In the latest episode of Brain Over Belly, we reconnect with Mona. It’s been three and a half months since her bariatric surgery. She’s lost more than 40 pounds and is feeling great. Lots of people compliment her on her appearance. So why does she still see the old Mona when she looks in the mirror?
Dr. Brown says Mona’s challenge is common. 95% of our mind is subconscious, and our subconscious is where most of our identity is – how we see ourselves and what we think of ourselves.
Losing weight is only part of Mona’s journey. She also needs to retrain her brain to live the happiest of life stories. To change the way she sees herself and perceives her purpose on the planet. To not limit herself, the way we all do, so she can achieve her highest potential. Then Mona will come to see what others see when she looks in the mirror.
Changing the conversations in our heads
Dr. Brown explains that we all have conversations in our heads. 24/7 we are talking to ourselves. It starts in early childhood. Things happen in life, we make little decisions about ourselves, and in doing so we start programming our subconscious to view our lives a certain way.
That conversation becomes our life story. And far too often, that conversation is negative or pessimistic, especially for people who struggle with their weight. We devalue ourselves, which limits our experience of life and affects what we see when we look in the mirror.
One of the greatest goals Dr. Brown has for his patients is to help them rewrite their life story. Remember Mona’s brain is extra malleable after bariatric surgery, so it’s the perfect time to reprogram the things she thinks and feels about herself. And while this may sound a little “New Agey” to some, it actually represents a growing field of science called epigenetics.
Dr. Brown shares two exercises in the podcast, both designed to reprogram the subconscious and change the conversations we all have in our heads that affect the way we view and experience life.
Power up with a personal power statement
Think for a minute about Olympic athletes. A young female ice skater or gymnast. Did you ever wonder how they are able to perform at such a high level and be so poised, calm, and graceful with millions, if not billions of people watching them? They are trained to be able to do this. They increase their performance, reduce their anxiety, and are wildly successful with the help of a personal power statement.
Dr. Brown does the same training with his patients and asks Mona to follow three simple steps:
1) Practice recognizing the narrative that’s going on in your mind.
2) Notice when the narrative turns negative (the red flag).
3) Stop in that moment and recite your personal power statement.
What exactly is a personal power statement? It’s who you are, your value, your purpose, your impact, your potential on this planet. You want to really think about it. Write it down. Memorize it. And repeat it to yourself anytime that red flag goes up that your life story has turned negative.
When you repeat this personal power statement over and over, the brain prunes the old negative story and is more likely to turn to the new, positive one instead. It’s amazing what becomes possible when this happens, including seeing the real Mona in the mirror.
Bringing everything into sync with resonance breathing
This is an exercise Dr. Brown encourages his patients to do between bites when eating. Before surgery, he asks patients to wait 1 minute between bites. After surgery, the wait should be 2 minutes.
During those two minutes between bites, Dr. Brown tells Mona to:
1) Breathe in for 5 seconds and out for 5 seconds. In two minutes, you can do this 12 times.
2) Focus on thoughts and feelings of appreciation, gratitude, compassion, hope, forgiveness.
Timing your breathing while thinking about all the amazing things in your life affects the brain’s central nervous system in positive ways and brings into resonance the timing of several bodily processes, including pupil dilation, heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure.
This resonance promotes all the positive changes Mona is starting to experience post surgery, including decreased anxiety, increased creativity, increased memory, and increased sleep quality. Mona says she enjoys using resonance breathing while she is falling asleep at night. Before she knows it, it’s morning and she has slept through the night without disruption.
Practice, practice, practice
With both of these exercises, the personal power statement and resonance breathing, it’s all about doing small things, very consistently, especially in the few months after bariatric surgery when the brain is so malleable.
Combine these practices, plus good sleep to make new attachments in the brain, and things like food cravings or negative self views become a thing of the past.
Mona shares that before surgery, she was passive, reactive, did nothing. “I was just stuck in a rut.” Now she is happier, has more energy, and wants to get out and live. “I am excited to be here everyday.”
For Mona, it’s about being brave. She ends the podcast by declaring “This is going to be my year.” And with the help of Dr. Brown, she’s more confident than ever that she can make the changes necessary to make that happen.
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