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Today, I’m joined by Jud Brewer, a neuroscientist, psychiatrist, and author of the recent book, “The Hunger Habit.” In our discussion, we delve into his studies involving individuals dealing with anxiety and how practicing mindfulness, kindness, and journaling, as suggested by Jud, has positively influenced their eating habits.

Jud emphasizes that our detachment from our bodies, combined with the stresses of modern life and easy access to food, has led to our current eating patterns. However, through mindfulness and understanding the brain’s mechanisms, he highlights the potential for rapid improvements. Additionally, Jud points out that our true identity is shaped by our habits rather than isolated actions.

I trust you’ll find this conversation with Jud Brewer insightful and engaging.

Resources Mentioned:

Show Sponsors:

Time Stamps:

  • 00:04:48 – The Hunger Habit
  • 00:08:00 – What Makes Our Habits?
  • 00:13:52 – What IS a Habit?
  • 00:18:44 – Overeating Isn’t New
  • 00:24:38 – How to Make a Diet Work
  • 00:35:51 – The Gut-Mind Relationship
  • 00:37:21 – Anxiety Matters
  • 00:42:02 – Curiosity & Kindness
  • 00:48:18 – Finding Accountability
  • 00:50:05 – The Craving Tool
  • 00:59:22 – The Committee in Your Head
  • 01:03:21 – The Craving Monster
  • 01:07:15 – Training Wheels
  • 01:10:55 – Friendly Foods
  • 01:13:38 – Pleasure Plateaus
  • 01:16:04 – How the Brain Works
  • 01:18:43 – A Simple Starting Point

Show Transcript:

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[00:03:58] Dr. Jud Brewer: In medical school, you know, they give me this formula that says calories in, calories out. They roll it off like it’s so simple and all I have to do is just like Profess to your patients that they just need to, you know, eat salad instead of

[00:04:10] Gabby: cake. You know, the thing that’s interesting about food versus other types of addictions, you have to do it every day anyway.

[00:04:16] Dr. Jud Brewer: The farther we look out into the future for a reward, the harder it is to actually say, I’m going to do it today. When I was working with people who were smoking in my clinic, I was telling them to go ahead and smoke, but pay attention. And they’re saying, my doc told me to smoke. Doesn’t he? Didn’t he go to medical school?

Right? We often think I’m going to be harsh with myself and beat myself up. And that’s what’s. going to change behavior?

[00:04:38] Gabby: No. Hi everyone. Welcome to the show. My guest today is neuroscientist, psychiatrist, and author, Judd Brewer. His latest book, The Hunger Habit is out now. And we talk all about how doing studies with people who are expressing anxiety and experiencing anxiety by being more mindful.

By having a kindness practice and journaling and all of these things that Judd Brewer lays out for us to do, that they started to see this is impacting how I eat in a positive way. And that because we’ve separated from our bodies so much, we’re all in our minds, we’re on our phones, we’re stressed out, we’re busy, we’re running all over.

Not to mention we have a grocery full of food that is just waiting for us to grab it. It makes sense how we got here. But by being mindful and some of these practices and understanding what’s going on in the brain that we can make improvements pretty quickly. And that a lot of times we are not our actions.

We are really our habits. So I hope you enjoy my conversation with Jeb Brewer. Hi everyone. Welcome to the Gabby Rhee show.

Jeb Brewer, welcome to the show. I am last time we got to be together in person and beautiful Kauai right now. We’re not together, but I, uh, I really appreciate, I was like, Oh, peace. He’s it’s always fun to watch people’s work evolve. You know, it’s like you go from one part of the practice to the next.

Let’s, I want to start there. Maybe not only share your background, but what is your why for writing? The hunger habit, your latest book.

[00:06:21] Dr. Jud Brewer: Yeah. It came from some struggles I was having in my clinic where, you know, I had all these patients coming in, working, you know, trying to work with binge eating disorder or overeating or things like this.

And in medical school, you know, they give me this formula that says calories in calories out. And it, you know, it sounds like Newtonian physics. It’s like, oh yeah, it’s so simple. And they, they roll it off. Like it’s so simple. And all I have to do is just like. Profess to your patients that they just need to eat salad instead of cake.

And then I get into the clinic and I’m like, holy crap, this is really hard. What’s going on? And so, you know, it turns out that this, there’s this big misconception, I would say, where it’s like people, they’re told that they need more willpower to change eating habits and two things are happening there.

One is that’s not true. That’s not how the brain works. And two, they’re getting stuck in this shame cycle where they think there’s something wrong with them because they can’t, you know, they can’t change their eating habits. So it just seemed like it was really important. And I’d done all this research with, you know, my lab studies, habit change at Brown, we’ve done this a lot.

And so we’d, we’d actually developed a program for smoking cessation. We got five times the quit rates of gold standard treatment. And as we were testing out that program, people were telling us, Hey. I’m actually shifting my eating habits and I made an assumption at that time. I was like, well, most people gain 15 pounds when they lose weight.

And so I was like, don’t worry about it. And they’re like, Don’t worry about it. This is actually helping me with my eating habits. Like the light bulb

[00:08:00] Gabby: moment went off. Yeah. Your mindful practice for smoking. You assume because everybody always substitutes more food when they quit smoking, that all of a sudden you go, Oh, wait a second.

You mean this is also, you’re bringing this over into that part. Can we jump on right away? So, so I understand and the listener understands. You said that’s not the way the brain works. Can you, when you say that, what do you mean?

[00:08:29] Dr. Jud Brewer: Well, the, to put it bluntly and mild, somewhat mildly, Willpower is more myth than muscle.

And what I mean by that is, so as a neuroscientist, when I study behavior change, you know, there are these pretty clear formulas that are, that predict behavior from animal models to humans, you know, all this predictive power, and these have been around for decades, uh, the, so that’s pretty well established science.

Those formulas do not include willpower in the equation. So they’re not even talking about willpower. They talk about cognitive control, but cognitive control has been shown to be driven by how rewarding a behavior is, not by willpower. So that’s the big disconnect between what we’re being told, And what’s actually true.

[00:09:24] Gabby: So a lot of times, like for my play place, I come from, cause I come from sports and then I live in a house with a bunch of will, you know, quote, I’m putting in air quotes, willpower, discipline, and all that, those words. When I read your book. It makes me first want to know, okay, from your point of view, after seeing all these people, we have biology, we have environment, we have, uh, you know, we’ve inherited our families, lifestyles, our practices, and then we even have trauma, right?

We have people who get into these cycles. Maybe because of some type of trauma. So I’m really curious in that starting point,

what is the difference? So if you have somebody, for example, maybe they are using food to soothe themselves because they’ve had a trauma, um, you know, versus somebody who’s maybe navigating the grocery store and versus our biology, you know, what’s the nuance in there when you’re trying to deal with a person there?

Because I think in this conversation, when we talk about, you know, different. Ways of forming new habits and things like that. I think there must be some subtle differences. Based on those types of people.

[00:10:44] Dr. Jud Brewer: Yes, absolutely. So I’m glad you bring that up. The way I look at that is all of those are pieces that fit into the puzzle.

And so, you know, whether it’s trauma, whether it’s genetics, whether it’s environments, whether it’s our parents inadvertently and unknowingly rewarding us with food when we’re kids, you know, if you eat all your dinner, you get dessert, if you don’t cry in the grocery store, I’ll give you a lollipop, whatever.

You know, and it’s, it’s not for all of us to go, Oh, crap, what did I do? But it’s to, it’s for us to see how all of these share and they actually converge in a common pathway around habit formation. So certainly, you know, some people it’s easier to say, resist chocolate or, you know, sugar, you know, some people are like, I just can’t eat any sugar.

I’m a sugar addict. Right. There are a lot of things that play into that. It could be genetics, it could be where those habits got set up in the reward pathway at a certain point in life. But all of them converge in the sense of, if we can understand where the, how the habit formation piece works, that’s where we can work with it.

