Have you ever watched a movie or show where somebody storms into a room and asks, "Who's in charge here?"
I imagine this happening every day inside my head. This guy shows up in my head and asks, "Who's in charge here?" The only other person in this picture is me. I have to answer. What do I say? I can't point to the other person and say, "They are!" I have to take responsibility.
The only answer, the correct answer, is, "I'm in charge."
You have this same choice to make every day when it comes to your health and fitness. Do you decide to take charge, or, let the masses tell you what to do? Do you have a plan for how you'll eat, or, do you eat whatever is put in front of you? Do you get up a little early to get your workout in, or, do you sleep in and make excuses for why you can't workout after work?
I'm here to convince you that it's your choice to take charge of your environment. I also want to tell you that you have a lot more to gain from taking charge.
Your Lizard Brain Sucks
Many of you have probably heard the term lizard brain. Seth Godin, a popular business mind, has talked extensively about the lizard brain and it's impact on people trying to ship new products and creative works.
But not everything is about business and marketing. The lizard brain also has health and fitness implications.
First, what exactly is the lizard brain? Well, every one has one. It's the part of the brain called the amygdala. This is the part of the brain that has been around since before mankind.
According to Seth, the lizard brain thinks like this, "I'm hungry, I'm scared, I'm selfish, I'm horny." All day long it's only thoughts are about how to survive and how to make babies.
I can't help but picture a bunny rabbit. They are the most nervous animals I have ever seen. The slightest sound in the distance can send them in a full on sprint for their lives. When they're not running for their lives they are either feeding their faces or mating. It's a perfect example of the lizard brain in action.
Despite the picture in your head of a cute little bunny we must continue.
How the Lizard Brain Works
The lizard brain is responsible for the emotion of fear.
"In complex vertebrates, including humans, the amygdalae perform primary roles in the formation and storage of memories associated with emotional events. Research indicates that, during fear conditioning, sensory stimuli reach the basolateral complexes of the amygdalae, particularly the lateral nuclei, where they form associations with memories of the stimuli."
"Memories of emotional experiences imprinted in reactions of synapses in the lateral nuclei elicit fear behavior through connections with the central nucleus of the amygdalae and the bed nuclei of stria terminalis (BNST). The central nuclei are involved in the genesis of many fear responses, including freezing (immodbility), tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), increased respiration, and stress-hormone release."
The take away is that the amygdala (lizard brain) is responsible for the formation and storage of highly emotional events that are based in fear. It actually creates pathways in your brain that can call up the fear response at a moments notice.
If you think about our ancestors this type of pathway was useful when they came across a saber tooth tiger. The fear response would kick in and our ancestor would run for his life.
This fear response can manifest itself in different ways when it comes to health and fitness or creative pursuits. It usually rears it's ugly head as something called resistance.
The resistance usually shows up right when you're getting ready to make a change for the better. Maybe you've decided to give paleo a try or to try a new workout program. This is the time you have to be the most on your guard against the lizard brain and resistance.
Steven Pressfield wrote a book all about the resistance and I think you should read it.
The resistance is that point where your lizard brain kicks on and says something like this, "You've tried to lose weight before and it didn't work, how embarrassing would it be to fail again?"
Or it could say...
"There's only one doughnut left in the break room you have to eat it before someone beats you to it."
Or how about this one...
"Wouldn't it be best to just hit the snooze button instead of getting up to go workout? Besides, you work hard and you need the extra 30 minutes of sleep."
Or my favorite...
"You don't want to make anyone feel awkward about your eating habits so just eat like everyone else so they don't think you're weird."
The list of excuses the resistance can create is long and impressive.
Any kind of statement such as I don't have the time, I don't have the money, my genetics suck, my family doesn't support me, I don't know how to cook, fresh food is too expensive, I don't belong to a gym, a gym membership is too expensive, I'll start tomorrow, I'll start Monday, I'll start next week, I'll start next month, I'm too busy to workout, I'm too busy to cook, my kids won't eat this way, my husband won't eat this way, my wife won't eat this way, my dog won't eat this way (just making sure you're paying attention)... and the list could go on and on.
The resistance is sneaky. The above statements are clearly some form of resistance. They are excuses disguised in logical justification.
