New Year’s resolutions often put us thinking on what to change – many think of losing weight. But it isn’t as simple as just eating less food or using willpower. For you to achieve lasting weight loss, you need to get your subconscious mind on board too. How to lose weight with your mind`s power then?
By Katy L. Evans
You know the scene: you’ve declared never to touch sugar again, or ditch caffeine/cola/chips for good, only life goes and throws a stressful or upsetting event your way and you revert to old behaviours and reach straight for the cookie jar – or nearest chippy, whatever’s your junk food poison.
NHS (UK Health service) statistics showed a marked rise in obesity between 1993 and 2011, with a rise from 13 to 24 percent in men over the 18-year period, and from 16 to 26 percent for women. But yet the number of health magazines, gyms, workout DVDs, diet clubs, and fitness equipment sold have stayed high; clearly, people want to lose weight, but haven’t found an effective means.
I was always overweight
Kevin Billet, co-director of The Journey (www.thejourney.com), hated the sight of his 16-year-old body, which, no matter what he did, would not slim down. He carried on being heavy well into his mid 20s. “I was always 30-50 pounds overweight, which took a huge toll on my self-esteem not to mention fitness levels and lifestyle choices,” says Kevin.
He tried diets and made numerous pledges to exercise regularly, but would always fall back into a struggle between what he knew he should eat, and what he really craved. “I carried on eating more and doing less until my weight crept back to, and beyond, its previous levels. Each time my determination to ‘get serious’ seemed more hopeless than the last,” he recalls.
Kevin, and so many like him, knew that the key to losing weight was simple: doing effective exercise on a regular basis, combined with a balanced diet with no processed fats, sugars and carbs, and high in organic protein and healthy fats (fish oil, avocados, coconut oil, seeds and nuts etc). But, it’s one thing to know what to do, and another thing entirely to actually do it and stick to it.
Trying to find happiness in food
“We crave foods that we hope will give us peace of mind,” says Doreen Virtue, author of Constant Craving: What your food cravings mean and how to overcome them (Hay House). These cravings occur for two reasons, according to Doreen: “A desire to feel better emotionally, or to shift our energy level. We might want to feel peppier or calmer. More secure and confident. Less angry.”
She also believes a lot of comfort eating comes from not following your intuition. “Your gut is the centre of your emotions. You feel fear, excitement, anger and love in your midsection. This inner voice… tells you whether or not someone is acting honorably, which career path to take, which house to buy, which person to marry and so on. When you listen to your gut feelings, you’re always rewarded with peace of mind,” says Doreen.
“But when your gut’s instructions seem frightening – ‘I’m too scared to pursue the career of my dreams because I’m afraid of failing’ – you muffle the volume of your inner voice by pouring substances into your belly, such as food or alcohol.” Doreen experienced this first hand throughout much of her first marriage, when she suffered mental abuse that led to low self-esteem and over eating.
It all starts in the mind
A lot of over eating isn’t usually down to hunger, but to stuff down uncomfortable emotions. Victoria Wills, a hypnotherapist, knows all too well the power of the mind when it comes to losing weight. She founded her hypnotherapy and weight loss company Nu-Beginnings in 1997.
Based in Devon in the UK, her week-long ‘bootcamps’ consist of exercise sessions you’d expect on a fitness holiday, combined with one-to-one therapy sessions using hypnotherapy and neurolinguistic programming (NLP) to remove limiting beliefs.
“All our guests know how to lose weight but they are baffled as to why they are finding it so difficult. Hypnotherapy addresses the underlying reasons why they have turned to food in the first place. It helps them choose alternative coping mechanisms that will, instead, lead them toward their weight loss goal,” says Victoria, who used to weigh almost 300lbs before she discovered deep-seated issues of low self-esteem and loss.
She credits hypnotherapy for helping her shift more than 150lbs – more than half her original weight – and keeping it off. “I no longer feel ruled by the lure of junk food,” she says.
Journey back to health
Having accumulated years’ of experience dealing with other people’s weight issues, including his own, Kevin got together last year with fellow Journey practitioners to create Stop the Food Fight, a week-long retreat to tackle and get to the core of people’s food additions, unhealthy habits, and stubborn weight problems.
“We go below the surface of what’s going on to discover the real blocks to losing weight,” says Kevin. “So far, the results have been astonishing. For me, my core relationship with food has shifted. I no longer crave anything – my food fight has stopped.”
“I thought the focus would just be on food and diet, but although the retreat did begin with a discussion on over-consumption and habits, it quickly moved on to why we abuse food. I realised the way I ate and what I ate reflected my relationship with myself, others and life,” says Bet Diening-Weatherston, the Journey presenter.
“I had low self-esteem, and had been measuring my self-worth by the approval/disapproval of others, then using food to reward or punish myself.”
