Episode Sixty Four Summary

  • It's never too late to start again - it is very common for people when they start a new habit, such as changing what they eat, that initially they have a lot of momentum, but they then lapse and ''fall of the wagon'. This is commonly seen as being okay as we can start again next week, next month, next year etc. 
  • Starting a new habit - it is often easier for us to start a new habit when we consider it as a fresh start or clean slate. For example, making a New Year's resolution at the start of a year, or starting something on Monday as it is the first day of the week. Although this can be useful, you don't have to wait for a fresh start to get back on track with your healthy behaviour change.
  • Starting again can occur any time you want - you can wipe the slate clean whenever you want, you don't have to wait for a new day or any other arbitrary time marker.
  • You are in complete control of your health journey - think of yourself as driving an all-terrain 4WD vehicle that can go anywhere, at any time. You are always the driver of your health journey.
  • Progress not perfection - it is okay to go off track here and there, as long as you keep progressing towards your goals.
  • What a thought is - a thought is just a connection between two nerve cells in your brain. The more you have a particular thought, the deeper the connection becomes.
  • Changing your thoughts - deep-rooted thoughts can take some time to change as there is a strong connection that has been established there. You can however change your thoughts at any time you want to.

The next 12 Week Mind Body Rebalance starts February 5. For more information and to join the waitlist visit https://www.rlmedicine.com/12WMBR

Show notes:


It's never too late to start again


Dr Mary Barson: Hello, my lovely listeners. I'm Dr Mary Barson.


Dr Lucy Burns: And I'm Dr Lucy Burns. Welcome to this episode of Real Health and Weight Loss. Good morning lovely listeners. I am joined with me today as always by the fabulously fit and pregnant Dr Mary Barson.


Dr Mary Barson: I am feeling particularly pregnant today it is true. Hello, Dr Lucy.


Dr Lucy Burns: Hello gorgeous girl, how are you?


Dr Mary Barson: I'm good. Pants are a bit tighter, have to get some maternity pants. It's got to that stage.


Dr Lucy Burns: As it should, as it should. The ever-changing pregnant body.


Dr Mary Barson: It's quite fun to behold. It is like a nice time when you can just really let it all hang out on display. It's quite fun.


Dr Lucy Burns: Absolutely. So today, you know it is the new year. Now there are a lot of people that have perhaps made resolutions a couple of weeks ago at New Year's Eve when we always do vow and declare that year 2022 is going to be better than the year before. But it's about this time that things often grind to a astounding halt. So we thought we'd talk this week about a concept we call “it's never too late to start again”. So Mares, when we talk about that what are we meaning?


Dr Mary Barson: It is so common for people when they start a new habit: changing their food, drinking less coffee, drinking less alcohol, trying to get more sleep, that they've got a fair bit of momentum at the start. And they're like: “Yes, I'm doing this, this is great”. And then it can, it can fall over for all kinds of reasons. And in particular, changing our food is a really prime example of how people can as they like to say “fall off the wagon”. And there is often this pervasive thought in our collective consciousness that if you fall off the wagon, there's not much you can do about it. You're off the wagon, you just have to stay off the wagon, eat all the things, but it's okay, because you can start again on Monday. You can start again next week. I'll start again tomorrow. I'll start again in January. I'll start again later. This is a common story that we tell ourselves, which probably isn't serving us well.


Dr Lucy Burns: Now, it's interesting, because you've been reading a book, perhaps of why we have this thought, like what is the basis to it, and I'd love you to chat a little bit more about that.


Dr Mary Barson: Yeah, I'm reading a fabulous book called “How to Change” by Katy Milkman. And she describes the research around behaviour change, she's fascinated by habits and behaviour change. Rightfully so, because the quality of our life, the quality of our health, our wellness, our happiness, is the sum of all of our little behaviours. And if we want to change our health, our life, any part of ourselves really, we have to change our behaviour. But it's hard. We as humans find behaviour change hard. It's possible. It's just hard. So it's a fabulous book as a kind of support guide to changing behaviours. And she talks about common blocks and how to break through them. One thing that's very interesting is she discusses how it is much easier for us to start a new habit with a clean slate. When we feel like it's a fresh start, it's just okay, turning over a new leaf. This is it. Now I'm going to do it this way. That's in the past. Now it's like this. Which is one reason why New Year's resolutions are so popular in our culture. There's this sort of collective psychological idea that January is a new start, ready for the new me. I am going to do this. And we can feel that way about Mondays. And we can feel that way about next month and tomorrow and all of these things. And I think it can be very useful. I think that creating the idea of a clean slate is a great idea. However, you don't necessarily need to wait until January next year to get back on track with your healthy behaviour change.


