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Dominique De Backer
French psychologist
How does our brain help or hinder us during the first 30 days of living healthier?

De Backer: People need to know that the brain will accept new information only if it doesn't jeopardize or harm the coherence the brain is trying to maintain. The easiest and most comfortable way to introduce new information or a new habit is to take into consideration the three parts of the brain discovered by the neurologist Paul MacLean.

  1. Is this new information/action dangerous in any way? (reptilian/primitive brain response)
  2. Will this new information/action bring me pleasure or pain? (limbic/emotional brain response)
  3. Does this have a meaning for me—why am I doing this? (neocortex/reasoning brain response) To succeed, you must make it safe for the brain to proceed with this change. 
What do you mean by "make it safe"?

De Backer: The change must not be overwhelming, scary, stressful, too difficult, or too much like something you did in the past that didn't work. It must have a part that brings you joy, excitement, pleasure, happiness, something new. For the brain to accept change, three things need to happen: (1) The information needs to be clear, simple, and easily accessible, (2) the objectives, goals, and outcomes of this new information/action need to be achievable and attainable, and (3) the result of this change will bring about something positive and pleasurable.

The brain wants an overall goal to achieve but also needs a plan, with intermediary steps that will be smaller victories. It needs to know very specifically what to do, the steps to take—whether those are physical or nutritional. Make it easy for the brain to win. Do one new thing a day or a week. Cut out one bad food at a time. We want to feel that we are getting closer to the goal. The brain needs to have excitement and pleasure associated with change.

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