Your Primitive Brain | Weight Loss for Unstoppable Moms with Dr. Priyanka Venugopal

Episode #8: Your Primitive Brain

May 24, 2022

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Do you really know how your brain works? This episode is an exploration of how you think and the two parts of your brain that are driving every aspect of your life. They play a massive role in the results that you’re creating, so it’s time to gain a deeper understanding of them.

You have a higher-functioning, evolved, intentional part of your brain: your prefrontal cortex. However, you also have your primitive brain. Your primitive brain is responsible for your reflexes, like sensing danger and deciding whether something is good or bad, which is obviously useful. But when we don’t check in with our primitive brain, it can easily go down a negative path.

Tune in this week to discover everything there is to know about your primitive brain. I’m sharing how your primitive brain has been a powerful tool in keeping you alive for much of your life, but why now might be the time to get curious and see the way it’s holding you back from achieving the results you truly want.


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What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • What your primitive brain is and how it works.

  • Why it’s so important to be able to distinguish when you’re operating from your primitive brain.

  • How to approach your uncomfortable thoughts and emotions with curiosity.

  • Where our primitive brain came in very useful at one stage in our lives.

  • Why this reflexive, automatic, primitive side of your brain might be what’s keeping you stuck on the scale.

  • Two common thoughts our primitive brains offer us, why they’re not helpful, and how you can work to change this narrative.

  • How to start shifting from operating in your primitive brain to thinking from your more evolved prefrontal cortex.


Listen to the Full Episode:



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Full Episode Transcript:

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Hey, I'm Dr. Priyanka Venugopal and you're listening to Weight Loss for Unstoppable Moms, Episode Eight: Your Primitive Brain.  

Today's episode is an exploration of how you think, and the two parts of your brain that are driving every part of your life. They play a massive role in the results that you're creating for your body and the scale. 

If you want to reach your ideal weight and create lightness for your body, you need to have simplicity, joy, and strategic decisions infused into your life. I'm a physician turned life and weight loss coach for ambitious working moms. I've lost over 60 pounds without counting points, calories or crazy exercise plans. 

Most importantly, I feel calm and light on the scale and did my life. 

There's some delicious magic when you learn this work and the skills I'm going to be teaching you.  

Ready? Let's get to it. 

Hey, Hey, Unstoppable friend.  

How are you? Seriously, how are you doing?[00:01:00]  

I have had better days. I just got back from a blocking off my morning to watch my son's musical show at school. Now he's six and a half, but he is already a musician through and through. When he was two, he picked up a toy ukulele and just started jamming out to songs, like all the songs from One Direction and the Beatles... and seriously, it was the cutest thing ever. 

He started jamming out on the piano right around when COVID started, so about two, two and a half years ago. He was home from school and we were trying to manage working and work life and him being out of school, and we found this brilliant app to learn the piano on the iPad.  

It's called Piano Maestro, so if you have young kids, I highly recommend it. I'll link it for you in the show notes page.  

Over six months just using this app and the piano keyboard that we have, he taught himself how to play the piano. I mean, it's seriously, pretty mind blowing and I don't know where he gets his [00:02:00] musical talents from, because seriously, I don't think of myself or my husband's particularly musical.  

But it has been so special to watch him grow and just explore his passion for music, both the ukulele, the piano, and really any form of music. 

So, let me just tell you why my day is only going "all right." 

I blocked out my morning to go to his school for this musical show. And I'm thinking, you know, my kid's musician, this is going to be so good. Especially with the last two years, I barely have gotten to see him in school, I haven't gotten to go to like, you know, back to school nights and all of that, so, so excited about this opportunity to go and see him perform in school. 

So we get there and all of the first graders get up on stage. And my kid was the only one that starts doing all kinds of shenanigans. He starts shuffling around and he starts covering his face with his mask. And all the other kids are following along with the [00:03:00] instruction, they're all singing their songs and doing the cute hand gestures. 

And he was the only one on stage shuffling side to side covering his face.  

Now I had probably more than two simultaneous emotions flood me at the same time. 

I felt worry, like what's going on for him?  

I felt embarrassed, what are other people thinking? 

I felt annoyed, he knows better than this. 

And then I went back to worry and concern, what's up with him. 

I felt a flood of all of these emotions at the same time while also holding it together. 

Here's the thing because of this work that we're doing, that I'm sharing with you here on this podcast, I could just watch myself. I watched myself experience, worry, embarrassment, annoyance, concern all at the same time, I could see and observe all of the sentences that were pouring through my mind, many of them reflexively entering without [00:04:00] really conscious effort. 

What's going on for him.  

Is he okay?  

Oh, why is he doing that?  

None of the other kids are doing that.  

I wonder what the other parents are thinking.  