Dr Lucy Burns: No. What is interesting is that the behaviour here is all about the thought. So the thought of “I have a clean slate” or “I have a fresh beginning” or “I have a new start” creates the feeling of hope. And then you change your behaviour based on the idea that you've got hope and perhaps direction. So you can change your thought about the clean slate at any stage, like there's no magical clean slate that occurs because night has passed and the sun has risen.


Dr Mary Barson: It's right.


Dr Lucy Burns: But in our brain we kind of go “Oh well, it's a new day”. And you see it all the time, like we see it all the time on weight loss forums, or, you know low carb forums, where somebody's said “I've done X, Y, and Z”. And overwhelmingly the advice is “Don't worry, tomorrow's a new day, you can start again”. And we totally get that, that makes entire sense. It's just that sometimes we will have that thought that “I've got to wait till a new day or a new week or a new month”. And it actually, we put off doing, like the starting again, we put off doing it until this metaphorical clean slate arrives. And so one of the things I'd like to challenge our listeners on is the idea that actually you can wipe the slate clean whenever you want. You don't have to wait to an arbitrary external time marker, you can decide in the next minute that you've got a clean slate.


Dr Mary Barson: You could decide halfway through the Tim Tam. So, for those of you not in Australia a Tim Tam is a chocolate biscuit with chocolate cream coated in chocolate. It's quite a popular confectionery in Australia. It's a processed biscuit that people buy from the supermarket.


Dr Lucy Burns: An iconic processed biscuit.


Dr Mary Barson: Iconic processed biscuit full of seed oils and sugar. And so you know, somebody has a stressful day at work, their boss is unhelpful, their colleague is mean to them, any kind of stress, or perhaps they might then revert to old tools to deal with the stress. Old tools of emotional eating. And as we mentioned, that ain't right, that ain't wrong, it's just a tool that may or may not serve you properly. And then they buy the Tim Tams. And they eat one, feel terrible, I've gone off plan, I've eaten the Tim Tam. The thought in your head then might be “Oh well, it's too late now. Might as well just eat the whole packet, perhaps then go to the service station, buy some more and some ice cream and drink this bottle of wine. Because tomorrow is another day”. But you can actually stop halfway through the Tim Tam if you want to. You can even spit the Tim Tam out into the sink or the bin and stop there. You can make yourself a metaphorical clean slate right then and there, ceremoniously throw out the rest of the Tim Tams and start again there. This is just one example of how you can challenge your thoughts about starting again. You can start again whenever you want.


Dr Lucy Burns: Absolutely. And I mean, you've heard us say this a gazillion times. But this is part of the reason people will finish the packet of Tim Tams. So that they can start again the following day with a clean slate. You know, there's no Tim Tams available anymore because they've all been eaten. So therefore the slate is clean and fresh and I can start again. But that does also feed into this perfectionism that is associated with diet culture, where it really is all or nothing. You're eating a whole packet of Tim Tams or you're eating none. And it doesn't actually have to be like that. You don't have to finish the Tim Tams to get rid of them. You are allowed to chuck them out. And I know that this is a very, very difficult thing for us to do, not because, you know we don't want to throw them out as food wastage. You know food wastage is a sin up there with murder, wasting food. And I agree we shouldn't waste real food. But there is nothing real about a Tim Tam or any processed garbage. So if your option is for you to have to feel like you have a clean slate, if your options are either I have to eat it and then I've got a clean slate, or I could throw it out and then I've got a clean slate. Just choose the second one.


