to be sure that we had issues, that something was wrong with us. From a neuroscience perspective, the various stress symptoms such as cravings, mindless eating and food binges are caused by stress that activates brain glitches.
Dieting Myth #4: go on a diet. EBT Skinny Brain Truth: Rewire those glitches. We used to tell people to go on a diet or abstain from sugary foods. Again, changing behavior when those glitches are still activating cravings, stalls and hunger won't solve the problem. Only rewiring those circuits will change that drive (see literature review).
These four truths are extremely important and alone can explain why the average adult is 24 pounds heavier today than in 1960 and why millions self-wound daily by calculating calories, counting points, judging our food and ourselves and letting the number on the scale determine our mood for the day.
However, it is the 5th EBT Brain Truth that made this neuroscience produce rapid results. It is the emotional rewire quickly. If the drive is rewired the food and weight changes naturally follow.
Then you take a few days to change how you think about your eating and weight, all based on how the brain works. Then you charge up and take 10 minutes daily for 15 days, rewiring the four core circuits that drive overeating, and finishing off the plan by eating whatever you want for three days. It is flexible, so you can join a small telegroup for coaching and warm support or try it out solo. We recommend the telegroups because the emotional connection activates oxytocin, a powerful appetite suppressant.
Chances are you'll notice that food has lost its power over you, and you can lose weight without dieting.
One of the key ingredients in the plan is to stop dieting, so your brain has working memory to focus on rewiring. It's such a relief to know that dieting has made it worse, and then to find the drive fade day by day. One participant in my EBT Skinny Brain weekly telegroup last week said, "I visited my mother for three days, and I've always binged my way through the visits. I had no desire to overeat. It was amazing!"
Click here for information about EBT Skinny Brain telegroups and online courses.