This is just a flavor of the many, many thoughts that were flooding my brain. I'm not saying that I didn't feel the terribleness in my body while I observed these sentences. I felt a delusion of worry, concern, embarrassment, and annoyance. And let me tell you feeling these emotions is not a party. But I'll also tell you this. I also knew that many of these reflexive thoughts, because I was practiced at observing them, was also coming from my most primitive thinking.  

I was feeling terrible because I was feeling this combination of worry and embarrassment and annoyance and concern. But I could also see that it was happening because of my primitive thinking.  

Yeah, he was just doing some things. He was shuffling around and not really singing the songs and not doing what the other kids were doing. 

But the reason that I was [00:05:00] feeling terrible is because I had many, many, many thoughts about him. 

Here's the thing, when we are in situations like this, where our kid, our partner, or spouse, or even ourself, when we're doing something that we don't love, or when we see someone else doing something that we just don't love, we have these many reflexive thoughts.  

But then we also add on a layer of judgement. 

And that's what makes it worse.  

We judge the terrible. 

We judge the kid for their actions. 

Or judge ourselves as the mom for having the thoughts 

It sounds like: 

I shouldn't feel this way.  

He shouldn't be that way.  

I wish it wasn't this way.  

And it's this layer of judgment, that's the first layer we can peel back and call optional. 

That's why, even though I was feeling terrible with the worry and the concern and the annoyance and the embarrassment, I didn't allow myself to add layers of judgment on top.  

So that's why I would say I'm doing "all right" this morning, [00:06:00] because yes, I had all the feels, but I didn't spend any time judging myself or him for a moment. 

And here's what this practice and what we're going to be talking about in today's episode is going to help all of us uncover. I can feel all of those feelings because of my primitive thinking. And because I'm not going to judge it, criticize it, shame it or blame it. I can give myself a little moment to just open up. Access, the love that I have for him, and maybe tap into curiosity and compassion. 

I wonder how he was feeling. I really wonder what was going on for him without any judgment. Just being open to hearing from him. Here's the funny thing- after their performance, because I stayed until the end, even though he liked didn't perform really for any of it, as soon as he left that stage and the first grade line was walking out, he like had a smile on his face, he was skipping out, like nothing [00:07:00] had just happened.  

The only reason I think I was even able to notice that is because I was allowing myself to be free of judgment, blame and criticism, and just tap into a little bit of curiosity. Seriously when he comes home today, I am so curious about what he's going to tell me. 

And here's the other thing, my practice, and this is seriously been the best work of my life is to remember that I'm his perfect mom, as I figure it out and as I navigate. And him with all of his ways shuffling and mask covering is my perfect kid.  

We can be too little peas in a pod as we figure it out together. 

I share this story because it is so fresh for me as a just got home. And it was such a powerful reminder to me for how powerful our primitive brains are. 

This is the part of our brain that is just the most reflexive, the automatic parts of our thinking. I even shared [00:08:00] this automatic mindset in my Masterclass from last week, The 3 Simple Steps to Unstoppable Weight Loss and how our automatic mindset can be one of the biggest obstacles of keeping you stuck on the scale.  

If you missed it, don't worry you can still grab the replay at  

Our automatic and reflexive responses come from a long standing patterns, which were initially created by your primitive brain, likely when you were a really young child. These reflexive, primitive parts of our thinking really are just designed to help us survive. 

That's where our primitive brain has come from. She's always scanning.  

She's paying attention for danger. She's watching out to make sure that things are not going wrong. She wants to make sure that you don't get kicked out of the herd. She wants you to survive.  

Even this morning. My reflexive responses initially came from my son acting differently than the other kids.[00:09:00]  

My primitive brain reflexively started screaming. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. What's going on? Why is he acting different? This is bad.  

It's because our human brains have a natural and normal desire to belong. And it's rooted in survival. I want to highlight the power of your primitive brain when you're not aware, because when you're unconscious to these different levels of thinking, it's very easy for your primitive brain to start acting like the driver of your car. And the car is driving your life.  

Before you become really conscious of your primitive brain and your more evolved prefrontal cortex, you might've had these reflexive thoughts and just believed that there's a serious problem happening. 

The reason that this matters, and it matters to really understand the difference between your primitive thinking and your more evolved brilliant brain is because your primitive thinking plays a very strong role in your weight loss as well. 

For today's episode, I want to highlight two reflexive and deep rooted thoughts that your [00:10:00] primitive brain offers out like candy at a candy store. 

And I invite you to start paying attention to where these two deep rooted thoughts might be playing a role in your life.  

The very first thought is: I don't have enough. 

And the second one is: Something is going wrong, this is a problem.  

Let's just start with the very first one. I don't have enough.  

When you think you don't have enough of something, how do you feel and what do you do? 

We can go back to the think- feel- act cycle or The Model around what this reflexive thought creates.  

When I think I don't have enough: 

pleasure, relaxation, money, time, resources.... 