Dr Mary Barson: We absolutely love a good metaphor at Real Life Medicine. And one of our favourite metaphors is the all terrain four wheel drive vehicle which we'll dive into now. Language is important and there's lots of language around diet culture and behaviour change and one thing that people will say is “I fell off the wagon”. And I don't like it. We don't like it, this idea that you're on a wagon. It implies that your health journey is just you on a wagon being pulled by a couple of horses that you don't even control, and if you hit the pothole, which is you know the stressful encounter at work and you go and eat the Tim Tams because of it, you get thrown out of the wagon. The wagon just keeps on riding off into the distance and you're just stuck languishing in the gutter on the side of the road with your Tim Tams like “Oh well, I fell off the wagon. What can I do? It's not my fault I fell off. Oh well, I'll just eat the Tim Tams”. No, there's no wagon! Your health ride is not a wagon. And another one that is quite common is getting derailed, you know, this idea that your health is somehow a train on a rigid set of tracks heading towards your destination. But if you know, the stressful encounter at work, it somehow forces a big rock on the rails that forces the train off the tracks, that you are then forced to just lie on the side of the tracks forever rusting, never getting back on, eating your Tim Tams and all the things because you were derailed. You were derailed, you know. The stress just derailed me. No, it's not a wagon, it's not a train ride. Your health journey is actually you driving an all terrain four wheel drive vehicle that can go anywhere, at any time. You can take this baby wherever you want. And if you fall down the Tim Tam ditch because of a stressful encounter at work, at any time, you can then just put your foot on the gas, put it into gear, and turn it, yank the steering wheel and go back onto whatever track you want. At any moment, at any time, you are always the driver of your health journey.


Dr Lucy Burns: Absolutely. And you know what I love about this is the idea that actually you are the boss. And we say this a lot, you are the boss of you. You are the boss of your car, the boss of your vehicle, you're not helpless to external influences. And I think sometimes we think we are, that we have no options because of an external event, a stressful event, but we actually do. And at the start it's hard sometimes to use your new options. Because when we're stressed, we will always go back to an old tool, an old habit perhaps. But when you're in periods where you're not distressed, it's a beautiful opportunity to really cement your new foundations. And the more you think your thoughts, this is weird, then the stronger they are, and the longer they are.


Dr Mary Barson: You can literally change your brain by changing your thoughts. And it isn't necessarily easy to change your thoughts you know, it takes a bit of practice. The first few times that you know, you fall down that Tim Tam ditch in your all terrain four wheel drive vehicle, it might take a bit of a while before you can figure out how to get it back in gear and to get back on track. That is you know, changing your thoughts and getting back on track. But the more you do it, the more you practice it, the stronger the neural connections become with these new thoughts and these new ideas, and these new empowerments, and the easier it gets. And honestly, it doesn't matter if you fall down ditches here and there and go off track here and there. It's really what you do most of the time that's important, that you just keep progressing towards your goals. You don't need to get there perfectly. You just need to keep going. And you can.


Dr Lucy Burns: Absolutely, and you know what I remember reading about, I think it was a plane, a jet flying from say Melbourne to San Francisco makes, I don't know making up a number here, let's say 6000 micro corrections along the way to keep on its path, to keep straight. If it didn't make those micro corrections, instead of ending in San Francisco, it would end up in Alaska. So the idea is that you make little changes all the time. We don't need to wait until we've sort of fallen so far down the ditch that we then go “Oh okay, enough's enough”. We don't need to wait till we hit rock bottom to start again. You can start again at any stage, at any time, at any moment. It is never too late to start again.


Dr Mary Barson: Lucy, we talk a lot about how to change your thoughts around, you know, starting again, how to change your thoughts around food, how to change your thoughts around stress and emotional eating. All of the different tools that are useful to allow you to continue to make those micro corrections on your continued journey to progressing towards better health and better wellness. Could we go through a few of some of those tools now that people could start practising and start using today?