And it has a common factor because we don’t have control over our genes. Right. We don’t have control. And, you know, for, for anybody that’s had a traumatic situation or has had, you know, capital T trauma, you know, it’s not their fault. Right. And so often they feel like it’s their fault. There’s something wrong with them, this or that.

No, something happened to them. It just like our genes happened to us. And so we can acknowledge, we can honor. You know, what we’ve been given or, or circumstances that we’ve been put in and then how we dealt with them. Right. And so often our coping mechanism, I’m thinking of a guy, um, who had, you know, serious trauma as a kid and his only coping mechanism was to worry because that’s the only thing he had control over.

Right. Or so many of my patients who eat as a way to protect themselves so that they become less, um, You know, because very attractive. And then they’re like, well, if I gain a bunch of weight, I’m less attractive, I’m less, less of a target. Right. So there are so many reasons that we set up these habits and that, uh, the good news is we can, you know, we can work with the habit once it becomes a habit.

Uh, instead of saying, Oh no, I’m screwed because I have these genes or I had this happen.

[00:13:16] Gabby: Yeah. And I, that’s why I wanted to make the delineation. Cause what is there like point half of 1 percent of some group from, you know, Eastern Europe that has quote, like a fat gene, but really pretty much. It’s usually something else than your genetics, right?

I mean,

[00:13:34] Dr. Jud Brewer: and we don’t, yeah, and absolutely. And, and we don’t have control over our genetics. So even for the folks that have that gene, right there, certainly, uh, they may have more of a challenge than other people, but they have the same habit formation pathways.

[00:13:52] Gabby: So your background is you’re a scientist and through your own practices and then dealing with, you know, unwinding, you know, You, you’ve interestingly enough have brought in this idea of mindfulness and, and, and now you, you’re, you know, you’re using that in extending this out in, in the food component.

And, and obviously, You know, the thing that’s interesting about food versus other types of addictions, it’s like you have to do it every day anyway. So it’s not like you go, Hey, stop drinking alcohol. Now you’re trying to teach people how to have a new relationship with something that they’re going to have to keep doing.

So I want to start with maybe you can, uh, just define for people. What is a habit? Because I, I think sometimes we go, I have a bad habit. I have a good habit. You know, just what is a habit?

[00:14:50] Dr. Jud Brewer: So a habit is something that we do automatically. And just adding to that, most of the habits that we have are actually extremely helpful.

You know, I don’t want to have to relearn how to walk every day. Or have to relearn how to make breakfast every day because I wouldn’t, I’d be exhausted by the time I’d made breakfast because I wouldn’t have the brain capacity to be able to learn new things. So most habits are actually really, really helpful.

[00:15:17] Gabby: Yeah. And they, and they, you know, you joke in this ’cause you have a 21 day program that, that’s, you know, like a, a joke about what you’ve heard on online and how that, you know, it’s, that must be true. It takes 21 days. But if someone were to say, Hey, I’m genuinely going to, like, I’m going to use myself as an example.

I have, I need to create in this, people are going to roll their eyes, but I have to create a flexibility, meaning I have to do these little exercises that I cannot stand, that I don’t see any immediate rewards, um, in my training. Cause I’ll hurt, I continue to hurt myself, right? Like if I don’t add these little stupid exercises in, I, my training is only going to get me in trouble.

Right. And so I keep telling myself, just head down. I’m just going to stay in this for 30 days and I’m not going to judge it one way or the other. Am I getting better? Does it feel better? Is it easier? None of that. So in your, is there a scientific kind of zone that a new habit is actually neurologically created?

[00:16:19] Dr. Jud Brewer: There is, and you’re actually highlighting something that’s described in the scientific literature as delayed discounting, meaning that the farther we look out into the future for a reward, the harder it is to actually say, I’m going to do it today. So, so yeah, I, from your facial expression, it says it all, right?

So that’s one aspect of things is, you know, the harder it is to see the immediate results, the harder it is to do a behavior. The good news is with things like. You know, it’s not the case for everything. So, um, start, I’ll just use an example. When we first started doing this research like 20 years ago, when I was working with people who are smoking in my clinic, you know, I was telling them to go ahead and smoke, but pay attention.

And they’re saying, my doc told me to smoke. Doesn’t he, didn’t he go to medical school, right? You know, and so the idea there was to help them see just exactly what cigarettes taste like. No judgment, but just collect some data. I’ve never had a patient come back and be like, thank you, Dr. Brewer. I didn’t realize how great these taste, right?

They realize that cigarettes taste like crap and that helps them motivate in the moment, not to think, Oh, I might get lung cancer in 20 years. But right now this doesn’t fit taste very good and that’s what helps them drive change and we can actually leverage that with with eating because a lot of people think, Oh, I need to, you know, somebody’s trying to lose weight.

They’re like, Oh, I’m thinking about the summer and it’s January and I’ve got six months and I want to look like this, you know, big stereotype, but that’s, you know, that’s an example, right? It’s really hard to think six months down the road, but right now we can focus on what we’re eating. And how much we’re eating and why we’re eating and what the result of this eating this thing right now is so for example, my lab did this study where we had people pay attention as they overate and it only took 10 to 15 times of them overeating and paying attention for that reward value to drop below zero.

So that they started shifting that behavior. So it doesn’t take, you know, 21 days or 21 years or 21 lifetimes. It really takes leveraging what we have right in front of us, which is awareness. And with eating, so with, with your exercises, for example, it might be hard to see an immediate change. Um, rewarding result.

So that’s going to be more challenging, like you’re pointing out, like your facial expression says, right?

[00:18:44] Gabby: Oh God. Well, and also, I think you get a place in your life where you go, this is not working. And besides, so with the food and, and being mindful and sort of slowing down, you talk about, Hey, you know, just slow down in your eating if you can.

Um, um, You know, it gives you a chance to feel full. It gives you, you know, it’s just a series of things with this mindfulness. I also think there’s a component where, you know, we don’t want to shame ourselves. We do want to be kind to ourselves, but also when we look at something, it’s like, Hey, This isn’t working.

And you know, I can eat really clean and I can train really hard, but I know that those exercises, even though they’re good for me, in my case, they’re going to hurt me if I don’t course correct. And I’m going to, and I, it’s like, it’s an interesting thing as a person. And you share a story about somebody who knows better, you know, it’s like you have all the answers, but you don’t even know how to do it yourself where It does feel like we’ve got these mechanisms and they’re hodge podged in there.

Our biology with reasons that that’s a good thing, but that somehow it can work against you. And I think for me it’s like when we get a relationship with that and we also go, yes, this seems like a natural thing I’m doing, but it’s not working. So I need to figure out a way to almost You don’t want to force it, but at some point you have to, you know, you have to get a structure in place and you really in this book go case by case, like you really, you know, sort of give people real direction.

Um, and you, and you even start off by going, Hey, how do, how do we get here? So I think for me, the question is, is if you went back a few thousand years, You shared that like there was some king who overate and he talked to Buddha about it and he’s like, Hey, just as you’re eating, pay attention. So that’s 2, 500 years ago.

So, you know, how much of this is Like a forever problem, like this is just being a human being and some of us have more of a degree of it versus a really modern day problem with processed foods and crazy schedules and driving and eating at the same time and all of that. Like, where do you, where does this net out for you?

[00:21:11] Dr. Jud Brewer: Yeah, I’m really glad you phrase it that way because The it’s a both and so it’s, it’s been a forever problem, right? Being human and in modern day, it’s actually gotten much more challenging. So we have refrigerators, we have food delivery, we have. Food in air quotes that has a shelf life of a thousand years, right?

So you can keep it in your car, you can keep it in your desk, you can keep it in your pocket and it’s, you know, it’s going to outlast cockroaches, right? So we’ve got all these things that are designed to be hyper palatable and very convenient so that we can just, Oh, if we’re stressed, we can eat. If we’re bored, we can eat.

If we’re whatever we can eat. So that’s the modern piece that’s added on top of the forever piece. Which is, you know, in abundance, our body’s going to say, Hey, I want to stock up in case there’s a famine.

