Jeff Gaines: Why is Everyone So Fat, Broke and Busy? (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of personal development consultant Jeff Gaines’ TEDx Talk: Why is Everyone So Fat, Broke and Busy? at TEDxAlbany 2010 conference. To learn more about the speaker, read the bio here.


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Jeff Gaines – Speaker and consultant

So why is everyone so fat, broke, and busy?

First of all, are we fat, broke, and busy as a nation? Let’s look at some statistics. 65% or more of America is overweight or obese. 65% or more of Americans are in a bad financial situation. And again, over 60% of Americans are by their own standards busier than they want to be.

So as I go around the nation, talking to people about, you know, throwing out to audience this notion of fat, broke, and busy, I have yet to have anybody say, you know, “how dare you say that?” Usually people say, yeah, that’s kind of us. You know, people aren’t usually surprised by the statistics. In the shorter presentation I’m not going to go deeper into them, but trust me, there’s more, right?

But really who would go around the country calling people fat? I mean, what kind of person says such a thing, right?

So let me be clear on where I’m coming from with that angle. It’s not the school-run bully version of fat we’re talking about. I think part of what we’re going to need to address as we understand what’s causing this is the change of mentality, change of mindset we need to have around it, right? It’s a growing issue, it’s a growing crisis. And I think it’s one that not all people know about; it hasn’t really risen to the point of people taking action yet.

And you’re going to hear a lot in my presentation, throughout the day about, what it takes to get to the tipping point where people actually act, people actually do something about it.

And so the jovial version of fat, if you will, my apologies if it’s offensive. But let’s talk about a study — a study that was done and there is a fascinating amount of science and research coming out about the brain and human behavior. I’m going to just use one as an example. They called it the Magic Drink study where they took three groups.

Group one, they called the full SoBe; you’ve heard of this drink SoBe, right? $5 bottle has whatever it has in it. And they took this — you know, it used to be that psychological experiments were performed on animals but that was deemed inhumane. So now they’re performed on college students.

So they took these three different groups of college students, and they took Group 1 and they said, “All right, we’ve come to believe that when you drink SoBe, because of the ingredients in it, it temporarily increases blood flow to the brain and it makes you smarter. So what we’re going to do is give you some Sobe, have you drink it and then put you through some tests to see how you do. But we’re are University, so we’re kind of broke. So you need to pay for your SoBe”. So they deducted from their meal plan the five bucks or whatever it is. Given the SoBe, let it soak in and then they take the test.

Now, Group 2: this is our controlled group. No SoBe. They didn’t tell them about SoBe, they just brought them and said, “We’re going to give you these tests and see how you do?” So they have a means of comparison.

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Group 3: The cheap SoBe group. Same spill with the SoBe, they give them the SoBe, tell them it’s going to make you smarter and all that. But they say we got a great deal on SoBe. We got some discount SoBe for you. So your SoBe is only 80 cents. And then they test and see how they did.

Now who do you think did the best group: one, two, or three? Let’s find out.

Turns out that compared to the no SoBe group to controlled group, the full SoBe group did slightly better. Now what does this say about the human brain where we could take people, give them a drink and say this is going to make you smarter and they’re actually smarter! I mean, isn’t that amazing?

But what was even more amazing to me is the cheap SoBe group did significantly worse. Now why would that be? They fell into the typical American consumer mindset of: if I got something on the cheap it’s probably not as good, right? So they’re thinking where did they get my SoBe from? Probably fell off the back of a truck. It probably got E coli.

So really what this shows is a couple of different very important things when it comes to understanding our behavior. One, all of these groups got exactly what they expected to get. So it really shows the power of beliefs, the placebo effect, right? You’ve seen things like this.

But it also shows another interesting driver of humanity and it puts forth a hypothesis, if you will. And I would submit to you that the human brain is it’s vastly overrated, right, that it is really not the finely tuned beautiful machine that we sometimes think of it. It is full of flaws and problems and difficulties. And as is evidenced by this and the statistics on how we’re doing is, we’re not always making the right choice.

And so let’s talk about what gets in the way of making those choices and making the choices that we often know would be the right choice to make and then talk about how we can get to making those, right?

First of all, let’s talk about where our results come from. Where do our results come from? Behaviors. Behavior produces results. What you do gives you what you get. We could stop right here and we would be comparable to how most people live their lives and we would be as emotionally intelligent as most people, right?

You call up a friend here as you say I’m not happy with my job, what will they tell you? Quit. You can do better than that, right? Say I’m not happy with my relationship, what would they tell you? Dump, I never liked them anyway. Really what they’re going to say is if you don’t like your results, change your behavior, because what you do gives you what you get.

This right here is why I hate January in my gym. Why do you think that is? All the new year’s resolution people write, every January the place is packed full of people with new shoes and new shorts, huffing and wheezing up and down the court. By February they’ve all either quit or died and we can get back to life as usual.

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Most people’s approach to changing the results in their life comes from behavior modification, which is why most people don’t succeed at changing the results in our life. If you really want to make change, we’ve got to be smarter than to just try a different behavior.

Now you do have to change the behavior. But more importantly than what we do, we’ve got to get into why we do it. Why do you choose the behaviors you choose? Let’s talk about where they come from.

There are three main drivers of behavior. The first is called the Robot. We’ll talk about each of these in greater detail. But the robot is basically unconscious programming, your memory and all those kinds of things. So when you do things without thinking about it walking, talking, you’re not consciously thinking or the robot is in charge, if you will.

We also have a thing called the Motor, right? When your motor is in charge, that’s when you are driven by your emotions and emotions drive different decision-making: urges, desires, wants, fears, drives different kinds of decisions than the robot might do.

Or then our third driver which is the Thinker, the often under-used or misused part of our brains, that has reasoning and foresight be the basis of our choices.

Let’s do an example of how these three play together and then we’ll dive a little deeper into each of them, OK.

For example, let’s say, exercise. Let’s say, you get home four, five, six o’clock whatever and you’re contemplating exercise. What happens as you begin to have a conversation in your head of these three different drivers and they all have different roles to play and they all have different desires and urges and things that they do.

Let’s talk about how they come together. So you start to consider exercise and it turns out that the motor is the primary driver, not all that surprising at this point, right? So the motor contemplates exercise, hmm and it goes into the memory, and it says, OK, robot, what do we think of exercise? And the robot says you hate – crying, whining, maybe some bleeding, not something you like, right?

So your motor says, Ew, why would we do that? Thinker, why on earth would we exercise? And the thinker says, well, turns out we’re fat. And we have this high school reunion coming up and let me give you a picture of what it’s going to be like to walk into that high reunion right now. And the motor says ew, I don’t want that. Thinker, here’s the deal. Figure out a way that we can like going into that high school reunion without having to exercise now.

And so the thinking part of your brain goes to work and says, well, you know it’s five, six o’clock at night; it’s dark out. You know, there’s a lot of traffic on the road. It wouldn’t be safe to go out and run in that kind of situation. It’s a health consideration. What we need to do is get up tomorrow an hour before work and then exercise, then it’ll be quiet, right, we need a great start on our day, it will feel wonderful. Your motor says, that’s a a great plan; what’s on TV?