Dr Lucy Burns: Absolutely. So I think the first thing to remember, that a thought is just a connection between two nerve cells in your brain. So neurons, that's the fancy name for nerve cells, live in your brain and when two are connected, that's a thought. Now the more you have that thought then the deeper that connection is. So you know, like a rut in the road, the more you think it the deeper the rut. Or a path in the grass, the more you walk it, then you know, the clearer the path is. If you walk across a lawn once, there's no path. But if you walk across again and again and again, then it's a very clear path. So when you first decide to change your thought, at first, it might feel really hard, or you might not even be interested. I remember, how's this, some disconnect. I remember once and this might be about 10 years ago, I used to drink a lot of Diet Coke as part of my you know, diet culture. Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, all of the diet drinks. And I remember one day another girl said to me “Did you know that there are people out there Lucy who only drink Diet Coke for their hydration?” And I'm going, ah yeah, like, I'm one of them. Big deal. And she looked at me horrified. She goes “What do you mean, you don't drink water?” I go, no I hate water. I'm not drinking that. Why would I drink that when I can have Diet Coke? So that was my thought. Why would I drink water when I can have Diet Coke? Now, the hilarious thing now is I think, why would I have Diet Coke, when I can have water? It's a complete 180 on the thought. And it's because I now recognise, I in my head, I thought that Diet Coke would keep me thin. I thought that by drinking a low calorie soft drink, I could have my sweetness, you know, literally have my cake and eat it too. And I had my mind closed to the chemical shitstorm that is in diet soft drinks. I wasn't interested in that. And it was only upon, you know, further, I guess moving towards a more open mind and the recognition that maybe this stuff's actually not that good for me. And maybe it actually doesn't help with my weight loss, because I sure as hell could never maintain any weight loss, that I decided to have a different thought about it. And my thought became, I don't think Diet Coke's  very helpful. So it was a slow change. I didn't go from you know, because my previous thought was, I love Diet Coke, I'll never be able to live without it. I then turned to I don't think Diet Coke would be very helpful, to now my new thought is really, I would never drink Diet Coke, it's really unhelpful. I don't even like it, it's like a complete, so the 180 didn't happen in one step, but I changed it to something that became helpful to me and believable to me as well. And then just worked a little bit more on that.


Dr Mary Barson: Yep, life's little incremental steps. Beautiful.


Dr Lucy Burns: You've probably seen, I'm sure most of you have seen that picture that's got the ladder. And it's got, one ladder's got you know, 50 little rungs, the other ladder's  got five rungs that are really far apart. Sometimes doing the little rungs actually gets you to where you want to be. If the rung is too far apart, then you don't actually get to change what you want to change. So coming up with a thought that is different to the one you've got, because Mares we've got a couple of sayings around that. And one of them, I'm sure you've all heard this, that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing but expecting a different outcome.


Dr Mary Barson: Yep.


Dr Lucy Burns: And what's your one Mares that you love?


Dr Mary Barson: If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got. Sometimes you need to try something new.


Dr Lucy Burns: Yes. So if your thought around a particular food or a substance, or something that you know, we have sometimes people come in and they go “I'm not prepared to do that”. And that's okay. You know, again, you're the boss of you, you get to choose, but sometimes just having an open mind about something, and challenging your thoughts on why you're not prepared to do it. And often, it's just that it's a process that you've thought something, you know, for me, if you'd asked me 10 years ago, I'm not prepared to give up Diet Coke. Here I am 10 years later thinking how the hell did I drink Diet Coke. So keeping that mind a little bit open and just challenging yourself to have a slightly different thought doesn't necessarily have to be a 180 to begin with. But just something a little different. Mares have you got an example that you've done?


Dr Mary Barson: Oh, yes. So very commonly I'll see people who are trying low carb for their health, but have this idea that it's boring. It's so restrictive. It's just, I can't eat eggs. I'm over eggs. I don't want to have any more eggs for breakfast. Therefore, I can't do low carb real food is actually quite a common story that people have in their heads. It is the idea that if you're not having cereal, crumpets and bread and toast, that the diet is really restrictive and boring. So I just like to gently invite people to start to challenge these thoughts around breakfast, that it's not a case of only ever have eggs for breakfast for the rest of your life, whether you want it or not, or, you know, don't have low carb, don't ever eat low carb again. Like it's not a binary choice here and sometimes just talking through the logic of people, and I always invite people to come up with their own thoughts around this with some some gentle encouragement and gentle challenging, and many people will come to the conclusion that, okay, there are other options than just eggs, and that perhaps this is just a story in my head, and that it's not actually real.