[00:22:12] Gabby: Right. And what do you think, I’m just curious, like in your mind, when people were stressed before, maybe they didn’t have the luxury of stress, you know, Laird and I always joke about sometimes worrying is a luxury or if it was like, Hey, if you’re really thinking about where are we going to sleep tonight and stay warm and what food you, everything else falls away.

So I think there’s a little bit of that. Um, but is it, is it, would it be fair to say that there’s something kind of normal about humans having and needing vices? They just get misdirected.

[00:22:42] Dr. Jud Brewer: Yes. And so, so certainly there can be a, you know, think of it as like a first world problem. If like, you know, if somebody is, is I talk about a story of a grad student who’s pounding carrots, you know, when, during, when she’s stressed out studying for a statistics exam.

Right. And so somebody be like, I wish I could pound carrots, you know, instead of the potato chips. So we can look at these in, in multiple ways, but the, the key driver here really comes back to this, the survival mechanism that gets co opted. And so the, the piece, whether, whether it’s, you know, whether it’s somebody that’s got all, you know, all the amenities and all the privileges or somebody that doesn’t, we share one common thing, which is, Hey, you know, When we get stressed out, our brain can learn.

And often this is just by chance. We, we eat something sweet when we’re stressed out and we learn, Oh, when I’m stressed, I can eat. That’s anybody. That is anybody. And I would even say everybody. So we share that. And that’s just because this survival mechanism, which is there to help us survive, right?

Positive and negative reinforcement. These wires get crossed where we learn stress is unpleasant. Yeah. But our brain says, Hey, if it’s unpleasant, it must be a threat. And so it says, I’m going to use this learning mechanism called negative reinforcement to make threat go away. But it gets co opted to just say, I’m going to make unpleasant go away, even though unpleasant isn’t necessarily a threat.

And in fact, this would be fun to double click on. When we, when we’re constantly doing that, whether it’s distracting ourselves with food or technology or whatever, we’re not actually learning distress tolerance. So we’re, we’re actually moving away from learning to be with discomfort, which as you know, is kind of important.

[00:24:38] Gabby: You know, it’s a, it’s an interesting thing when you, maybe you grew up with it and then your environments where you can kind of develop it. Um, and then you, you sort of see the outcome over and over enough that you buy in and parenting. It’s been really an interesting thing trying to figure out if you can’t, How do you put that sort of enough discomfort on your, on your, on your children?

Or how do you make the idea of discomfort sexy? Oh my gosh. I mean, it just, everybody says all the things they want, but they don’t realize a direct through line connection to that is usually something that’s pretty uncomfortable. You know, even, even in, it just dawned on me because we can think about like, Oh, I want to be fit.

Oh, I want to own a company. So you have to work hard. Even like love. Relationship. There’s a level of kind of self restraint, you know, when you’re in a living relationship with a person, there’s so many things you don’t say because you think in your mind like, is this gonna be loving? Is this gonna enhance something?

I’m going to have some discipline and even in those small ways, we don’t realize that even there we have to practice like discomfort for the greater, I think, good. Yeah. It’s, it’s such a dance. It must be interesting. So how do you create, so people come to you cause they they’re in trouble or they decide that’s it.

I can’t do it on my own, you know, and, and this idea of like diets don’t work. Right. How do you

[00:26:11] Dr. Jud Brewer: that’s that’s been shown over and over.

[00:26:14] Gabby: Unfortunately. Yeah. I mean, what, how would a diet work? Like in your mind, if you said, okay, we’re going to change the word and we’re going to, this is what you’re doing right now.

Why does this work? What are the components added to this, to this mindful practice? Tell me those elements versus I’m going on, it’s New Year’s. I’m going on a diet.

[00:26:35] Dr. Jud Brewer: So let’s start with it’s New Year’s. I’m going on a diet. So that is, you know, it’s like, here’s the formula. I’m going to follow the formula and everybody’s got their version of the diet that they want to sell to you.

So whatever it is, it doesn’t matter because it’s going to be some version. You know, I think of the ab machine, you know, like there’s a new ab machine every six months. And they all look slightly different from each other, but enough different that they want you to buy theirs as compared to somebody else’s.

So think of diets in the same way, right? We all know the general components, right? Try not to eat things that are too processed and don’t go crazy in any extreme, right? Generally, you know, if you stay in the middle, you’re not going to, you’re not going to get into too much trouble just in terms of nutrition.

So if we think, oh, I got to go on this diet. In order to build muscle or in order to lose weight, in order to X, Y, or Z, we get stuck in our head and we’ve got this plan, we’ve got this formula, we’ve got this book, we’ve got an app, we’ve got a whatever that tells us what to do. So we’re stuck in our heads and we’re just thinking, I just got to do it.

And maybe for a week we do it and we’re like, this is great. And then the next week we fall off that wagon and we think, Oh crap, what’s wrong with me? So that’s all us telling ourselves based on some concept, what to do. Does that make sense so far? Does that fit with your, you know, your concept of diet culture?

Okay. So the problem with that. At best is willpower is so cognitive control, let’s say, because neuroscientists don’t really talk too much about willpower, but cognitive control is seated in, or it’s associated with the prefrontal cortex. It’s just specifically the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. That is the youngest and the weakest part of the brain from an evolutionary perspective.

offline, stressed, anxious, hungry, you know, tired. And so we’re relying on the weakest part of the brain. At the times when we need it the most, right? So I’m not going to be depending on that one to save me. So instead, so we say, okay, look, you know, my patients are suffering, you know, the willpower thing’s not working.

What else can we do? Let’s look at the neuroscience and see what is stronger. Strongest part of the brain is habits, right? You form habits. That’s, you know, that’s what helps us survive, et cetera. So let’s leverage that part of the brain. How does that work? Well, it turns out that there’s one critical ingredient.

Which is awareness. Maybe we can use a pragmatic example. So let’s say, um, that I have a certain reward value in my head for chocolate cake, like, you know, kind of like a gold standard and there’s a new bakery that opens up in my neighborhood. So I go in the bakery, I eat their chocolate cake. And if I’m paying attention, one of two things is going to happen.

It’s going to be either better than I’ve expected or worse. Or maybe it’ll be exactly the same, but it’s hard to like, you know, nail it exactly. So if it’s better than exact than I expected, I get what’s called a positive prediction error because it’s better than predicted. I get a dopamine spritz in my brain and I learned something.

Hey, good bakery come back here. If it’s like, meh, I’ve had better, I get a negative prediction error, and my brain says these guys need to work on their cake formula before you’re going to buy more cake here. I’ve also learned something, dopamine spreads. So that, I use that as an example because that’s how we learn.

And both of those, positive and negative prediction errors, require awareness. So we can apply those in our daily lives every time we eat. We can pay attention as we eat. So for example, this is why we did these studies. It’s like, Hey, pay attention as you overeat. And how quickly does that reward value drop below zero?

If it drops below zero, you’re going to shift that behavior. Notice how none of that requires willpower. None of that requires thinking. It only requires awareness. So the summary of that is kind of, I think of it this way. Our feeling body is much stronger than our thinking brain. So let’s go there, right?

Let’s listen to our bodies.

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You know, in our, a lot of times we have this conversation at our house that like, you crave what you feed your gut for, let’s say, is, is there an argument for the stronger we can Diversify and reinforce a positive gut that it makes part of this easier. Do we know I would like,

[00:35:51] Dr. Jud Brewer: yeah, no, I would say that it is the, you know, the gut microbiome and even the gut mind relationship, right?

They often, I’ve got this gut feeling. Well, there’s a gut feeling that we have a lot more to learn about that whole relationship with the, you know, our gut and our mood and, In all of that. So I would say there’s, you know, there’s people can look at their own experience. And I’m even thinking back to my experience.

Like when I eat crappy food, I feel like crap. So we can look at our experience and see if that’s true for us. There’s an end of one study that, you know, nobody can dispute. It’s true or it’s not true. And I would say there’s a lot of emerging science that is studying this to see exactly what’s going on.

