Most people wanting to change their weight, size or shape have tried dieting at some time. Diets have become a ‘normal’ way of attempting to rectify what we see as a problem. But do they work? Are they helpful? If they are so effective, why are we still overweight? In the UK people of normal weight reduced from 45.5% in 1993 to 35.1% in 2018. Obesity levels went from 14.9% to 27.7%1 It seems evident that the problem lies outside the simple idea of food choice and restriction. Food is not the issue If we are finding it difficult to make healthy food choices, what does that say about us? It is not hard to find information on the internet for any number of simple or complex diets, most of which revolve around reduction of certain food types, or portion size, often coupled with exercise regimes. So why can we not follow that idea? Energy in minus energy out is the equation of any weight loss principle. Perhaps rather than looking at how to cure the symptom, we should look at what is causing the problem. How have we come to be this size, shape, weight in the first place? When I ask clients when they were larger or smaller, I receive a range of responses from “when I’m in a happy relationship I put on weight” to “when I feel really down, I tend to comfort eat”. State of mind impacts on how and what we eat. Superficial problems may have complex origins It is common for the mind to cope with a great deal of distress before it manifests the problem. Symptoms may lie hidden for some time. The desire to eat can be the result of feeling out of control, depressed, anxious, angry or exhausted. Beneath our eating pattern is sometimes a level of self-abuse where we make ourselves feel guilty to confirm our own beliefs that we are a disappointment or an unworthy person. We sabotage ourselves to prove the point. Our body shape and size are our outer advertisement. Our outward image is often tied up with our inner identity and how we see ourselves. The rise of social media has fuelled our innate tendency to compare ourselves with others and that can be very disheartening for some people and fuel the fire of discomfort. What your new slender self says to you is that you are worthy, worthy of love, respect, desire, employment, friendship…a host of good things. It is not an end in itself but the imagined key to a better life. Self-discipline is often associated with mood If we are unhappy with the direction our life is taking, that is when we seek control. So, by the time we make that decision, the chances are that we already feeling low. Diets which tell us to eradicate foods that boost your mood (usually high carbohydrate or sugar products) continue the cycle of crash and burn. First you were feeling low, then you were told you couldn’t eat chocolate, right?! Some ‘comfort eating’ serves as a means to avoid those negative emotions. If you are overeating to avoid feeling emotions, dieting can cause those feelings to re-emerge. The struggle between what you want to eat and what you ‘mustn’t’ eat creates a tension between desire and denial, which drain your body’s reserves of dopamine – a chemical which promotes wellbeing. When your mood is low, you are open to the temptation of breaking the rules of the diet and feeling guilty again. Denial is ineffective Diets promote a good/bad form of thinking which is extreme. Any day could be a success or a failure, leaving you feeling emotionally unpredictable. Hypnotherapy for weight loss leads to a balanced approach, bolstered by the power of the unconscious mind through relaxation and visualisation2. This kind of approach is what athletes use to encourage peak performance – what they visualise enables them to succeed in the real world. Hypnotic suggestion can leave you feeling good about yourself, help you reflect using your intellectual conscious mind and make good choices. You are less likely to suffer black and white thinking and more likely to find balance in your day. Internal struggle leads to drama and energy drain Often it is the diet itself that causes addiction. The days when you step on the scales and see you have lost weight and are winning the battle give a boost. The feeling of being hungry, empty, or light can also provide a more dangerous buzz, where individuals start to actively avoid eating as much as possible to maintain the high of self-denial. This moves us into the realm of an eating disorder for which help should be sought.
Criticising ourselves rarely yields positive results
Our mind responds more to reward than punishment. If you feel you have been ‘bad’ or ‘let yourself go’ or been ‘out of control’, you are likely to feel in a negative state, which does not encourage you to carry on.
Diets have a central premise that we are flawed. We have not been disciplined and need direction. Once we have lost weight, how long will we keep it off? If we suffer from low self-esteem, this can lead to never ending speculation about the future and adds fuel to our poor sense of self. When we accept ourselves, freed from the struggle against eating ‘bad things’, we can take control of our feelings and create a positive relationship with eating.
Self-imposed change is more effective than change imposed from outside
Changing your life without training the mind is hard work. Eating belongs to the realm of the unconscious. Hypnotherapy works on the unconscious mind to promote self-esteem, happiness and positive relationships in a safe, non-judgmental space.
So, do all diets fail?
It is definitely possible for anyone to work towards a healthier body, with the right state of mind. We could argue that weight loss may not automatically result in happiness, but that happiness may be more likely to lead to losing unnecessary weight.
Make your journey to a healthy body easier and more successful using hypnotherapy as part of your plan.
“Eating is not a crime. It’s not a moral issue. It’s normal. It’s enjoyable. It just is.”
― Carrie Arnold
1Nuffield Trust Obesity Figures
2Hypnosis and Weight Loss