Dr Lucy Burns: Absolutely, and in fact, I reckon probably a few years ago, I could have been one of those people, because the thing about eggs as you know, is they don't elicit much of a dopamine response, and they're very filling. So if you're not super hungry, then you really won't want an egg. And if you're looking for dopamine, you're not going to get it from eggs. So the idea that the food is boring is a little story that your brain will offer, so that it can potentially get the dopamine via some processed sugary cereal. And certainly that's what my brain would have done in the past. It would have said “Oh, my god, this is so boring, you know, I need a bit more excitement”. Well, I no longer need excitement from my food. My food is delicious. I have a reasonable repertoire you know. I'm not Julia Child, I don't have, you know, hours to spend on meals, as you all know. But what I do eat is really delicious, it's flavorful. And I'm really happy to eat the same thing multiple times because it keeps my brain quiet. It stops my cravings. And for me, that's brilliant. I am very happy to sacrifice variety for a quiet brain.


Dr Mary Barson: I'm the same. I'm quite sure that my repertoire is probably even more limited than yours. I've got, I cook for a child who's got you know, just kind of plain childish tastes and I can't be bothered cooking more than one meal, so. But I'm cool with that. And beautiful listeners, if you want to have a very varied diet, you can. Low carb real food is limited only by your imagination. You don't have to take the tact that I am, which is to have the same seven meals on rotation all the time. I do that because it suits me.


Dr Lucy Burns: On your brown plates. #ugly food


Dr Mary Barson: My chipped brown plates that I bought from the op shop. Yep.


Dr Lucy Burns: Whereas some of our members and in fact, Clara if you're listening, she and Melissa, they do spectacular, beautifully plated up low carb meals, incredible variety, little garnishes and they make you know, look, I feel like I'm watching a restaurant, watching a thing from a restaurant when I look at their photos. So yeah, absolutely doesn't have to be boring. But, you know, there's nothing wrong with boring either.


Dr Mary Barson: Delicious, filling, yummy, satiated meals is all that you need. So, you can change your thoughts. And you can start changing your thoughts at any time. You can create your own metaphorical clean slate within your mind at any time. And you are the boss of you. And you are driving your own health journey.


Dr Lucy Burns: Absolutely. Absolutely. You know what you've just defined? That's empowerment, you are empowered. And there is that little, just to sort of use a little train analogy, but the, is it the little red? There was a little red engine? I think it was that...


Dr Mary Barson: The little engine that could.


Dr Lucy Burns: The engine that could, thank you. Thank you mother of small child. I was dragging out some memories from very long ago. You know, you can be the little engine that could, you just keep at it until what you once thought was hard becomes easy.


Dr Mary Barson: It does. I look back now to where I've come, from you know, eating ice cream secretly in the locked bathroom because it's the only bathroom that locks and me thinking that this is a completely legitimate way for me to deal with the stress of you know, working and parenting. This was a while ago, to now where I really struggle to bring myself to buy ice cream even for other people. I'm buying ice cream for my Christmas Eve party and I like fastidiously reading the ingredients and trying to find the least worst ice cream, like I have come an incredibly long way. There's nothing particularly amazing or you know remarkable about me. I'm just, I'm a human with a human brain. And I've managed to change my thoughts and change my health by changing my beautiful human brain one thought at a time.


Dr Lucy Burns: Absolutely. I love that. One thought at a time. Beautiful. Alright, lovely listeners. We will be seeing you next week. Have a wonderful week. Bye for now.


Dr Mary Barson: Bye, everybody.


Dr Lucy Burns: Lovely listeners. As you know, we run the 12 Week Mind Body Rebalance three times a year. The next one starts in February. If you'd like to join the waitlist and get early access to bonus offers, head over to our website https://www.rlmedicine.com . And join the waitlist today.


Dr Lucy Burns: So my lovely listeners that ends this episode of Real Health and Weight Loss. I'm Dr Lucy Burns.


Dr Mary Barson: And I'm Dr Mary Barson. We're from Real Life Medicine. To contact us please visit https://www.rlmedicine.com


Dr Lucy Burns: And until next time, thanks for listening.


The next 12 Week Mind Body Rebalance starts February 5. For more information and to join the waitlist visit https://www.rlmedicine.com/12WMBR


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