Episode 125 Summary
At Real Life Medicine, we understand the frustration of feeling like you've failed at diets - Let us assure you that it was not your fault. It was never your fault. So much of the advice we were given about weight loss was based on calorie restriction and high carbohydrates with a reliance on processed foods and snacking. These strategies were unsustainable, unsatisfying and set us all up for failure. As a result, many of us will have internalised stories of failure, making it even harder to succeed.
Dr. Lucy was the queen of dieting - As someone who used to count points and restrict calories, she can tell you that there's a huge difference between natural calorie deficit that comes from eating highly nutritious, satiating foods, and forced calorie deficit that comes from counting calories no matter what the nutrient density is of those foods. In her experience, processed foods like diet soda and meal replacement bars drove hunger and made it even harder to stick to the diets she tried. She craved sweet foods and thought she could have her cake and eat it too with diet chocolate mousse, but it just left her feeling more hungry and very unsatisfied.
Dr. Mary's experience with polycystic ovarian syndrome - This highlights the misguided advice that can be given by doctors and dietitians. She was told to eat high carbohydrate foods six times a day and never miss a meal, which left her feeling like a failure when it didn't work. Looking back, she realises that this advice increased her insulin levels and insulin resistance and was based on flawed thinking, and simply unhelpful for her condition and symptoms.
Emotional eating is a common challenge when trying to lose weight - It's important to understand the triggers of emotional eating and use self-reflection to rewrite the stories we tell ourselves. It is really hard to identify non-hungry eating and the stories in our head when we are simply feeling genuine hunger. The miracle of low-carb, real food is that it provides the satiety that processed diet foods can never match. Finally feeling satisfied, it is much easier to recognize when we want to eat for reasons other than hunger and to allow us to notice the stories in our heads. We may notice thoughts and stories driven by sugar addiction or an inability to regulate certain food products.
The analogy we love to use is that there is a little waiter in your head - This waiter likes to offer you options, but you don’t have to order what he’s offering! Your brain wants to find you relief when you aren’t feeling safe, and it will often offer up strategies you’ve used in the past that, unfortunately, may not prove helpful to you now, or that you'd like to leave behind. It’s okay to say, ‘Hmmm, interesting idea, but no thank you!’ Be kind to your beautiful brain, as it is only trying to comfort you.
It's important to break free from the toxic thought mistake that we are always going to fail - You can set yourself up for success instead with helpful information, focusing on eating nutritious, satiating foods, understanding our triggers for emotional eating, which foods we cannot regulate (it will be different for everyone), and finding joy in more meaningful things.
I would like the free hypnosis please!
Be sure to check out our free medical hypnosis recording - It's a beautiful hypnosis on nurturing and nourishing yourself, so if you haven’t already, please visit our website at www.rlmedicine.com/nurture, and we'll send it to your inbox.
Episode 125 - Why do we fail time and time again?
Dr Mary Barson: (0:11) Hello, my lovely listeners. I'm Dr. Mary Barson.
Dr Lucy Burns: (0:15) And I'm Dr. Lucy Burns. Welcome to this episode of Real Health and Weight Loss.
Dr Mary Barson: (0:23) Hello lovely listeners, Dr. Mary here. And as ever, today I am joined by my wonderful colleague, Dr. Lucy Burns. Hi Lucy.
Dr Lucy Burns: (0:35) Hey Mares!
Dr Mary Barson: (0:36) Tell me something. Lucy. How are you?
Dr Lucy Burns: (0:38) Ah, awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Look, it's summertime. Interestingly, summertime in Melbourne this year has been, you know, the highs and lows. We've had some beautiful, beautiful Summer weather and we've also had some very wintry weather. For those of you who live in Melbourne, we are well known for this. Well known. So there's nothing new there. But I have been making the most of the Summer days.
Dr Mary Barson: (1:03) That's lovely. I pretty much don't go anywhere in Melbourne without sunscreen, hat, coat, jumper and a snakebite kit. I tell you what, you just need it all in Melbourne, you need it all.
Dr Lucy Burns: (1:14) Absolutely. And thank God for cars or as I like to call mine the car trove because there is frequently all of those, chuck in a towel, a beach towel as well, just in case.