I feel scarce. I feel lacking. I feel not enoughness. 

And my actions driven by these emotions are for me to hoard more, for me to scan for more. And it's one of the biggest reasons that drives us to over consume. 

We [00:11:00] overeat, over drink, and over scroll all because we are thinking I don't have enough pleasure, relaxation. I don't have enough of a break.  

When we tell ourselves we don't have enough of something our primitive brains, survival instincts become active. She starts scavenging and storing extra. She doesn't know that you can't store pleasure through food, alcohol, and Instagram. She isn't evolved enough for that. She just thinks she's storing resources for you.  

Isn't our brain brilliant?  

Just this first thought of I don't have enough is driving our primitive brain to store resources and because she's not evolved and using her most brilliant thinking, she doesn't know the difference between overeating, over-drinking, and consuming with actually storing meaningful resources for you. 

The second reflexive of thought our primitive brain is so practiced at is something is going wrong, and this is a problem. Our primitive [00:12:00] brain will kick into high gear. When we think this it's like, there's a lion outside the cave: something's wrong, and this is a problem. Do you know how you feel when you think this way? 

It's like you immediately feel concern, worry, fear, stressed.  

When you think something is going wrong, and this is a problem. Your primitive brain doesn't know the difference between you gaining a pound on the scale, your kid messing around with a mask over his face. Or there being a Lion outside the cave.  

But these primitive thoughts create worry, fear, stress, concern, literally squeezing, cortisol as a stress response in your body. And at a chemical level, your nervous system gets activated, it puts you into high gear. This type of stress response from our primitive thinking is really driving us to overeat because stress responses drive overeating at a chemical level.  

Here's what I'm going to tell you about the role of these two primitive thoughts have on weight loss.[00:13:00]  

Simply it slows you down from creating massive results. 

The combination of these two thoughts, I don't have enough and something is wrong is going to lead you to consume as a survival mechanism.  

Now, especially when it comes to weight loss, I know that I used to have this belief that there's just something that I needed to fix because something must be going wrong. 

I remember from years ago, my best friend and I could literally eat a whole large pizza on our own. I mean, we probably still could. And afterwards I would feel, Ugh, why did I do that?  

But I could never actually answer the question. I mean, why do we do that? 

We know we're going to feel Ugh afterwards.  

We know we're going to feel uncomfortable. 

We know the scale is going to be up the next morning.  

So why do we do it? 

We have years of experience, years of experience showing us if we're going to feel so terrible yet we do it anyway. Intelligent, hardworking ninja women. [00:14:00] Why is it that we still do this? 

I used to have this subconscious thought that I was missing something or something was broken. 

How is it possible that I, a ninja warrior physician, mom could not get this.  

Tell me, is this you?  

Guess what, my friends, nothing is actually going wrong. 

I want you to just take a moment to pause and let yourself breathe and let that sink in. Yes, you are an intelligent ninja warrior mom, but you also have a very active, primitive part of your brain that you just have not been conscious of. 

And she's been driving many of your reflexive responses and created long standing patterns. That's what we're shedding here in today's episode.  

Let's think about all of the reflexive responses that you have developed over the years and how it shows up in your life. Just remember these thoughts are trained and strengthened, but let's bring some awareness to them. 

The reflexive, no. 

The reflexive, not enough.  

The [00:15:00] reflexive, I need more. 

The reflexive, this might not work. 

The reflexive, this might fail. 

The reflexive, what if something goes wrong?  

These thoughts are optional and they're operating from your primitive brain. And it just means that when you're operating from this place, that you're not able to access your most brilliant and evolved part of your thinking. This is why you can be a brilliant ninja mom, accomplished with all of your amazing hard earned results, and also have reflexive responses that drive you to overeat, over drink and overscroll. 

So while you could be a completely brilliant human, when you're operating from this primitive thinking, you're not creating your most brilliant results. It's how you can be brilliant and at the same time, overeat to the point of discomfort.  

Overeating is always, always, always coming from your primitive brain. Because when you're not hungry, your body never wants to [00:16:00] actually overeat. The only reason that you ever overeat is because your primitive brain is driving.  

So good to know, right? 

I'm going to share two tangible steps that you can start taking today so that you can start shifting gears from your primitive brain to your more evolved prefrontal cortex.  

The first step is just to notice when you're thinking these two practice thoughts, I don't have enough pleasure, relaxation, enough of a break. 

And something is going wrong, this is the problem. 

Just starting to pay attention and bring awareness to how often, when and where you're thinking these two familiar thoughts is going to create so much awareness around what's driving the car. Because when you're thinking I don't have enough or something's wrong, just remember you're going to be operating from scarcity, lack, fear, and stress. 

And these emotions are going to drive you to overconsume.  

The second [00:17:00] step when you notice these thoughts is just to remind yourself, this is just my primitive brain, that's all, I'm only feeling this scarce, lack, fear, stress, because my primitive brain is active right now.  