But what about spending one more day reading about ways to get healthy without doing anything to reach your goals? Is this resistance?
Learning is the sneakiest form of resistance. I'm all for learning but the last thing you need to do is read another blog post or book before you start taking action to get healthy and fit.
There have been times in my life where I let learning and education stop my progress. I felt that I needed more information before I could start taking charge. In fact, I still run into this kind of resistance all of the time. What I have found is that taking action of any kind, even if it's wrong or imperfect, is better than spending another day trying to learn everything I can about something.
"No I can't get started yet. I'm waiting to read that new paleo book I ordered from Amazon. Then I'll start the week after I read it."
The reality is that every day you don't raise your hand and take charge the lizard brain will raise its hand. The lizard brain, the resistance, is all too eager to take the wheel.
But we're not going to let it.
How to Beat the sh%! Out of Your Lizard Brain
Over the next 7 days I want you to take charge. When the little man or woman shows up in your head asking, "Who's in charge around here?" I want you stand up proudly and say, "I'm in charge!" Yell it out loud if you have to. Who cares if people on the street think you're crazy?
Let's do a challenge. It seems like everyone likes doing challenges in the paleo community so let's do one! However, this one is not 30 days. This challenge is only 7 days. Easy!
Consider this an easy way to get used to taking charge every day. Best of all... You can start this challenge on Monday. If you're feeling really ready you can start right now, it's up to you. For the next 7 days do the following and then take notes on how you feel after the 7 days.
7.5 Daily Actions for the 7-Day Take Charge Challenge
1. Plan your dinners for the week. All of your dinners should consist of a serving of animal protein the size of your fist and as much green veggies as you can handle. Think spinach, kale, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage and brussels.
You have to plan your dinners or the lizard brain will decide what you'll eat. Trust me when I tell you that the lizard brain has a sweet tooth. Failure to plan is planning to fail. No excuses, sign-up for a free 10-day trial of PrimalPal and cancel it after your seven days if you want to.
2. Establish a mini-routine in the morning. Wake up 15 minutes earlier than usual and drink a tall glass of water upon waking. I really don't care what other people say about how much water to drink, my bet is you're not drinking enough of it. So drink more water, period.
Write down at least one thing you are grateful for in your life and then do at least 15 minutes of exercise. Break a sweat.
Here are some ideas for your 15 minutes:
--Take a brisk walk and get some fresh air
--Do a bodyweight exercise circuit
--Do a few sets of kettlebell swings
--Do pushups, prisoner squats and jumping jacks
--Walk for one minute then jog for one minute until the time is up
--Do squat thrusts
There are lots of things you could do. Just get moving in the morning and hydrate your body. Chances are your morning routine could improve so think about how to take charge right away in the morning.
3. Eat protein for breakfast. If you're going to eat breakfast then eat some eggs and have some coffee. If you're thinking something like, "I don't eat eggs." That is resistance. Tell it to get lost. What kind of protein can you eat in the morning instead of eggs? How about beef, chicken or turkey?
4. Absolutely NO processed garbage foods or drinks this week. That includes diet soda. Strive to eat as many one ingredient foods as possible. For example, an apple.
5. Pack your lunch or eat a big salad with some sort of animal protein on top. Dress it with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
6. If you need some caffeine in the afternoon take a walk or drink a cup of coffee or tea. No diet soda. In my opinion, taking a walk and getting some fresh air can be more uplifting than a shot of caffeine. In fact, sitting at your desk all day is horrible for you. So get outside, stretch the hip-flexors and get some vitamin D.
7. Avoid all screens two hours before bed. That means all computers, tablets, cell phones and TVs are off. Read a book instead. Try to get to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual. When you go to bed make your room as dark as possible, turn the temp down to about 70 degrees Fahrenheit and try stretch lying when you get in the bed.
7.5. Have fun, smile, play and laugh as much as possible every day.
That's it! You have 7.5 things to do every day for the next 7 days. It's time for you to take charge. If for some weird reason you continue these habits beyond 7 days I think you'll be surprised how much you can quiet your lizard brain.
I'd love to hear how the 7-Day Take Charge Challenge goes for you. I wish you all the health, happiness and joy that the next 7 days can bring you. If you found this article and challenge helpful please share it with your friends.
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