We are well into the new year and the critical juncture where many people’s resolutions have begun to falter—particularly those intertwined with our habits around food.
However, afford yourself some gravitas. The hard truth is most diets fail—most of the time.
But why is this? And what might be a better approach towards positively reshaping our relationship with what ends up in our mouths—and making those healthier habits stick?
Today neuroscientist and addiction psychiatrist Dr. Jud Brewer provides answers that will profoundly change your understanding of weight loss and eating to thrive. You will be amazed to hear these insights have nothing to do with willpower. In fact, from a neuroscience standpoint, willpower is more myth than muscle—the willpower approach lacks neuroscientific backing.
Returning for his third podcast appearance (RRP episodes 471 and 586), Dr. Brewer serves as the director of research and innovation at Brown University’s Mindfulness Center. Alongside his role as a professor at the School of Public Health and Psychiatry, he is the executive medical director of behavioral health at Sharecare and is a research affiliate at MIT. Drawing from over 20 years of experience working with thousands of patients, he discusses his latest book, The Hunger Habit, highlighting the transformative impact of attention, mindfulness, and curiosity in reshaping habits for healthier choices.
“From a neuroscience standpoint, when it comes to forming a habit or changing a habit, willpower is not part of the equation.”
– DR. JUD BREWER
From an evolutionary perspective, our brains, functioning as prediction machines, crave certainty for comfort, forming habit loops with a trigger, behavior, and result. The reinforcing dopamine spritz creates a recalcitrant loop, stubbornly resistant to change. Unhealthy habits often carry the baggage of denial, hindering acknowledgment of their impact on well-being. In this episode, Dr. Brewer explores the scientifically-backed methods to dissolve our detrimental food habits.
We often give our habits—or food cravings—more credulity than they deserve. If you can sit with them and feel your way through them, they will pass. Just by observing these sensations, we change our relationship with them.
Today we discuss the neuroscience of habits and the role of dopamine and reward anticipation in habit formation, the role of willpower in behavior change, and the importance of self-acceptance, kindness, and awareness in developing healthier eating patterns. We also discuss our disconnect from the body, the role of wearable technology, and Ozempic.
Note: Today’s discussion may be confronting for some regarding food issues. If you suffer from restrictive eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia nervosa, please reach out for help. A helpful resource is: www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.
I appreciate Dr. Brewer’s practical approach to blending Eastern traditions and hard science into the mainstream. If you’re struggling with cravings, binge eating, or just find yourself perplexed by food compulsions you can’t seem to overcome, this episode is a must-listen.
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- Dr. Jud Brewer: Website | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube
- APP: Eat Right Now
- Book: PREORDER The Hunger Habit: Why We Eat When We’re Not Hungry and How to Stop
- Book: Unwinding Anxiety
- WYNC: Why Do We Eat When We’re Not Hungry? (Mental Health Mondays)
- RNZ: Dr Jud Brewer: Why we eat when we’re not hungry
- Healthline: 23 Simple Things You Can Do to Stop Overeating
- New York Times: That Anxiety You’re Feeling? It’s A Habit You Can Unlearn
- Harvard Business Review: Are You Stuck in the Anxiety-Distraction Feedback Loop?
- Program: Craving to Quit
- Program: Unwinding Anxiety
- TODAY: Dr. Jud Brewer shares tips for calming an anxious mind
- TED: A simple way to break a bad habit | Judson Brewer
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