Mike. Why does ultra processed food make me feel like crap? Why, when I eat a bunch of sugar, do I get a sugar rush and crash? I mean, we know some of that, right? You get insulin spikes, you get things like this, but it’s probably even more complicated than that. So I would say there’s a lot of ongoing science.

We don’t know all the details, but I think we can go as far as our own experience and start to get a sense for where that’s true. I don’t know about you, but I’ve learned over the years that when I eat clean food, My body thanks me for it. I have more sustained energy. I’m less of a jerk to my wife. All these good things come from it.

And that is a positive reinforcement for me to come back and continue to eat, you know, eat clean food.

[00:37:21] Gabby: I, I think, and you talk in your book a lot, you know, about intuition and, you know, and your gut, but sometimes I wonder if we, cause you, I think it’s so important. And even if you talk to somebody like yourself about anxiety or stress, it’s taking that moment to notice where you feel it, right?

It’s not just, I think it, I think I’m anxious, you know, getting out of that loop. And so. Talking about how does that make you feel? Um, is, is so important, but then I really have compassion when I, I think people go, Oh, this is a huge hill to climb. And I, I, and every time I try to do it right, I either fail or nothing changes, but there’s something always interesting when The feeling part and the gut part, because when we, when we think of that, I feel like when we think of that little universe in there and every time we’re eating, that we also think about, uh, maybe how it impacts that controller of sorts because it does, right?

It’s like inflammation and like you said, mood and all these other things. Uh, it’s, it’s pretty powerful when, you know, once we get into that feeling aspect.

[00:38:38] Dr. Jud Brewer: It is. It is. And I would even add to that, that often it can feel like a huge climb because we’re looking way to the top of the mountain. And so I would say, you know, what’s that journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

So I would say, you know, if somebody’s like, I don’t know if I can change my behavior, I say, don’t change your behavior. I say, just pay attention as you do the behavior. And see how rewarding it is as that first step. And that’s a real, you know, people are going to go ahead and do the behavior anyway, so it’s, it’s less of a climb and the awareness piece can be supported by somebody just being really curious.

Like, huh, what do I get? What do I feel like when I eat X, Y, or Z?

[00:39:24] Gabby: And I like that curiosity component because it is kinder to yourself and something about curiosity, I think, isn’t it, is a bigger invitation for all of us. Like, Hey, you don’t have to do it or you do, you can do it. You can do some of it, but I feel like when you have the curiosity, the invitation, it makes actually the exploration or the new practice so much easier.

[00:39:48] Dr. Jud Brewer: Yeah. That’s what I love about curiosity. I think you’ve said it beautifully. You know, it’s like, it’s, it’s a superpower and curiosity is all about inviting us in, you know, moving toward our experience.

[00:40:01] Gabby: Even the stuff that’s super uncomfortable, um, or relational, you know, you hear this over and over. If you’re talking about a relationship, it’s like, well, when someone’s acting some way, just get curious.

Like, why are they feeling this way? And what, um, and I think it’s the same thing about food. What is the difference, like, someone might see, okay, food addiction, alcohol, drug addiction. Is there anything that’s actually different about sort of a food situation versus a chemical or or a substance addiction or is it all kind of the same process?

[00:40:39] Dr. Jud Brewer: Yeah, the basic underlying mechanisms are the same. So they all affect this, you know, this reward circuitry. I would say the difference, the key difference is especially with substances and actually food, like objects are included here when we, as humans learned to refine substances. That’s where things got crazy.

So for example, cocoa leaves are not addictive. Cocaine, you know, I wouldn’t offer that for dinner. Let’s just put it that way. Right? So cocoa leaves, if you look at opioids, right? Fentanyl was being the, the, the. You know, the latest scourge, super refined, super synthetic, where we can just totally nail the dopamine system in a way that, I mean, fentanyl is crazy because it’s so lethal, right?

You need such a micro dose for the effect. And then a little bit more, we’ll kill you. So if you look at substances, you know, food is engineered in that way, but it’s not quite, you can’t, you can’t engineer it. So at tiny quantities, it’s going to kill you unless it’s poison. Right. But it’s, it’s not going to kill you through the dopamine system or the other, the other physiologic pathway.

So that’s the, the similar, there are more similarities than differences. And the only real difference is, you know, how much we can refine it. To hijack the dopamine system, basically. Yeah.

[00:42:02] Gabby: And you, you talk a lot in this book about when you start, um, you know, to take on the challenge, you mentioned curiosity, and I just want to reinforce these two traits, curiosity and kindness.

[00:42:16] Dr. Jud Brewer: Yeah. And the kindness piece, I would even say, you know, if I were to, I tried to do this, but I couldn’t, so I was trying to think, how could we structure the book to start with kindness? And so there are chapters around kindness, you know, later in the book, because we’ve got to learn how our brain works first, but ideally it’s like, let’s lead with kindness because we, we’re going to.

We get so caught up in beating ourselves up. We get stuck in these mindsets that are actually self defeating and are not open to learning. It’s

[00:42:52] Gabby: so, do you ever find it’s a tricky dance, especially somebody maybe administering some of these conversations where it’s this notion of let’s not bullshit ourselves.

Let’s be totally accountable, but then exactly. And always at the same time. Treating ourself with kindness. It is such a, it’s such a interesting, do you have any, cause you’ve been doing this a long time and you’ve dealt with a lot of people at different fields. Is there any, how do you manage to kind of do that with people?

Cause you have, you have to, right. You’re being truthful, but you’re also sort of saying, Hey, I want to encourage you so you can, you can move forward.

[00:43:27] Dr. Jud Brewer: Yeah. So I start actually with helping people really. Recognize and get up in close and personal with what. Unkindness to themselves feels like so they can actually leverage the negative reinforcement there where they’re like, Oh, when I beat myself up, it doesn’t feel very good and it doesn’t actually solve a problem or move things forward.

We often think, Oh, if you know, I’m going to, I’m going to be harsh with myself and beat myself up and that’s, what’s going to change behavior. No, that’s correlated, but not causative. Right. So I just want to be super clear about that. Cause people often, I see this all the time. They’re like, but if I don’t beat myself up, I won’t change.

Well, you’re coming to me because you haven’t changed and you’re beating yourself up. So how was it helping you change? And then they get the light bulb moment. Oh, wait a minute. I, this is just a habit. So it starts there. Then I help them compare that to what it’s like to be kind to themselves. So they see, they see, it just feels better and it opens us to learning.

And then we can layer in, you know, these questions about what, what’s the kindest that you can be to be with yourself. Well, being honest with yourself is actually one of the best acts of kindness that you can do because you don’t want to be fooling yourself. You don’t want to be fooling other people.

You know, it’s like we telling ourselves stories is actually acts of, you know, not acts of it’s the opposite of kindness. And so seeing how the opposite of kindness actually gets in the way helps us see that actually. Being honest with ourselves is the kindest thing we can do for ourselves.

[00:45:07] Gabby: I really love that.

It’s so true. It’s the truest thing you, you, you talk about in sometimes in order to move forward in this process, though, it is, it’s important to look back to, to, Get retrospective and, and maybe you can just share how people can utilize that.

[00:45:26] Dr. Jud Brewer: Yes. So with that, there are two pieces. One is I call this developing a disenchantment database.

And what I mean by that is we have to see how unrewarding the behavior is for us to change, right? That’s that negative prediction error. Sometimes it happens after one time, but often, you know, in our study, it took 10 to 15 times of people overeating for them to be like, wow, this is really not rewarding.

So the other thing with the retrospective is that we don’t have to repeat the actions if we’ve already done them a bunch of times. So, you know, we don’t have to slam our hand on a door again, if we, if we can remember what it felt like the last time we did it. So we actually have this. Treasure trove of disenchantment data that we might not even know about.

All we need to do is, you know, dig it up. And the way that we can dig it up is just remember, Oh, the last time over eight, what was that like? And as long as we can remember the embodied feeling. That’s enough, right? There’s the gold. We don’t have to do it again. So this, this is a way to, um, to minimize the extra pain that we need to develop that disenchantment.

