10/18/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Kick In The Tush Club: Tip-Toeing Past The Amygdala

The amygdala, an almond shaped structure located in the mid-section of the brain, is crucial to our survival. It is where the "Fight or Flight" response lives. Its original function was to alert us when a drooling, hungry, man-eating lion was about to attack, lest we get eaten alive!

It is important to note that once the amygdala is triggered all other brain systems slow down and come to a grinding halt, including the thinking and creative parts. Imagine what would happen if you saw the lion, heard his roar, and stopped to assess the situation and think of a creative way to communicate with him. That's right ... you'd be the lion's lunch.

In modern times, the 'fight or flight' response comes in handy if a careening car is headed our way, or a tornado is about to rip through our house. However, the amydgala is also set off whenever a situation feels overwhelming, too big to handle. You know, when we attempt to change, walk the road less traveled or take a trip to Sveltesville.

Weight Loss is a minefield of change. In order to permanently remove those extra pounds, we change what we eat, how we eat, when we eat. We change our cooking style, our shopping patterns, our schedules. We change our style, our clothing. Relationships shift. You can see how easy it could be to feel overwhelmed and trigger the amygdala big time. (I'm beginning to hyperventilate just thinking about all the aspects of change connected to weight loss.)

So you see, you may have started out all happy, enthusiastic and motivated proclaiming that this time is THE time, but as your unconscious mind weighs-in all the change, it freaks! And you could leave all those great intentions in the dust, the commitment, the enthusiasm, the positive energy and the new healthy living plan - abandoned once again- it's just too much! "I'm feeling anxious. I'm afraid of change. It's TOO much! Hand me a candy bar!!!

What to do? Quit??? NO!!!
Freak out??? NO!!!!
Give in to fear? NO!!!!
Eat something to soothe? HECK NO!!!

Know Thy Amygdala.
Say "Hello, Amygdala." And know that your brain, my brain, our collective brains are programmed to resist change. Change is scary. It shakes, rocks and rattles the status quo. There's nothing wrong with you. You are not weak minded or a failure. Your amygdala has been activated. Yay! Your brain works.

Trick Your Brain.
In order to get past our amygdala without waking it up, we need to quietly and carefully tip-toe past it, one tiny little change at a time. In order to accomplish this, we need to break down our BIG 'G' (goal) into as many small goals (small 'g's) as possible.

And then slowly, and I mean s-l-o-w-l-y, work on one little 'g' at a time. Look at your little 'g.' Touch it, smell it, calibrate your emotions and reactions to this little 'g.' Is your amygdala stirring? Any feelings of fear or anxiety starting to emerge? If yes, make your little 'g' that much smaller. That's right - good, make it smaller!

The beauty of small steps is that they satisfy your brain's need for action. Small goals give your brain an opportunity to be free to think and create, to build new neuro-pathways. Small goals leave space for expansion.

Make your little bites calming, non-threatening baby steps, and you will be Tip-Toeing Past the Amygdala.


Janice Taylor is a Life & Wellness Coach, Author, Syndicated Columnist, Seminar Leader and 50-pound big-time-loser! (write Janice for Free Consult.)