Dr Mary Barson: (1:27) That’s right, yes. I love you southern Victoria. Love you. Yes.
Dr Lucy Burns: (1:31) Ah, well, darling, today, another topic close to our heart, which really ties into this idea that for many of us, we feel like we’ve failed diets. And so many of our beautiful, beautiful listeners and members have said to us, ‘I always feel like I'm failing, I can never stick to it’. And we thought today we'd chat about some of the reasons why this may be the case.
Dr Mary Barson: (1:58) I've certainly felt like a failure with regards to dieting many, many, many times, so many times. And the problem with that is I think the reason largely is the crappy advice that people have been given for so long. It sets us up for failure. And we can internalise these stories of failure. If we've been told to calorie restrict, if we've been told to just do this thing, and it will work. And if it's not working for you, then you're the problem because you're not just doing the thing. It sets up this story that we are always going to fail because we have always failed. And that's a toxic thought mistake that we need to break free from if we want to live our best lives and be our most healthy selves.
Dr Lucy Burns: (2:55) Absolutely. Most of you know I call myself the queen of dieting. I have had a long and extensive dieting career with very poor advice, which was all around, you know, calorie restriction. ‘You must be in a calorie deficit’ was the catch cry. And look, there is some truth about calorie deficit. But there is a huge difference between natural calorie deficit that comes from eating highly nutritious satiating food to forced calorie deficit that comes from counting calories, no matter what the macronutrient or the nutrient density is of those foods. And I can tell you now that as somebody who counted points for a long time, I would spend my time trying to work out how many points? Or how could I maximise the amount of this? Very, very processed diet chocolate mousse? How many tubs of that could I eat, and still stay under my points? And look, again, no, I didn't know. I thought this was great! It was like a loophole. Wow, I can have my cake and eat it too. Except that I couldn't. Because what would happen was I would do this, I would eat this dark chocolate mousse that tasted sort of like fresh air, and then I'd go to bed hungry. And then think, oh, already, I've used up all my points. What am I going to do? It never occurred to me that what I was eating was actually making me hungrier. Like that never occurred to me. And even to the point of things like diet soft drinks, for which I was a complete addict to Diet Coke or Pepsi Max. And it never occurred to me that drinking that stuff makes you hungrier. And of course, it wouldn't occur to me because who's talking about that? Certainly not the diet companies.
Dr Mary Barson: (4:53) I've still got my polycystic ovarian syndrome like little pamphlets and booklets that I got. So I have PCOS. It was pretty severe in my adolescence and in my early 20s into my 30s. And, you know, being a health conscious human that was actually you know, high achieving, and, and in good control of my life in so many spheres of my life apart from my health and my weight, you know, I really wanted to get control over my weight, my PCOS and all of these things. And so I saw doctors and dieticians and I did what I was told and failed, and thought, that's my fault, not theirs. I recently looked back over these pamphlets that I got and the advice! My brain did a little mini explosion as I reread over this stuff. So if you think about physiologically what was happening with me - so polycystic ovarian syndrome is a case of insulin resistance at its heart. And the insulin resistance causes elevated insulin which then causes insulin resistance, which causes elevated insulin. I was in this sort of vicious loop of high insulin, insulin resistance causing all of these unhelpful symptoms that I didn't like, being overweight then later, obese. Hairiness, acne, infertility, fatty liver, all of these things was because of the insulin.
(6:21) And the advice I got when I saw a PCOS specific dietitian was to eat my three meals a day, focus on whole grains, avoid saturated fats. Eat three meals a day, plus three snacks. Never miss a meal. Never miss a snack. You know, the key to healing your PCOS is to be constantly eating whole grain, high carb foods. That was literally what I was told to do. Fruits and veggies, lean meat, keep doing this. And I did it. And of course, it didn't work. Because what is that doing? Being in that constant fed state means that my insulin is constantly going to be elevated. And yes, they were telling me to eat, you know, whole foods, no one was telling me to go out and eat Maccas and ice cream and chocolate and chips. But they were telling me to eat real foods that were high in carbohydrates, which was just keeping my insulin higher and higher and higher. So by doing exactly what I was told, it was exactly the wrong thing. And when I failed, when I failed to get any better. I thought, ‘Well, I'm hopeless. I'm useless. I'm no good’. And indeed, possibly, without explicitly telling me, that's what the doctors and dieticians thought of me as well.