[00:46:41] Gabby: It’s, it’s interesting how, because we do have all these distractions and things we can do instead of looking inside and just taking that one second. I know it’s scary inside. It is right. It’s our feelings. It’s our hopes. It’s our disappointments. It’s all these things, but it is so interesting how we want to avoid it at all, all the time.

Even when we, even like when we know better, it’s so, it’s such an interesting impulse to not want to just stop and look inside.

[00:47:12] Dr. Jud Brewer: It is. And so two things with that one is this is part of a learned behavior, right? We talked about, you know, earlier distress tolerance, when we haven’t learned to be with uncomfortable things, then the habit is to avoid it at all costs.

And we’ve got all these weapons of mass distraction as Cornell West puts it, right? Our phones, our social media, whatever we can distract ourselves. So our, our brain’s like, ah, You don’t really have to pay attention to that. Pay attention to this instead. So that’s the first piece. The second piece with that is where we can actually start to see, you know, the kindest thing, this goes back to kindness, right?

The kindest thing I can do for myself is actually learn To, to get curious about what this unpleasantness feels like. And when we become intimate with ourselves again, then we learn, Oh, it’s not as scary as I thought. And it’s actually not once we, once we can see it clearly, we’re like, Oh, that’s unpleasant, but it’s not terrible.

My head’s not going to explode.

[00:48:18] Gabby: I think that’s always fun when you have like that one friend or maybe if you’re fortunate, it’s your partner that you can go like, Hey, because I feel like sometimes you have that one person you can share your real dirt with, like your self dirt, your inner dirt, your shameful thoughts, the way you really wanted to react, but you didn’t.

And when they’re just like, I feel that way too, or whatever, um, there’s something really liberating with that practice and just be, and even being like, Hey, I want to take that whole, you know, pizza and shove it in my face right now. Maybe I’m not going to, but I absolutely would like to. And I understand why, because, you know, in this moment, uh, you know, I I’m, my family is making me nuts or I’m making myself nuts or whatever.

And I feel like when we can do that, like you said, it’s becomes less scary.

[00:49:07] Dr. Jud Brewer: Yeah, totally. And I think, yeah, I was just going to say, Krista Neff has a beautiful word for this. She calls it common humanity. Right. And I, I see this all the time, whether it’s, um, you know, in our online community where, you know, we run these groups and somebody says something and then everybody’s like, Oh yeah, me too.

Or it’s just our partner. Like you’re saying, it could be a friend or, you know, our partner where they’re like, Oh yeah, you’re not crazy. We, I feel that too. You know, there’s something about that common humanity that just helps us, you know, check that, scratch that itch of am I crazy? No, you know, to me, the only, the only true psychiatric condition is the human condition.

And once we can see that we share this, it’s just, it just relieves the burdens. It’s like, we can take a deep breath and be like, thank goodness. Yeah. It’s not just

[00:50:05] Gabby: me. No. And I, you know, this feels important to me because I feel like a lot of people struggle with this. Otherwise you wouldn’t have written this book, right?

Like, obviously there’s a lot of this going on. And I was telling, talking to her, my friend Mark the other day, and he’s like this very brawny, Smart, you know, and I said, you know, it’s interesting at my age, I do these interviews, maybe I’m being interviewed and I get asked questions. Like I, people think I know something right?

Like, Oh, you’ve stayed in shape for 35 years or whatever. And I’m like, I feel each day I am flip flopping through life. Like every day I don’t. And when you’re younger and you have that feeling, you think, Oh, this is what you do when you’re younger. You know, you kind of meander and try to figure it out.

And, and I realize even if you’re older, maybe you have better habits. Right. Because that’s what it is. And it’s maybe wisdom because you’ve done it enough times that you will go, okay, I don’t need to slam my hand in the car door, but you still feel like you’re just kind of getting through and you don’t, you don’t really know.

And so I think it feels really important to remind people that probably never goes away. You just, you’ve kind of gone around the track enough times and been curious enough times that you sort of go, this seems to work better. Um, but we don’t know when we don’t stop struggling and stop losing night’s sleep.

Sometimes being concerned about things like, I think it’s just really important. So you, To, to just say, yeah, okay, I might have better habits, but I, I don’t, you know, certainly don’t not struggle with it, uh, craving tool. You have a really helpful part in this, in the, in your book about this and different phases of it.

[00:51:55] Dr. Jud Brewer: Yeah, that actually started, I got the idea for this when I was getting on a plane to go across the country and, and the, you know, the people offered me some snack and it was, it was like, you know, uh, packaged crackers or something that were like day glow orange. And I, um, you know, I imagined. So in that moment, I imagined eating them and what I would feel like, and my stomach turned and I said, Oh, wait a minute.

This actually sums up a lot of the research that we’ve been doing. And so I said, can we make this into a pragmatic tool that people can use? And so we call it the craving tool now. And the idea is that we’re going to, so our brains are these prediction machines. They’re simulating the brain. Behaviors based on our past experience.

And so what my brain did, it said, Hey, I’ve had those electric orange crackers before. What happened? Oh, it didn’t, didn’t go so well, like not very nourishing. And so I simulated eating them, right? I wasn’t doing this consciously. It was just like, my brain was like, do you want them or not? No. You know, after I, my stomach turned and so I was like, can we make that a conscious process?

So with the craving tool, I have people. Yeah. Pay attention as they eat, whether it’s an amount of food or a type of food so that they can collect that information. And as they collect that information, that’s their data bank, whether it’s a disenchantment or an enchantment data bank, right? This also plays, works out the exact same way with healthy food, right?

For me, it shifted from gummy worms to blueberries. I love it because I, I could,

[00:53:34] Gabby: I love that you had a gummy worm addiction. I was like, Whoa.

[00:53:39] Dr. Jud Brewer: Yeah. Yeah, I know. I know. I know. And I, I, we, we still have gummy things in our house. Now my wife doesn’t even offer them to me. Cause she knows, cause I can look at them.

Like, how did I ever like these things? You know, they look like a fishing lure. Well, they sure, they sure hooked me, so to speak. So, so anyway. We developed that and the craving tool is based on that. So it’s like, I ate gummy worms. I paid attention. I was like, and I developed that disenchantment database. So we all can develop that disenchantment database, whether it’s a type of food or it’s an amount of food, we can also develop the enchantment database if it’s a type or an amount, right?

So it’s like for me, blueberries game on. I just had some this morning. They were delicious. So, right. And that, that helps us develop that disenchantment database and then use it to simulate the next time, you know, whether it’s in the plane or whether we’re going into the refrigerator, just thinking I want something or whatever it is, where we can do that simulation before we do the behavior.

So eventually we don’t have to, we can, we can simulate and we know what we’re going to get. And that actually goes back to what you were talking about earlier. That goes back to where you’re like, you know, this kind of worked for me better. I call that wisdom. We develop wisdom, right? You’ve got a lot of wisdom under your belt because you know what didn’t work.

Oh, come on. You’re being modest, right? You know what didn’t work and you know what works, right? But it took time to develop that. And so you can simulate, Hey, if I don’t do this, this is what’s going to happen. If I do do this, whether it’s a stretching exercise or whether it’s, you know, whatever it is going on social media for 20 minutes versus, you know, doing a mindfulness practice, whatever, it could be anything.

We developed that wisdom over time. And that’s what the craving tool is based on.

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You, you, this brings up a point for me that it felt really important where you talk about low fat food problem. Um, because a lot of times too, if we’re not eating the right things where we feel unsatisfied, unsatiated. And so you made a point to highlight that.

[00:58:10] Dr. Jud Brewer: Yeah, you know, there are books and books that are written on all that.

Ways that the food industry engineers, you know, food to, from the bliss point to the vanishing caloric density and whatnot. And I just highlight this because this was a historical, we’re going to look back on this as a hiccup, right? So it was somewhere, somebody got in their head that, you know, fat was bad for us, right back in the eighties and the food industry was like, Yeah, let’s push the button on that one.

