This section describes how to develop, as best as you can, the capacity to restrain against WANTING. Restraint means changing your thinking and then your behaviour in moments of WANTING. This section is about the processes of human decision making. WANTING, when it is reflexively triggered, gets shuttled up to what is called the executive system, front of our brain, the conscious part of our brain and the part of the brain where decisions get made.
To understand this part of the brain, think of it as being composed of two parts. To best understand this, when you have time, please reference this video, featuring Daniel Kahneman. One part is called the autopilot, or system one, and is a fast and automatic system of thinking and decision making that focuses on immediate gratification. The second is the potential hero of this story and is called the sleepy executive, or system two, which is a slow, deliberate system of thinking that is able, when considering choices, to weigh consequences and consider the future. To further understand the sleepy executive, or system two, there is one more key point: this part that thinks slowly and about the future, is usually fast asleep and not involved in most decisions. Most decisions get made by the first system, the autopilot, the fast thinking system, especially decisions around food. These automatic thoughts are also called ‘cognitive bias.’
This section discusses the skill of waking and using the sleepy executive to your advantage in moments of WANTING. These are the key decision moments regarding eating and drinking (and activity) that determine one’s best weight. This skill of restraint goes by many names in the literature, depending on whether you are reading neuroscience or psychology, but we will use the term ‘cognitive restraint,’ described by Rena Wing, the grandmother of behavioural weight management, as the “central behavioural attribute of those that sustainably lose weight.”