Dr Lucy Burns: (7:39) Yeah, absolutely. And I'm sure many of our listeners can relate to this. And look, to be honest, Mares, this was the advice I would have given as a doctor, before I realised and sort of, thank God, stumbled across low carb. Because I just thought, ‘Well, yeah, you just don't have enough willpower. You're not strong enough. You're not disciplined enough. You’re not strict enough’. Strict. I just remember that word. Strict. I'm just not strict enough. And, you know, for me, in particular, you know, I have a huge predilection to sweet food. It's, I think it's in remission, I call it in remission. Now, of course, it's always going to be there. It's a bit like, you know, some people have a predilection for hot chips. My brain is not that interested in hot chips, it can leave them. You know, I don't wake up ever thinking about hot chips. But I always used to think about biscuits, cakes, lollies, all of those things. So then what would happen is that and again, this was Weight Watchers, because that was, you know, I'm a lifetime member. And I spent a lot of time going there was that they, as I said, invented this chemically produced chocolate mousse, they also had muesli bars and some sort of apple turnover bar that again, you know, it was two points, and my brain’s going, ‘Whoo, you can have your sweet stuff and still stay under your points’. But there's a couple of things that I've realised that happen, particularly with your what I now like to call your kryptonite food. is that having one of these bars and when you open up, you know, there's a great, they come in a big box, they come in a big packet. When you open it up, it's actually a very small little bar, and it will, you know, have the points on it or have the calories.
(9:16) And people you know, there are still people, qualified health professionals recommending processed foods as a snack, you know because, it might be the six chocolate ideas that are under 100 calories, and they'll pop posts up and give you pictures. And the thing that is missing in this is, what if you can't regulate those? Okay, and that's not a character flaw. That's just the way your brain is wired. So if you can't regulate that, and they say, ‘Oh well, I didn't tell you to have six of them. I just told you to have one’. Then, you know, again, it comes back to oh, well that's your fault. You weren't told to have six. But my brain is going, but there’s six in the packet. I can't stop at one. Oh, yes, you can, you can, you can! Actually, I can't. I've tried. Like I've done all the things I did that I did the intuitive eating, where just, ‘Lucy, don't put any limits on yourself, just eat whatever you like’. And for those of you who listened to our Valentine's Day podcast, basically I was the dog in the cupboard, I just ate all day, that wasn't helpful. It was like gay abandon. Woohoo! And that was not useful either. So, you know, again, it's this beautiful, we teach a lot of this, but this thing that low carb, real food gave to me was satiety, like it made me full in a way that diet chocolate mousse will never do. And when you're full, then you have capacity in your brain to start recognising the stories that are actually about your addiction, or your inability to regulate certain food products. It's really hard to untangle those when you're also physiologically hungry. And I think that was the miracle of low carb real food for me.
Dr Mary Barson: (11:20) Yes, you were able to heal your physiology, get to the point where your hunger was naturally and normally just in a normal natural balance, which provided a bit of space for you to start working on the all-important psychology. I actually had an interesting story in my head exposed to me this weekend, actually.
Dr Lucy Burns: (11:51) Ah! Do tell?
Dr Mary Barson: (11:52) Yeah, so I used to have serious problems with sugar addiction. Even when I knew that low carb real food was the right way for me, I still had psychological work to do around sugar addiction and I would have certain triggers that would lead me to shamefully you know, eat large quantities of sugary food in secret, essentially, basically, because I didn't want my kids to see me. I would eat ice cream in the bathroom because that was the only lockable door. Sitting on the floor in the bathroom literally just shoveling in the sugary mush unable to stop until I was staring at the bottom of the ice cream container. Like that's not, it wasn't great. Wasn’t good for my health, I knew it wasn't good for my health. But over time, I definitely managed to understand my stories, my triggers and heal myself from my sugar addiction. And it's really not a problem at all anymore. It just isn't. It isn't! I'm free from that. And I discovered that I still have those little tugs.
