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By Valerie Driscoll, Lead Coach and Coaching Program Developer for Apollo Health

“Off the wagon” is a term I often hear from clients or participants during a check-in, as they tell me, ‘I got off the wagon, and now I am struggling to get back on.’ This concept of being on or off is a holdover from the antiquated habit-change mentality that links success to willpower. Not only is it outdated, but it also creates shame. An abundance of evidence that tells us that habits do not change easily in shame.

We here at Apollo like to help participants create skill-power rather than relying on willpower to make protocol success because building a skillset supports long-term lifestyle change. One of the skills that I like to use with my clients and participants is the idea of “braking” the wagon rather than “breaking” it and falling off. Sometimes, slowing down a little when adopting the Bredesen Protocol can ultimately help one stick with it. Paradoxically enough, just giving ourselves the option of not having to be perfect leads to perfection.

As this piece addresses both ReCODE and PreCODE participants, it is important to realize the distinctions and the level of braking that may be appropriate. As a coach and facilitator, I always stress that the closer the compliance to the protocol, the greater the success. Those trying to reverse cognitive decline will always need to lean into the protocol with more urgency than those who are trying to prevent it.

Braking will also be different for different personalities, so it is important to honor who you are: some rarely need to slow down once they decide to begin the protocol, while others need to brake every now and then to stay with it for the long haul. One of our PreCODE Program™ participants from the Mastering Nutrition for Cognition with KetoFLEX 12/3 educational support group recently admitted to being a rebel. She knows that if she feels too restricted, she will blow it all up, so she picks her battles. ReCODE and PreCODE are lifestyles that are adopted for a lifetime; for some, it takes longer than others. Know yourself, accept yourself, and do your best. Most importantly, practice self-compassion, as discovering your own way through the Bredesen world is not easy; we see again and again, however, that it is doable for everyone.

Below are a few practical tips help to brake and not break the wagon:

1. Practice thinking about adopting the mindset of this as an adventure, much like navigating your wagon through winding and challenging terrain. Notice your mindset, and if it could use some revision, try it, even if at first you don’t believe what you are saying to yourself.

2. Plan ahead. Try to anticipate the curves coming up and how to best maneuver through them. Some examples:

● I am going to a party, and there will be a lot of drinking. What can I bring that will help me feel festive and also eliminate or reduce my alcohol consumption? 

● My favorite dessert is on the menu; what is the smallest amount I can eat that will satisfy me? Can I ask for half a piece and tell the server to eat the rest? What would it be like to skip it?

● This is going to be a busy week coming up. How can I carefully schedule my exercise, so I do not blow it off? What do I need most to make it happen? 

● My sister, the night owl, is coming to visit. I know that she will feel disappointed if I don’t stay up with her to watch our favorite movies, but I also know it is going to throw me off schedule. How do I have this conversation with her? What might be a compromise I can make and still take care of myself?

3. Celebrate the wins! A lot. It gives us humans a little hit of dopamine whenever we celebrate big, so do it; there is nothing too small to celebrate.

4. Remember that the braking process is always in the service of forwarding movement. If the forward momentum ultimately stops, it is not a brake; it is broken and needs to be fixed; fixing is forward movement.

Happily, the PreCODE and ReCODE Program(s) get easier the longer you do them, and less braking will be required. The most beautiful part of the Bredesen Protocol® is as the body and the brain becomes healthier, staying on the road feels less like forging a new trail and more like cruising.

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