Let’s hit the, give you the microphone and you start screaming. Because what they realized was that our body is gonna take in sugar and it’s gonna say, this is a great source of calories, I’m gonna store it as fat. And it’s also not going to feel full. So we eat, you know, we eat refined carbohydrates, carbohydrates, we eat sugar and we want more and we want more and we want more, right?

Because our body’s saying, Hey, there could be a famine. I’m going to stock up. So they’re like, Hey, low fat, it’s good and go good for you. And it gets people to eat more. So they sell more, they make more money. All of this at the detriment of our health. So fortunately people got onto that. It took decades to do that.

That’s why I say that’s going to be a hiccup.

[00:59:22] Gabby: Historically. There’s still in it. You’ll still people occasionally, they’re usually a little bit older. Like, well, how much fat I’m like, if it’s good fat. I think we’re okay. You know? Yeah. And yeah, it’s a very important component to feeling satisfied and feeling full.

So I, and also, especially for women, even more, your hormones, so many things, like if I wanted to trick every female, I’d say, if you want your skin to look pretty, make sure you eat enough, Not enough healthy fat, but literally it’s like how we break through. We hear these things that aren’t even true. And then we can’t get off it.

People talk about calories. I’m like, okay, but what kind of calories? So I guess again, reinforcing. To just eat the real stuff as much as you can and not be, that’s the other thing is don’t become afraid of food, but you know, just try to figure out, um, you know, what, what works that is going to support you.

Um, you, There’s something I really loved about, you know, you talk about firing, uh, you know, the committee that’s inside your mind during, during some of the process. And I, I one time interviewed Byron Katie and I was talking to her about something and she goes, yes. I’m never in good company when I’m up in here.

And she pointed into her head. So this was important enough to you to write a chapter about it.

[01:00:47] Dr. Jud Brewer: Yes. I see this so much and like Byron Katie is pointing out, like this is common humanity where we’ve got these voices in our heads and they convince us that we should listen to them. And a lot of them are judgmental.

They’re not nice. They’re some of them are just flat out mean. And though they’re all habits. Every single one of those voices is a habit that we’ve become familiar and then comfortable with. And once we’re familiar and comfortable, we just assume that they’re there to help us out. Most of them are not.

Most of them have been societally conditioned. Whether it’s movies, whether it’s our families, whether it’s our cultures, where it’s like we have to judge ourselves, right? We’re in a very judgmental culture. We have to, you know, be hard on ourselves, you know, whatever that is. And we don’t stop and ask, Hey, is this a good committee member?

Is this one that’s just kind of weaseled its way onto the committee? And now it’s really loud. It got the microphone.

[01:01:49] Gabby: It’s so interesting, you know, this idea, instead of also being scared of all this, you know, I feel like you get to a place in life where you go, I think this is how it is. Because this is how we learn.

This is how we get better. Not to be afraid of that. And, and, and not to be like, what’s wrong with me that I have all these negative thoughts, but to be like, I think it’s pretty natural because this is how we get through it and get stronger. But really being, giving ourselves permission to be like, And I have to get rid of you.


[01:02:23] Dr. Jud Brewer: hard to do. It is. So there are two things. There are three things that are the help. One is kindness to ourselves, right? It’s like, Oh, you know, I set up these habits. My brain just got miswired a little bit and that’s okay. Right. This happens to a lot of people. The second piece is. Is that we can bring in the curiosity is our superpower and start asking, and we can start asking questions like, Oh, is this committee member helpful?

Or are there other committee members that just aren’t getting a voice? And then we can use the same leveraging process and start asking how helpful is, you know, go around each committee member. What have you done for me lately? And if they’re not helpful, we get that negative, we get that negative prediction error and they get kicked off the committee.

Because our brain’s like, I’m not listening to you anymore. You haven’t helped me in years. In fact, I don’t know if you’ve ever helped me. And Hey, kindness, can you speak up a little bit? I want to, I want to listen to you a little bit more.

[01:03:21] Gabby: It’s funny. I feel like as we get through life a little more and through time, the more childlike, And, and the more simple we can approach it, I, I actually feel like that is performance.

You know, I’ve gone back and through performance seven times already and, and, and in a way what keeps landing for me is this simplicity and this childlike kind of approach to things where you can even say like, well, that doesn’t feel good. You know, when you’re literally, that’s how you talk. I don’t like this.

Yeah. And somehow we lose some of that, or we have, we’re so busy and so stressed out. And I really, I appreciate that reminders so much rain. Can we, can we break down raining on the, on the, you know, craving kind of monsters? Sure.

[01:04:14] Dr. Jud Brewer: Yeah. And the craving monster was beautifully articulated by a woman in the, in the book named Jackie.

And I just want to say, give us a shout out to all the people that lended their stories to the book, because they, they’re really what make this come alive. And they’re the inspiration. You know, it’s like all the folks that suffer in all these different ways. But it was Tracy, Jackie talks

[01:04:34] Gabby: about the one who was the one who gave you the heads up about like, Oh, my eating’s changing in this other practice.

I feel like she was the one I could be wrong anyway. Sorry.

[01:04:46] Dr. Jud Brewer: No, that’s okay. Yeah. And Tracy was the one pounding carrots in graduate school when she was stressed out. Yeah. So Jackie describes this craving monster that she would constantly fighting with for decades. And every time she fought with it, it just got stronger.

It would chase her around and eventually it would always win. And so, She did this radical thing. So with this acronym that I actually didn’t come up with it, Michelle McDonald, I first came up with this and she’s a Western meditation teacher where it’s a, you know, R stands for recognize a stands for accept.

I stands for investigate. And, and. In the traditional sense, D. O. N. stands for non identification. We’ve modified it a little bit and then studied it to see how well it works, you know, clinically, whether it’s smoking or eating or even, you know, anxiety. And the idea here is, with this craving monster, instead of fighting it, Right.

Instead of resisting it, we’ve got to recognize, Oh, here’s the craving monster, and then we allow it to be like, okay, here it is. So if we fight it, you know, what you resist persists. Right. So it’s going to stick around. So instead, we invited him and we’re like, okay, craving monster, come on now. And then the I stands for investigation.

We get curious, like, Oh, what does this craving actually feel like? And we start, and we dispel this myth. That comes with the fear, like, Oh, no, to, Oh, this is what it is. And we get curious, Oh, this is what a craving feels like. And we actually use that curiosity to turn toward it and move toward it. And then the obstacle becomes the way, right?

We’re like, Oh, this isn’t so bad. And so the N just stands for noting. It really supports the, the, the curiosity piece where we note, what does a craving feel like? Oh, it feels like this. It feels like this. It feels like this. And then we get to see it’s components that feel like X, Y, and Z, and they come and go, because often people think, Oh, cravings going to last forever.

I actually have my patients time it. I’m like, okay, time it. And I also, you know, like the joke is, well, if it’s lasted forever, you should still have the one that you started years ago when you come to my office right now. And they’re like nine. Okay. Okay. I get it. They don’t. 12 minutes is the rec 12 or 13 minutes is the record so far, at least in the, in my experience with a lot of folks.

So we get to see cravings aren’t as scary. These monsters aren’t really monsters and they actually can be vehicles for change if we lean into them. And that’s what the curiosity helps us do.

[01:07:15] Gabby: You know, I love that. Do you, do you ever have like when Laird stopped drinking alcohol, he did have a Pellegrino bottle, you know, there was a replacement.

Um, and that was obviously a. Pretty intense habits. Do you offer like, is it like, Hey, when it hits, you know, look at it and feel it, but is it maybe good to get up and change your environment or go take a walk or do something different or call somebody? Is there, is there ever kind of an idea to honor, look at it, be curious, but also maybe it’s to endure it.

You could do something. That is not destructive, but impositive.

[01:07:56] Dr. Jud Brewer: Yeah. I think of those as training wheels, not in a derogatory or negative sense, right? Training wheels really helpful. Uh, but they, so the reason they’re training wheels and not the bicycle itself is that we could become, we could substitute one habit for another.