(12:53) So I went and did a weekend on call at a local rural hospital, a place that I've been going to for a decade to do weekends on call. And I was there on my own. Sometimes I bring my kids, sometimes I don't. And as I was driving to the hospital accommodation, and I knew that I would be spending the night on my own, my brain went ice cream, ice cream, ice cream, ice cream, ice cream, ice cream, ice cream, ice cream, ice cream, ice cream. And it was fascinating. I actually didn't feel compelled to buy the ice cream. But the story was there. Because oh you know, on-call shifts were a rare time away from my kids, where I could do whatever I wanted without them seeing the sugar because I don’t want my kids to have the sugar. This is the whole reason I was hiding it from my kids. Shame, yes, but mostly wanting to be, you know, wanting my children to be well nurtured and nourished. And when I knew that I was going to be there on my own, that is what my brain wanted. So still wrapped around my nucleus accumbens. It's all still there, the addiction wiring, but I was fine. I didn't need to, I could just observe it.
Dr Lucy Burns: (13:58) You know that that's an amazing story. Because it's interesting when, during my low carb journey, at the start, I had some lapses or some slips, whatever we like to call them slips, lapses and creeps, as you know. And that trigger of being by yourself was one of mine as well. I had a couple of conferences to go to. And I remember I'd get to the airport. It's like five o'clock. And my brain goes, ‘Oh! Exciting, it’s so exciting. What are you gonna do?’ And you know, the airport’s full of cafes and bars. Saturday night, I had a glass of red wine, because I'm going oh, I can do this. Like I don't have to be a parent, I don't have to do anything. I sat down, had a glass of red wine and felt like a real grown up. Then you know that I got on the plane and suddenly, on the plane they're offering me more wine. Oh, good. Yes, because I'm a grown up. I'm here by myself. And then I got to the hotel and that night I, yeah, the snack bar called my name! And it was like, it's so interesting that it was that you're by yourself. It's like you're free. You're out of jail. You're free. Free to do whatever you want. And, again, we as you know, often talk about this idea of being able to then reflect on those, using that SLC. Self reflection, do some learning, do it with compassion, because the bottom line was that I actually don't want to do that. When I'm away by myself, I don't want to be, you know, munching away into the dog food cupboard. Not the literal dog food cupboard. That's another reference to the last podcast. But I want to be able to just, you know, continue on my way, where it's easy, where I'm not having that discussion. Will I? Won't I? Will I? Won't I? So working out what the trigger was. And it was, it was that story of being free. And once you know the story, you can rewrite it, it's easy. Yes.
Dr Mary Barson: (15:51) And I spent a bit of time reflecting, sitting on my own in the hospital accommodation, not eating ice cream. Just realising that, yeah, so have this sort of pull, this tug in my brain. But what the ice cream offered wasn't real joy. It was fake joy, and actually caused me pain, actually probably like real physical pain if I ate too much, as well as sort of psychological pain as well. And it wasn't real joy. There are things in my life that genuinely give me real joy. And when I have managed to sort of push away or not push away when I have managed to understand and heal and let go of emotional eating, that I can experience the great joys in life up to and including enjoying my real food. I had a delicious meal, super easy meal while I was there. And I really enjoyed it. And I went down and had a few walks on the beach, and I really enjoyed it. And I, you know, had lovely discussions with my colleagues at the hospital I haven't seen for a while because I've been on maternity leave, and I really enjoyed it. And I got all this lovely, natural dopamine. And that's real joy.
Dr Lucy Burns: (17:10) Absolutely, yes. And it's intrinsic, meaning it comes from within, not extrinsic, meaning you need a product or a behaviour to generate it. So you've heard us say this before, but certainly processed food steals the joy of real food. What is also amazing though, is that your taste buds can completely change once you are able to ditch the processed food. So for me, my sweet taste had been so up-regulated that food like berries they didn't taste sweet at all. They tasted like nothing, like it was almost bland. Whereas now, if I had a particularly beautiful fresh raspberry, I can taste it, it tastes sweet, I can taste the texture, feel the texture, I can taste the texture, I can feel it. I am mindful of it. You know, I might combine it with some beautiful, like double thick cream from time to time and I can taste that. And the real food is so pleasurable. You know, people used to talk a bit about curries, like a Thai green curry. And I couldn't ever taste anything, just a bit of hotness. And now, when I eat a green curry, I can actually taste the ginger. I can taste the lime in it. I can taste the lemongrass. I could never do any of that nice to think people were just sort of wafting on like what a load of rubbish. No, no, no, I just had all of my taste receptors blunted by the endless amounts of sugar that I consumed.