Just implementing these two steps today, noticing and reminding yourself that this is normal patterning is going to make you so much more conscious in your day-to-day life. 

We don't have to operate from our primitive thinking anymore. Now that you know how to spot her and become aware of her, just know you're always operating from the think- feel- act cycle primitive.  

Thoughts like I don't have enough or something's going wrong creates primitive feelings like scarcity, lack, fear, and worry, which drives primitive actions of over-consuming and storing resources. 

Just remember that these are practiced and deeply grooved in your brain and that's okay.  

Just becoming aware of [00:18:00] these is going to start to free you from them. 

It's like up until now when your primitive brain was driving, you didn't really know what was happening. And now you're going to notice. And remember, let's not judge criticize and blame or battle with these reflexive voices anymore. 

I promise you just noticing these thoughts with compassion and love is how you get to release it's hold. And then we get to work accessing your most brilliant and evolved thinking. So the next time you hear, I don't have enough or something's going wrong, you get to notice and engage. "Hey, I hear you, thanks for looking out for me. I love you so much."  

Can you imagine actually talking to yourself the next time you feel scarcity, worry, fear or stress. It's how you start the practice of relaxing your nervous system. Because the worry, fear and stress might still be there, but she's not driving the car anymore. 

It's like my morning. [00:19:00] I felt all the feels, but I also remembered: 

I'm okay. He's okay. We're okay. I can take a deep breath anymore. I don't have to hold my breath anymore. There's no Lion outside the cave. 

I could feel all of the feels, the worry, the concern, the annoyance, the embarrassment, but I could let my nervous system relax. I could make some space for some more brilliant evolved thinking to problem solve.  

This is how we get to access problem solving that pound gained, when your kid is doing his kid things, whenever you have a perceived results that you want different than what is.  

This is how we access becoming curious to challenge old patterns by asking powerful questions. 

And we want our most brilliant evolved thinking to answer.  

This is what we do inside The Unstoppable Group, where I coach working moms who want to feel lighter on the scale for their body and their life.  

We are curious, we challenge old patterns by asking [00:20:00] really powerful questions and then learn the skill of pivoting powerfully to brilliant thinking. 

Here's the thing to create any big result in your life, reaching your dream, delicious, ideal weight, creating more time, more money or healing relationships takes your most brilliant thinking.  

Primitive thinking, which was designed and rooted in scarcity is only going to create rooted scarcity results. 

It can never create thriving results, which is what we're striving for inside Unstoppable.  

You deserve thriving results, my friend, and it starts with catching where you've been operating from. I would say before I became conscious of there even being a difference, I had no idea what part of my brain I was even operating from. 

I was just on the go, busy from one thing to the next. I never really paused long enough to evaluate this, partly because I told myself in other primitive brain thought I'm too busy, I don't have time, I have too much to do.  

Can you [00:21:00] see how this becomes a loop-de-loop? We have hundreds of primitive thoughts like this every day. And I'm highlighting two of them here because these two are likely keeping you stuck on the scale. 

There's a practice that you can fold into your busy working mom life, where you expertly become aware of your primitive thinking and then learn how to pivot powerfully to access your most brilliant brain.  

Can you imagine that? Operating from that in your everyday life?  

This is how you create calm confidence, steady, joyous, resourcefulness. 

Even when you have a busy life happening. Because you're human, you're going to have falls and fails. You're going to gain pounds. Your kids are not going to always do what you want them to do. 

But accessing your most brilliant thinking, even when you're busy is the best thing that you will ever ever do for yourself. 

This is how you level up every area of your life.  

Your body, your weight, your time, your money, and your relationships. And [00:22:00] it's what your life deserves the most, your most brilliant Unstoppable Mom Brain. There is a skill here to practicing and accessing this. You can start practicing and utilizing this in your real busy working mom life now.  

Why? Because that's what real life is.  

And it's when your primitive brain is the most active.  

We want the busy life and the hustle to be your best teacher. Let's have a little bit of love and compassion for our primitive thinking. Now, you know, she's been trying to keep you alive, but also know you have an invitation to thrive too. 

I'll see you next week.  

Hey friends, if you are interested in bringing this practice from your ears to real life my intimate, Unstoppable Coaching group for working moms is open for enrollment right now. You can learn more about it for all of the delicious details. 

And make sure you grab the free Masterclass replay. We had some real talk and [00:23:00] shattered some old obstacles that are keeping you stuck. It was seriously one of my most favorite Masterclasses to deliver, and it was packed with value that you can start implementing today. 

You can grab your free masterclass replay at  

I love you all so much and hope you have an amazing week. 


Thanks for listening to Weight Loss for Unstoppable Moms. It's been an honor spending this time with you and your brilliant brain. If you want more information or resources from the show, visit . 

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