What you’re about to read is an excerpt of the Unstoppable Fat Loss interview I did with Scott Tousignant, a top fitness trainer and motivation coach from Canada.
Scott: When it comes to the mind, and you teach all the fantastic ways to reprogram it, what are some of the things that people are doing that are holding them back, in regards to their current mindset?
Jim: Well, that is a great question. I am going to break it down, because, people do not realize that they are literally sabotaging their own success, with the way most people think about weight loss. When I have ever worked with anyone and when I first ask how they are going to lose weight, the answer is always they are going to go on a diet.
The problem with a diet is that the presupposition of a diet on a deeper level is that a) it is only temporary, and b) it is going to mean deprivation. Those two things do not create lasting results, obviously.
Jim: So, right from the very start, it’s important to set it up in a different way. Now, let me mention two other things about your mind. This is important.
I spend a lot of time talking about the conscious and unconscious mind; so let me give you a little bit of foundational information on that.
Scott: That would be great.
Jim: So that we’re kind of speaking the same language here. We all have a conscious and unconscious mind. Now, conscious is what’s aware right now. It’s logical; it understands what you should do. Everyone knows what they should do to lose weight. I mean there’s not a person out there that doesn’t know that. Basically, eat better and exercise more.
Jim: That’s easy, right? The other part is the unconscious mind. And this is the part of our mind that truly runs the show. So we like to think that we’re consciously in charge of everything, but we’re not. There’s too much stuff going on in our lives to consciously think about every little thing.
The example I use a lot to describe this kind of difference in our minds is when we drive. When you first learned to drive, you kind of understood it. You saw your parents doing it most of your life, and it seemed pretty simple. Then you went and got behind the wheel. Then you’re kind of gunning it a little bit, jerking around. You couldn’t keep it straight.
But as you continued practicing it, eventually it just became completely automatic. So that when you get in the car now, you don’t even think about driving. You’re thinking about where you’re going; you’re thinking about a conversation you had last week. But it’s just pretty much on autopilot.
And if you look at all the things that are like this, all our lives become pretty routine. We don’t have to think about it, it just kind of happens. And that’s the unconscious part of our mind.
Scott: Sort of like what happens to me a lot, where I follow the same path to work all the time. And if I’m going down the same road with a different destination and my mind is somewhere else, I catch myself continuing along that path when I really should have turned a couple of miles back.
Jim: Sure, sure. That’s a common phenomenon. They call it “highway hypnosis, ” and everyone’s experienced where you’re driving and you kind of go past the exit. You’re just lost in thought. So, when you’re lost in thought, who’s driving the car? It’s your unconscious mind.
And if you look at reading and writing, at one point that was extremely difficult to do, but now it’s completely automatic. It’s so automatic that if I held a word up in front of you on a piece of paper you couldn’t even not understand it.
That’s how quick your unconscious mind is. So that’s what runs most of our lives. Now, we can obviously make decisions. Our conscious mind matters. But most of our behaviors are automatic. They’re kind of programmed into our unconscious mind so that we don’t have to think about them.
When you get up in the morning, you go through the same routine. It just becomes a process. You don’t have to be thinking about it. But the problem is that our eating behaviors, our exercise behaviors, those are in the unconscious mind as well.
The important part is this. The conscious mind is logical. It understands things. We all know what to do, right? I mean if we could run everything consciously, no one would smoke. Everyone knows it’s bad. But the unconscious mind is in control, and the unconscious mind is not logical. It works by association.
The classic example is, you’ve heard of Pavlov’s dogs, right? He was a Russian scientist, he was studying dogs, and he came up with this experiment where he put the food in front of the dog and they would salivate. And every time he did this, he would have someone ring a bell. Put the food in front of them, salivate, and ring a bell, over and over and over again.
Eventually, all they needed to do was ring the bell and the dogs would salivate. Because in the dog’s mind, the sound of the bell and the food had become one, and now elicited the same response. So, that’s called associative conditioning, and that’s how our unconscious mind begins to work.