Dr Mary Barson: (18:45) And now you find joy in much more meaningful, lovely, nourishing and nurturing things.
Dr Lucy Burns: (18:53) Yeah, I think it's important to realise, like you just did, that there is always, the original thought process is always there. But the compulsion to act on it just shrinks. And I'll often use the analogy that your brain is a bit like a waiter. And remembering our brains have two jobs, they have a lot of jobs. But two of its governing principles will often be to make you safe or keep you safe, and to make you feel better. So when you know it again, when you think about going to work on call for 48 hours, your brain’s probably…
Dr Mary Barson: (19:29) 72 hours.
Dr Lucy Burns: (19:34) 72 hours of being on call. So as you're driving there, your brain will be going, ‘Oh my god’, because it doesn't know. So it'll be creating some meaning there. It'll be putting some stories together. It's going to say ‘Oh my god, you might be up all night Saturday, you're going to be tired, this might be terrible’. And so, as it's doing that, then going ‘Well what are we going to do to feel better?’ And again the waiter in your brain comes out and offers you some of your old solutions. ‘Oh, I know we can have ice cream’ or, ‘Ah it’ll feel much better if you have some chocolate’, or ‘Don't worry, we will cope with it by having donuts at the cafe’, you know, it'll always offer those, but two things happen. One, you don't have to listen to the original story, if it's going to be terrible. You can just accept that it will be what it is. But the second one is, you certainly don't have to listen to the waiter that offers you your old solutions.
Dr Mary Barson: (20:22) That's right, you can politely say, ‘No, thanks’.
Dr Lucy Burns: (20:26) Yeah, thanks. I'm just gonna see how I go. It is interesting, our brains, you know, they’re pattern machines. They will look at old stories, old patterns, and recreate them as being a given for future stories, future patterns. So if you've done on-call shifts, and you've had a particularly terrible one, then it will presume that all of your on-call shifts are going to be the same. And that creates then some fear and discomfort in our, in our body and our brain. The amygdala is on high alert. And yeah, then the brain just goes, ‘Whoa, oh, my God, she might not be safe. What am I going to do to make her feel better? Oh ice-cream’ Yes, you can just go stand down. That's right. Thank you.
Dr Mary Barson: (21:07) Yep, that's right. Thank you. I hear you. I understand why you want the ice cream, my beautiful, lovely brain, but we don't need that anymore. Let's just sit here and look at the ocean or watch some Netflix or go have a conversation with somebody instead?
Dr Lucy Burns: (21:23) Absolutely. Absolutely. All right, my gorgeous people. That's it for this week, but really learn to work with your brain. We have of course, in case you didn't get it last week, the bonus hypnosis session, which is really about this power of low carb, real food and helping unlock your subconscious brain, which again, you know, remember the subconscious brain is the bit that's tired or wedded to processed food. It's not its fault. Okay, it's not. It's been conditioned, marketed to, stories inserted for decades. But you know, it's time to basically give your brain an alternative narrative. That's all hypnosis does, is it provides your brain with an alternate story, and one that it can latch on to that can just make bringing real food, low carb, real food into your life so much easier. Mares, what's the link if people want to download the hypnosis?
Dr Mary Barson: (22:21) Absolutely gorgeous ones head to www.rlmedicine.com/nurture, all lowercase and the link will be in the show notes. And this beautiful hypnosis on nurturing and nourishing yourself well will be sent to your email inbox.
Dr Lucy Burns: (22:41) Wonderful. Bye gorgeous ones, we will catch you next week. Bye bye.
So my lovely listeners that ends this episode of real health and weight loss. I'm Dr. Lucy Burns,
Dr Mary Barson: (22:59) And I'm Dr. Mary Barson. We’re from Real Life Medicine. To contact us, please visit our rlmedicine.com.
Dr Lucy Burns: (23:10) And until next time, thanks for listening. The information shared on the real health and weight loss podcast, including show notes and links provides general information only. It is not a substitute, nor is it intended to provide individualised medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, nor can it be construed as such. Please consult your doctor for any medical concerns.