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Integrated, solution-focussed therapy

A Weight on Your Mind

08. Apr. 2018 by Valerie Walker

Woman admiring herself in a mirror

Managing your weight is based on a simple formula isn't it?  Calories in - Calories out = weight loss or weight gain.  Eat more than you burn off, then you gain weight, eat less, then you lose weight.  Simple really?  Or is that all there is to it?  Why is it, I hear you say, that even when I put myself on the equivalent of war-time rations and work out 3 times a week, I still don't lose weight? 

There are of course lots of reasons why you may be struggling to lose weight despite a lower calorie intake.  The long-term disadvantages of yo-yo dieting and irregular eating patterns are well documented and on occasion weight gain can be down to an undiagnosed medical issue such as an under active thyroid or insulin resistance.
However, more recently science has begun to pay attention to the mind body-link and the role of your brain in weight management.  Is it possible that what you think and what you believe could be making you fat?

Your brain is a complex organ, carrying out multiple tasks every second, but the most important role it has is keeping you alive, safe and as well as possible.  The key survival activities are carried out by the part of your brain that is often referred to as the unconscious brain (the oldest part of the brain in terms of human development).  That part of your brain also plays a major role in meeting your primal needs, which includes comfort and pleasure.    

The fact that we need food for survival is in no doubt and for our ancient ancestors that meant going out hunting and then often binge eating to protect against the inevitable lean times. Nowadays, for most of us in the UK, our hunting is done in the supermarket, where, even the occasional weather driven panic buying fails to completely wipe out our food supplies.   Food is everywhere we go and is quite openly used to meet our primal needs on a daily basis as much as it does our survival needs.

Opinion is growing as to the real impact the mind can have on your body.  The placebo effect in drug trials has received increasing attention as scientists seek to understand exactly why an inactive substitute can generate the same positive effect as the drug itself.   Then there is the flip side of that, the nocebo effect.  This is where you turn your negative beliefs in your health and well being into a reality, for example, convincing yourself you'll get ill just before a major event...and then doing just that.   

  So, is it possible that becoming or remaining overweight could be your own personal nocebo effect from constantly thinking and believing you are fat?  Quite simply, what you think is what you get.  Your unconscious mind tries very hard to give you what you want, so if you constantly tell yourself you are fat or overweight, then your unconscious mind will look for every opportunity to make this a self-fulfilling prophecy.    One thing is for sure, even though you might not be able to see your thoughts, you can most definitely see the effects of them!

It follows then that if you're serious about losing weight and have been constantly struggling to achieve your weight goals, then perhaps it's time to start taking control of your thoughts.  Generate your very own placebo effect and make sure you ditch that nocebo!  

The first thing you can do is to start to question, or even reject, all the negative thoughts you have about your body or your ability to manage your weight.  As soon as you reject a negative thought it loses it power and you can boost that effect even more by thinking thin, healthy thoughts.  

One of the best ways to make your positive thoughts more powerful is by combining them with a strong emotion…a positive one of course.  Take a moment to think about what is the strongest positive emotional connection you have to losing weight?  Then combine that with the thought that you are a thin person.  By getting the right feeling you are more likely to get the belief and hence the behaviour you want and need to lose weight.   

The next thing you can do is to start listening to your body and trusting it knows what is best for you.   Start eating more intuitively.  Eat slowly, taking time to focus on your food rather than wolfing it down automatically.   If you are snacking a lot or eating large portions, take a few moments to check in with your mind and body before you start to eat.  Ask yourself if you really need to eat right at that moment and, if it is an unhealthy food choice, if you need to eat that particular food. Take some time to challenge the size of portion as well. 

Then, if you are still tempted to over indulge, take a few moments to project your mind forward a few hours or even to the next morning and imagine how you will feel after over indulging.  For example, select a memory of when you felt really bloated after a big meal, or guilty for having eaten lots of sweet or savoury snacks.   Really associate into that memory and all those negative, disappointed, bloated feelings you have.  Imagine you are back there right now in the moment.  Make the commitment to practice this regularly and notice how it helps you cut out unhealthy snacks or large portions.
Take a moment to look at last month's blog as well and learn how to manage your negative self-talk and flip it into much more motivational positive self-talk about your weight and eating habits.

If you need a little extra help then NLP, Hypnotherapy and BWRT can help you to find the right way to manage your eating habits and start believing that you can get the body you really want to have.