And we haven’t actually learned to work with the underlying mechanism. So once we learned to work with it, that’s where we don’t need the training wheels anymore. So I’m guessing Laird doesn’t need the Pellegrino bottle every time. Right. Yeah, but it might’ve been a useful support and in that sense.

[01:08:30] Gabby: Oh, It was like, um, you know, for a few months and then, you know, yeah,

[01:08:37] Dr. Jud Brewer: the other thing we can use.

So curiosity, kindness, super helpful there. Right. And those become our lifelong supports. They’re not training wheels. They’re the real deal. But the other thing that we can bring in there with this is that we can start, you know, we’re, we’re really, as we, as we’re starting to explore this, we can start asking this question, what do I actually need?

Yeah. As compared to what do I want because that’s where we’re getting at the root of why we’re reaching for whatever we’re reaching for.

[01:09:11] Gabby: It’s funny because You know the slowing it down and you you talk a lot in the book about how we have separated so much from our bodies And this feeling but dropping into a question like that even daily maybe sometimes I think is so helpful. Just kind of hitting that pause. You, you share about changing the, our relationship to eating.

So the mapping and, um, you know, changing our reward value and finding, uh, you know, other rewarding behaviors. So people, I think they, you know, they get into these habits, but you really do help them shift and figure out a way to get a new, build new habits and new relationships and new types of rewards.

[01:09:57] Dr. Jud Brewer: Yeah. And I think of these, you know, categorically as finding these bigger, better offers. And so, you know, the simple example in my life that I give in the book is, you know, gummy, gummy worms, not so rewarding blueberries game on. Yeah. But that even goes beyond food. Where if we are reaching for food because of our mood, so if we’re stressed or lonely or anxious or whatever, and we’re reaching for food, we can learn, oh, that doesn’t actually solve the problem, and then we can reach for what we need, right, support, uh, you know, whatever it is that meets that need.

Instead of feeding that want. And so there we’re finding a bigger, better offer because our brain is saying, Hey, this new behavior is better than the old one. And then we naturally form that as the habit. So, you know, we reach for the phone if we’re lonely, instead of reaching for the refrigerator.

[01:10:55] Gabby: I even think sometimes like when I go to the, uh, cause I go to the grocery store all the time when I see certain food, right.

And I like it too. Like who doesn’t like a pop tart? You know what I mean? Like, I mean, come on, but when I see it, I think, Oh, that’s not my friend. I don’t ever say to myself, you can’t have that. You shouldn’t need that. I just look at it. I go, yeah, I don’t think that’s my friend.

[01:11:18] Dr. Jud Brewer: So double click on that. Why isn’t it your friend?

Why not just eat pop tarts breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

[01:11:25] Gabby: Well, it’s just not going to make me feel good. Number one. And number two. I have a physical, I have physical goals. Like I’m trying to do certain things and I just know that that that’s like the friend that’s like, come sit on the couch, don’t worry about moving around.

Like let’s watch a movie. Like that’s just not my friend in any way. It’s not a good source of fuel. It’s not going to be like, you can do it. It’s just going to go against me in things that are already hard to do. Like. So I, I want, I just have learned, uh, I can have whatever I want. It’s just not my friend.

I look at it. I go, this is like, it’s not my friend.

[01:12:04] Dr. Jud Brewer: So that’s a beautiful example of the disenchantment with the pop tart, right? It’s not your friend because it’s not rewarding and your friend is whatever the non pop tart is. You know, caloric says, uh, you know, caloric thing is right.

[01:12:23] Gabby: If people are going through things though, where they, maybe there’s a kind of a self loathing, you know, like it’s happening like, Oh, you’re not, you’re not, it’s not worthy.

You’re not worthy. Sometimes then you think, Oh, well, I deserve shitty friends then, you know, like I wonder If if if within that because I used to think about that a little bit with the cell phone I used to think will my kids get to a place where they go? Wait a second. Um, you’re not for me So actually i’m starting to get aggravated like, you know When you stand up for yourself finally against something and you go, oh wait, this is not for me But I I think in these sometimes these nuances There’s there is a it’s very uh You Fragile, depending on someone’s state of mind.


[01:13:10] Dr. Jud Brewer: it is. And so this is where the more we can learn how our minds work when we’re not in a fragile state, right? When we’re in a growth mindset and we can be learning, Oh, this is how my mind works, the more we’re going to be in the position where we’ve got that stable foundation so that when that fragility arises, which is going to come up for all of us.

We can know how to work with it skillfully as compared to just react to it. Habitually

[01:13:38] Gabby: what is, I never heard this, a pleasure plateau.

[01:13:44] Dr. Jud Brewer: Yeah, well, I, you haven’t heard it. Cause I kind of made it up, but it’s based on a bunch of research. Yeah. Yeah. So, uh, I got the idea for this just, it’s a, I think visually often, and when I’m with my patients, I’ll get this image.

I’m like, oh, it’s kind of like this. And it sometimes helps them understand, you know, a complex concept in a simple way. And so the idea, actually, I have a friend, Dana Small, who, uh, she’s a food researcher at Yale, and she did this awesome experiment for her PhD thesis, where, where she put people in a pet scanner so she could scan their brains, and then she just fed them their favorite chocolate.

The catch to this was, She just kept feeding them until they were like the guy in the Monty Python movement and movie where he’s like, you know, the guy’s like, would you like a mint? And he’s like, I couldn’t possibly eat anything. And he’s like, here. And then the guy explodes, right? And so that’s basically their heads basically explode because she’s feeding them, you know, they’ve signed a waiver and all this, but, and obviously nobody gets hurt in this experiment, but it feels pretty bad when you’re like, okay.

Eating something that you absolutely love to the point where you absolutely hate it in the same period of time. And so the way I think of that is she, and she, she mapped this out beautifully. So especially when we’re hungry, let’s use chocolate as an example. It’s going to taste really good. First bite, second bite, third bite.

As we reach satiety, right? Our body’s going to say, Hey, You got to slow down and it’s going to say it by making that same thing that just tasted really good, not taste as good, same thing, food hasn’t changed, but we have changed because we’re now more full. This is our wisdom of our body saying, slow down.

So we go up the hill and then we start to hit this plateau where our body is saying, this is not as good. And then we can, if we pay attention, we coast to a stop, but a lot of us don’t pay attention and we just habitually. Clean the plate or whatever. And we go off, we go off that cliff of overindulgence and we don’t pay attention there either.

You don’t think of all the holidays where we’ve gorged ourselves and we’re like, Oh, that was terrible. Oh, I feel horrible. And then we go and do it again later, the next holiday meal. Cause it’s a habit, right? So that’s that pleasure plateau because we’ve got all this wisdom. If we just listen to our bodies.

[01:16:04] Gabby: I just, you know, putting it in that kind of graph way and you even do it in the book, I think is important for people because sometimes when we can just, even if we’re in a state, if we can jump outside, get that 30, 000 foot view, I think that that really is helpful. And it’s just almost like a map when we’re feeling lost or spun around.

Um, and, and kind of. Closing this up, I do want to talk a little bit about the different type parts of the brain, different ways that the brain works, right? Like the planning brain and the, you know, you, I think a lot of us don’t realize that there’s just a lot going on and there is, and that a lot of it is not that it’s not in our control, but just again, having a better understanding.

I think you start to connect with what’s happening.

[01:17:00] Dr. Jud Brewer: Yeah. And again, you know, the, the short piece there that’s important for everybody to know is awareness is what helps us connect with what’s happening. And so just at a, at a high level, the, you know, we’ve got this habit part of our brain that we’ve talked about, but then as you highlight, there’s another part of the brain where we plan for the future, right.

Also helpful from a survival standpoint. And those two often get mixed together. Where, you know, it’s like our survival habits, like fear, helpful, planning, helpful, but when you mix those together, you get anxiety, which is fear of the future. And so if we just, if we don’t know that we’ve got these different systems that are doing different important things, but that they are different, they can get crossed, those wires get crossed, and then we learn to eat.

