Kids Brains vs. Adult Brains and Weight Loss

One of the most effective tools for weight loss that I teach my adult clients is the skill of making decisions ahead of time.  They learn to decide on purpose one day in advance exactly what they will eat the following day and when the time comes to follow the plan, they do, even if sometimes they don't feel like it in the moment. 

Planning your food in advance coupled with the skill of obeying yourself and following through on your own plan is the winning strategy for permanent weight loss.  Actually, making a plan and having the mental and emotional skill set to follow through and do what you actually planned to do is a winning strategy for everything in life.  

Adults can do this so much better than kids.  Why?   

 When you plan your food in advance, you are using the most sophisticated part of your brain, the prefrontal cortex.  This is the part of your brain that thinks on purpose.  The prefrontal cortex is key to problem solving, planning, the meta skill of thinking about your thinking and impulse-control.  It has your long-term best interests at heart.  It is the part of your brain that allows you to set and achieve your goals.  Think of your prefrontal cortex as the kind yet focused and results-oriented CEO of your life.  This CEO part of your brain will make you a delicious and nutritious food plan for the day that will help you achieve your weight goals.  This is the part of your brain that with practice, you can learn to use to your advantage. 


Kid Brains vs Adult Brains

Research tells us that the prefrontal cortex is the last part of the human brain to mature.  Humans do not have a fully developed prefrontal cortex until 25 or 26 years old.  Until that age, younger humans process more information with a different part of their brain known as the limbic system.  This could be called the emotional and more primitive part of the brain.  It is never going to be an effective CEO of your life.  This is  the part of the brain fully in control during a toddler's tantrum.  The primitive brain wants what it wants when it wants it.  It is only a more mature prefrontal cortex that can think flexibly.

So when it comes to one of the most effective tools used for weight loss and sustained healthy eating, we cannot expect our children to use it well to their advantage.  Most kids cannot reliably make a food plan and then hold themselves to it.  Their brains are just not yet wired for that kind of mature, integrated thinking.  


Adapt the Tool

Parents can help their children to eat well by acting as their child’s prefrontal cortex.  The parent can plan food and meals in advance for the child/family and set the stage for the child to follow through on the plan.  

Planning meals together with your child’s active input is a wonderful tool to help achieve your child’s healthy weight.  You will be teaching them the skill of planning in advance by deciding together what foods will taste great and help you reach your health goals.  And equally importantly, when you eat what you planned for, you will be modeling the powerful skill of following through on your plan, showing up for yourself and working to achieve your goals.  It is so empowering for a child to see their parent doing this!

Give this a try today and let me know how it goes.  Sit down with your child and make a plan for tomorrow’s meals that seems realistic and doable to you both.  Don’t be surprised when the time comes to eat what you have planned, your lower brains may start to argue with your higher brains.  This is normal!  Nothing has gone wrong here.  The key is to eat what your prefrontal cortex planned for you because this is the plan that will allow you to achieve your health and weight goals.  And if you are having trouble following through and doing what you told yourself you wanted to do, get coaching!  Coaching helps you uncover the thoughts and feelings that are stopping you from doing what you really want to be doing in life.

If you are interested in working with me to change the trajectory of your child's life, 

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