The Limbic System & Platueas

Reality check, with life at all time you may be exhausted.

You've come a long way, pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone, and may have even lost weight, cut fat and gotten stronger.

You train, eat and move like a champion. Push, pull, squat, lunge, jump and twist; let the ice tend to the wicked. Kudos and props on the journey, but something is still missing on the plateau you now sit.

Your PR's have all but gone away, but your kitchen looks like a world-class cook book and all your friends have mad love for your text photos you sent them of the arugula salmon salad you made last night.

Your life on paper is amazing, but a beacon in your chest speaks to you when you're all alone to tell you how you should be doing more to be healthy and working to quiet the voices.

Are you at a stopping point in your health improvements? Can't lose any more fat and feeling tired no matter how hard you crush your training or how strict you are with your Paleo? You may just need to follow the road less traveled for a while.

Walk with me for a few, and I'll show you a perspective through a lens of our brain's limbic system and how reprogramming it can help you break through any standing walls of discontent.

On a meditation session (you do those right?) one morning,  you may realize that after 2,3, 4 or even 5+ years of the “work hard play hard” mentality,  your perceived “healthy” lifestyle is now suddenly making you fat. Don't shoot the messenger! This is just life catching up to you to plant a seed in that overactive, 7 days a week met-con hell and low-carb lifestyle you've been rocking.

Eat less move more, kill it in the gym and delay your food gratification so all will work out right? Unfortunately, this is hormonally not sustainable in the long term. Our exercise and eating behaviors depend upon a choice of what we feel we should do (consciously) versus what we actually feel like we should be doing (hormonally).

Eat the cake or go for a walk, save the money or blow it on clothes. This is the exact same circuitry that our body uses for ALL decisions. These decisions are nothing more than a coded memory signal retrieved from the hippocampus loop, thus converting things that are “in your mind” at the moment (in short-term memory) into things that you will remember for the long run (long-term memory). Basically, you are electronically programming your brain to relate exercise, eating healthy foods and living a life of wellness to a sense of pain or pleasure. Call it a massive brain-body software program that you are in direct control of!

The limbic system is the set of brain structures that forms the inner border of the cortex. It is old school! Way older than other parts of the brain; it developed to manage fight or flight circuitry which is an evolutionary necessity for reptiles as well as humans.

Basically, it tells us whether we should eat, sleep, have sex, walk or relax. Fight or flight, pain or pleasure. It has two key parts of the brain: the hippocampus and the amygdala. It's the hippocampus that deals with the formation of new memories, especially tangible memories (how a carpet felt, how a bottle feels) and life events that tell us a story (most often with a personal connection. eg: sequences of events on how you got to work or how your family and friends treat you.) It is in this reward circuitry that all of our life's desires, feelings and emotions reside.

So how can we use the limbic system to produce optimal health, weight loss and more fat loss?

The answer is simple in words but difficult in practice- Live to your own personal legend. Ignore what those around you are doing and focus on what YOU really want out of life!

I know it sounds too simple right? Well since when has anything simple ever been easy to do when it comes to behaivor modification? It takes 21 long, hard days for a new behavior to wire into our physiology. Where there is the will there is most definitely the way. What will you be doing for the next 3 weeks?

Repetition is the mother of skill. Go get some.

The brain is built to change based on specific environments; it is the most fascinating learning machine on the planet. The point in which change happens is a decision. A decision is based upon inputs of pain/pleasure that guide you down the road. I've listed some examples below of how to “get your mind right” as Todd Durkin would say. Decide to do one of them today and make a decision to follow through! (Seriously do it. Do it now)

SOCIAL GROUPS Social relationships are more important than any other emotional input in our lives. Research has shown that a lack of friendship and social connection to peer groups is as detrimental to health as a poor diet. (I think it is more) Seek out people who serve the BEST about you and challenge you to be a better, more accepting and loving person.

TIME ALONE IN NATURE- Start by spending just one day a week removed from the concrete jungle to reset your thoughts. Only by being outdoors in your true evolutionary roots can you slow down the stress, thought inputs and limiting factors of things that do NOT serve you. By appreciating the simpleness and beauty of the birds, bees and tress, you'll develop brand new synapse connections that continually place stress reduction ahead of instant gratification. (eg: fresh air walks instead of smoke breaks or donuts)

CREATE FUTURE EXCITEMENT POINTS- Get excited about a reunion, show, beach day, meet up, social group or anything else that gives you the hope and excitement that your days ahead will be filled with connection, joy and meaning. (they obviously will if you care enough to make it so)

BASE YOUR WORKOUT SELECTIONS ON YOUR SCHEDULE- Start by choosing ONE day a week that you will base your exercise habits from. For example, if Mondays are a metabolic training day, make the following day a rest day. Plan to do an intro program of 2 days on and one day off when it comes to strength training. Implement one day of “running” for 20-30 minutes maximum, if you are a cardio junky, but ditch the treadmill and get outdoors. Try take take a minimum of 1-2 days off per week to acclimatize to the added stress demand of a new lifestyle. This will literally SAVE your adrenals and give you added recovery time, which will directly impact your quality of life.

BE TRUE TO YOURSELF- You can't put a label on happiness, it comes from within. It has been my experience that when my purpose, energy and time are all spent doing what I truly feel I should be doing that happiness reigns. Don't get me wrong, happiness is a daily choice and will require time alone to figure out the what and how of it all. Every day is a choice to BE happy or NOT to be happy. We vote with our mind.

EAT FOR YOUR BRAIN- What we eat becomes the tissue in our bodies and indirectly runs our thoughts. A study by Wang et al (2009) found that females, who were attempting to suppress hunger responses consciously, were unable to inhibit the part of the brain responsible for hunger. Despite telling themselves they were not hungry, their Limbic Brain continued to register the hunger response. Do not cut calories. Eat fats, proteins and safe starches!! Done.

MAKE A DECISION- Decide to do whatever it takes to make yourself truly happy, which will in the end equate to fat loss, and keep trying until you succeed! Do not succumb to paralysis by analysis. When it doubt just do something instead of nothing.

Above all else, be the person you want to be. If you truly want fat loss it will come in due time if it is for the right reasons. It's a complicated world out there when it comes to health; try not to complicate your heart.

Take back your health.

“No none can do everything, but everyone can do something, and if everyone does something, together we can change the world.”

Questions? Start here


About Josh Trent

Josh Trent lives in Austin, Texas with his love Carrie Michelle, son Novah, daughter Nayah + a cat named Cleo. He is the host of the Wellness + Wisdom Podcast and the creator of the BREATHE: Breath + Wellness Program. Josh has spent the past 20+ years as a trainer, researcher + facilitator discovering the physical and emotional intelligence for humans to thrive in our modern world. Helping humans LIBERATE their mental, emotional, physical, spiritual + financial self through podcasts, programs + global community that believe in optimizing our potential to live life well.

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