Why losing sucks!
Why seeking help to lose weight may not help in the way that you think, and why losing sucks!
Losing (including losing weight) weight goes against our very instinct to survive. It goes against our drive to forage, and foraging or feeding is based on survival.
Our survival is programmed in our early brain, the reptilian complex, which is 650 million years old. Primitive reflexes originate in our central nervous system, the root reflex, to seek out food and nourishment. This root reflex disappears at around 4 months as we begin to gain voluntary control.
However, to make sure we continue to seek out food, we have what’s called an incentive salience - a desire or want attribute.
So, let’s think about this: our need to feed, once we gain voluntary control, is linked to desire or want. Now, here’s a theory: there is reward in nourishment of course, but there is also reward in finding things. So, let’s go back to early childhood, as this is where we gain a lot of conditioning and learning that we carry to this day. Our caregiver helps to feed us. If we lose our teat, nipple or dummy, we are helped to find it; this feels good because it means we feed...we survive.
Let’s skip forward, and play a game - peep-bo or peekaboo.
Now, this game actually shows one fundamental development – object permanence, and this is the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be observed (seen, heard, touched, smelled or sensed in any way).
So, before six to eight months, a child may looked shocked at peek-a-boo as they don’t yet understand object permanence - they believe that, because the face cannot be seen, the care giver has actually disappeared. They are of course rewarded when they reappear, but this reappearance can come as quite a surprise.
Once they’re old enough to understand the caregiver is hiding, then the game becomes all about anticipation of when they’re going to come back - again, this is reward. As a result, babies will start to have a need or desire to want that care giver to reappear, to seek reward, for what was lost.
So, part of early programming allows our brain to associate that care givers help us to find what is lost, and we are rewarded in finding. So, how many games of peekaboo did you play as a child? Those games cement in the early brain that there is indeed reward in finding!
We gain a reward for seeking a desire or want, looking for what we actually want, and will be rewarded when we find it, which can be heightened by therapeutic intervention, as there will be a certain amount of transference (which is natural) which, used in the right way, can be a great thing!
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