Not when we’re hungry, but because we’re stressed or whatever. We learn to worry. We learn to listen to these committee members in our heads because we think, Oh, this is helpful, but in fact, it’s just a habit.

[01:18:01] Gabby: It is amazing how we can bring kind of seriousness and like it’s real to almost anything if we work hard enough at it.

It’s amazing. I mean, I do it at 3am. I can wake up at 3am and really be thinking about a lot of things. And I’m so funny because I’m like, there’s nothing better to learn. You’re sitting there watching yourself going, this isn’t even real. And by the way, there’s nothing that this is doing. To make this better.

And you’re just like, yeah, and I’m on this ride, you know?

[01:18:29] Dr. Jud Brewer: Well, what’s the Tom Petty song. Um, there’s a line in, um, one of his songs where he’s like, most things I worry about never happen anyway. Something like that. Um, coming back to you, I think. Yeah. Anyway. Yeah. That’s

[01:18:43] Gabby: it. So if someone’s listening to this, I want to end this with just, People feel stuck all the time, you know, they come and see you.

And even when we know what to do, we, we get stuck. And what’s just one thing, what’s a starting a very simple starting point of like, Hey, you’re stuck.

[01:19:04] Dr. Jud Brewer: Kindness. Full stop. Kindness. Like, Oh, I’m stuck. Acknowledging it. Acknowledging that we’re not the only person that gets stuck. And then just taking a moment, whether it’s just putting our hand on her heart, giving ourselves a hug, taking a deep breath, just starting with a moment of kindness, full stop.

[01:19:30] Gabby: I feel like I’ve had these conversations for the last three or four years and

love and kindness. Keep showing up in so many different ways as a, a very, a really important place to, to, to start. And it feels like the world’s always telling us, like, I always thought it was like, Oh, push into everything, white knuckle it, you know, dominate. Be aggressive and then you start to learn. Well, yeah, that might get you so far.

Um, but it’s really realizing the, like what you’re saying, love and kindness probably is the most unlimited source of energy and power that we can tap into. And

[01:20:17] Dr. Jud Brewer: paradoxically, it helps us. Start to lean in because we’re listening to the wisdom of our bodies, so we don’t push ourselves too far where we get hurt or we go over the edge.

[01:20:30] Gabby: So the eating app is eat right now, right? Okay. Yes. Um, and will you just share with people a little bit about how that works? So if they, they can go and check it out.

[01:20:40] Dr. Jud Brewer: So the eat right now app is, is a 28 day, you know, core modules where it’s about 10 minutes a day of, of animations that kind of drive a key point home each day and then give them something to practice with a lot of tools in there.

We have an online community. I run a. But zoom group every week for anybody that’s in the program, they can join it at noon Eastern. You can come join us next week if you want. Uh, so we, you know, we really try to make this comprehensive for people and the book, the, the hunger habit book is actually written based on the research that we did with the right now program.

And I’ll, and I’m so proud of our team. It’s right now is actually, uh, the first, uh, CDC recognized diabetes prevention program. Now that’s based in mindfulness. You

[01:21:30] Gabby: mean they’re actually going to do one thing that’s good? That’s awesome. Oh, wow. You mean they just woke up? Good job guys. Yay. Okay. Um, Oh, geez.

Don’t get me.

Jumper. If I’ve missed something, if there’s an invitation, if, if, If something feels really important to you that I missed, I just want to invite you to, to say it before I let you go. Cause I, I really appreciate having you and getting the chance to talk to you.

[01:22:06] Dr. Jud Brewer: Well, thank you. You didn’t miss anything, but I’ll just reiterate the two things that we talked about.

Curiosity and kindness, kindness and curiosity, their best friends. They’re our best friends. And so just, I just put this out there. Imagine if we all could develop just a little bit more curiosity and kindness, how much better we can make the world starting with ourselves and then spreading that to others.

[01:22:31] Gabby: Okay. I have to ask one question cause it does prompt it. So let’s say it’s a day and you’ve blown it. It happens and maybe you didn’t do, you ate a certain way and then you didn’t exercise and it’s, you’re going to bed, you know, my feeling is we don’t, we, I feel like having a plan in place of sorts of strategy ahead is usually helpful so that when we have these emotional moments or we’re vulnerable, we kind of have a, a, a directive place to go to, like, Oh, I was, I’m eating this lunch or that my I’m exercising at 7 a.

  1. or whatever it is. Do you think getting back to that plan is made easier by this kindness? A

[01:23:13] Dr. Jud Brewer: hundred percent. And here, I’m going to throw out something that might sound really radical to people, which is You know, we often think, Oh, two steps forward, one step backward, or sometimes it feels like one step forward, two steps backwards or three steps backwards, or I fell in my face and I’m never getting up.

What I would suggest here for us to, for people to contemplate. Is one, do we learn more when we’ve fallen down than we, when we’ve just walked in a straight line? So to me, yes. And then two, can we take that and ask the question, Hey, if I’m tripping and I’m learning and I’m learning more than I would have otherwise, does that count as failure?

Right? So there may, this is a radical thing. If we look at it that way and we can try this ourselves. Is there anything that moves us backwards as long as we’re open to learning from it?

Yeah, nothing that I can think of but that that starts with kindness and being open to learning in

[01:24:20] Gabby: that moment What if you have patients that come though and they just have they have excuses to death? I think making that make that distinction for people that you’re you’re being Forthcoming with yourself.

It is not about making excuses because that can get you. I think that gets tricky Do you have a line or anything that you use on patients that try to do that

[01:24:41] Dr. Jud Brewer: to you? Well, let me try this line on you. Um, how well did that work for you the last time you had an excuse? Yeah,

[01:24:50] Gabby: I mean, I don’t even bother.

[01:24:53] Dr. Jud Brewer: Yeah, there it is.

There’s the wisdom.

[01:24:55] Gabby: Listen, I have teenagers. I even get right. I just, I, when I see that I’ve really kind of blown it quickly, I don’t even bother trying to figure it or reframe it. I just go like, Hey, sorry. Yeah, sorry. Blew it. Cause I know I’m about to get eat my lunch. You know what I mean?

[01:25:06] Dr. Jud Brewer: Yeah. And they respect you for that, right?

They’re like, Oh, she’s human.

[01:25:10] Gabby: Well, I really appreciate it. Jabir, the book, people can find it. Did you do an Audible as well? You did, right? I did. Okay, so The Hunger Habit, but I think it’s like a workbook. I think these kind of books people can listen to because then they go, oh, I got the idea, but I think it’s something nice to have and hold.

And Eat Right Now is the app, and maybe just share all the places people can

[01:25:32] Dr. Jud Brewer: find you. Uh, my website’s drjud. com, d r j u d. com. And I’m on jud. So at dr. jud, uh, and thanks for having me. It’s been a pleasure talking with you. It’s great seeing

[01:25:47] Gabby: you again. Maybe next time I’ll see you on the islands. We’ll do it live.

[01:25:51] Dr. Jud Brewer: I would love it.

[01:25:53] Gabby: Thank you.


About Dr. Judson Brewer

Jud Brewer, MD, Ph.D. (“Dr. Jud”) is a New York Times best-selling author and thought leader in the field of habit change and the “science of self-mastery,” who blends over 20 years of experience with mindfulness training and a career in scientific research. He is passionate about understanding how our brains work, and how to use that knowledge to help people make deep, permanent change in their lives — with the goal of reducing suffering in the world at large.

Dr. Jud is the director of research and innovation at Brown University’s Mindfulness Center, where he also serves as an associate professor in Behavioral and Social Sciences at the School of Public Health and Psychiatry at the School of Medicine at Brown University. Additionally, he is the executive medical director of behavioral health at Sharecare, the digital health company helping people manage all their health in one place, and a research affiliate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Previously, Dr. Jud held research and teaching positions at Yale University and the University of Massachusetts’ Center for Mindfulness. Read more about his research.