We can’t approach it in the same way that we do consciously. That’s why when people do dieting, they know what’s good, they know what they should do and all the rest of it, but they never go to the unconscious level where they begin changing up their association for what these things mean.
They’ll say, “I know I need to eat healthy food, ‘ but on a deeper level, they think healthy food is boring, gross, not fun. So, they’re constantly fighting against these associations that they have. That’s how most people start. They rely completely on willpower to do this.
”Willpower is not the most effective way. I say if your willpower is so strong, do you want to take your breathing and let your conscious mind be in control of that? Or your heartbeat, do you want to consciously control that?”
So, the most powerful part of your mind is your unconscious mind, and you need to learn a few basic techniques on how to influence it and how to program it so that you have the connections and the associations that you want. So, that’s kind of the beginning on the conscious and unconscious mind.
The next two things I want to point out, and this is kind of the foundation that we will keep referring to, is that the unconscious mind, first of all, does not understand negatives. Now this is very important. What I mean by this is, most people, when they start dieting, are totally focused on everything that they can’t have.
Now if I tell you… Use all the will power you guys have got. Get all your will power in your body, because I want you to not think about what I’m about to say. And everyone who is listening to this: get ready. Don’t think about what I’m about to say. Don’t think of a yellow banana. Don’t think of a yellow banana. Yellow banana.
Jim: All right, what happens? [laughs]
Scott: Total banana in my head right now.
Jim: Great! And it’s impossible not to, because your unconscious mind needs to think about it first in order to understand what I’m even saying. So it’s very difficult not to think about what I’m saying. There’s very little difference between your experience when I say: “Think of a yellow banana. Don’t think of a yellow banana.” “Think of sundae. Don’t think of a sundae.” “Think of a cookie. Don’t think of a cookie.” “Don’t think of a cookie.” [laughs]
Jim: But this is what people do themselves on diets constantly. They keep telling themselves what they can’t eat, and then they are unintentionally focusing on exactly what it is that they want to reduce in their lives.
Jim: That’s one problem. And the other thing is this, and this is very important. The unconscious mind cannot tell the difference between vivid imagination and reality. The unconscious mind will respond to vivid imagination.
This is why horror movies exist, because you can go watch a horror movie, you’re in a theater with a hundred other people and you’re safe, but you’re sitting there and you’re all tense, you’re nervous, you’re not breathing, because you’re living through the movie. You’re vicariously living in that movie, pretending you’re the character or in that situation, and you start to actually have the physical response like you would have if you were in that situation.
Jim: So when you add these two things together, what people on diets are doing is… I mean, think about it right now. Think about your favorite dessert. Think about it in really vivid colors. Think about the most enjoyable time you ever had it, and you might find your mouth start to salivate.
Scott: That’s right.
Jim: Now this is what people are doing to themselves 24 hours a day when they go on a diet. And they’re actually increasing this. They’re increasing, physiologically, their desire for these foods [laughing] that they want to avoid. So you can see how it’s almost like self torture.
Jim: And this is why a lot of times people find it very difficult to stay on a diet, because they’re concentrating exactly on what they don’t want.
About Scott and Unstoppable Fat Loss:
Scott Tousignant is a personal trainer and motivation coach from Ontario, Canada. After graduating from the University of Windsor’s Human Kinetics Program with honors in movement science, Scott began his career with an intense interest in physiology and biomechanics, but quickly developed a love for sport psychology. His interest in the power of the mind led him to create Unstoppable Fat loss, (UFL) an audio Mp3 interview series. UFL is different because it’s not about what to eat or how to train. It’s about goals, mind, motivation, vision, persistence, emotions, passion, overcoming obstacles and even how fitness and health fit into your life purpose. The interviews include fitness professionals and “regular folks” who have overcome some very big problems. You can visit Scott’s website at: Unstoppable Fat Loss