Stop the Food Fight is also therapeutic in a physical way, says Bet, as participants freely move around to “stir up cell memories” and make peace with their past.
“We cleared out past emotional, physical and mental blocks that had affected our eating patterns, in order to become our best selves,” says Bet. “Now, I find it effortless to eat more consciously. My issues around self-worth are healing, too.”
One fit mama
Utilising the subconscious is another thing mum and fitness entrepreneur Jennifer Nicole Lee knows a thing or two about, as she trimmed down from a size 16, after the birth of her children, to a size 6-8 to win her first figure modelling competition in the USA.
She keeps the weight off with a combination of training, healthy eating and positive self-talk, which she writes about in her book The Mind, Body & Soul Diet (www.mindbodyandsouldiet.com). Jennifer suggest adopting an ‘attitude of gratitude’ towards food, as well as only cooking when in a good mood.
“Showing gratitude for your food shifts your energy into a super-charged positive mode. Being at peace and relaxed while you eat will also help banish any emotional stress and deter overeating; it will also help you to make healthier food choices,” she says.
“If you see or feel yourself getting negative, start listing your blessings and what you are grateful for. The law of metaphysics states that you cannot be depressed or down when you are in a state of true gratitude.”
Jennifer also advises being in a positive state of mind when you cook, and making meal times sacred again by creating a relaxed atmosphere for the whole family.
“Aim to be in a state of gratitude for all the healthy ingredients, and when you do eat, leave emotionally charged topics at the door. There is enough stress out there in the working world, and we all know stress causes us to emotionally overeat, thus sabotaging our weight-loss efforts. Make a point to only speak about nice, positive things during mealtimes.”
Tap away unhealthy patterns
Another way to reduce or banish overeating triggers is through an alternative therapy called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), also known as ‘the tapping therapy’.
Kim Trevett, founder of the Holistic Lifestyle Club (www.holisticlifestyleclub.com) and a practitioner of EFT, says doing a short series of tapping on specific energy points on your face and hands can lessen the tendency to comfort eat by learning to love yourself (see below).
“So many people dislike themselves because they feel powerless around food. Willpower alone is often ineffective when it comes to diets, as people need to first make a fundamental shift at a subconscious level to be open to the changes,” she says.
Fear is often a big cause of blocked emotions and holding on to anything, including weight, and Kim offers some useful statements to use in her tapping sequence (see below). “These statements really help people, when combined with the tapping, to reduce fear of change.
The first is, ‘Even though a part of me is afraid to change and lose weight, I deeply and completely accept all of me’ and ‘Even though I might upset other people if I start losing weight, I choose to lose weight anyway’.
Try this EFT exercise to overcome the urge to binge on biscuits next time you feel stressed. See the diagram for where to tap.
- Inner eyebrow
- Outside edge of eyebrow
- Directly under your eye in line with the pupil
- Under your nose, above lip
- Tip of your chin
- Under arm (level with bra strap)
How to tap?
- First, identify the problem verbally, i.e ‘I have blocks to losing weight’. Rate how the statement makes you feel on a scale of 0-10, where 0 is no intensity of feeling around it, and 10 is very intense feeling. Write it down.
- Now, repeat this problem verbally while tapping with three fingers of one hand, on the ‘karate chop’ point of the other hand (a centimetre below your little finger).
- Now it’s time to create a positive statement, which will allow any resistance to change to come to the surface to be taped away. Begin with the words ‘Even though…’ then go on to add your problem, and finish with the words ‘…I still love and approve of myself. For example, ‘Even though I really hate myself for not being able to lose weight, I still love and approve of myself’. Say this three times while taping on the karate chop point.
- Now it’s time to do the tapping circuit. Create a condensed version of your statement, i.e. ‘not able to lose weight’ and say it aloud as you tap all seven main points, firmly, beginning with the one on your inner eyebrow, moving out and downwards to the one on the side of your ribs. Complete three circuits of tapping each point at least seven times, repeating the statement.
- Now, do another three circuits, only this time saying ‘I still love and approve of myself’.
- Again, rate the intensity of the feelings; if it’s still not zero or very low, change your statement to, ‘Even though I still feel I have blocks to losing weight (or whatever your problem is), I deeply and completely love and accept myself’.
- Do another three rounds of tapping with this new statement and then rate your feelings.
- If another emotion has arisen that’s linked to your reason for overeating, such as grief or fear, use this in your statement, i.e. ‘Even though I’m feeling really sad about the end of my relationship/death of a relative, I still deeply love and approve of myself’. Repeat this statement while tapping the points in turn and then rate your feeling level.
You can use this tapping sequence for any issues you want to work on, and keep a note of the changes in your responses and emotions over the weeks.
“Remember to be persistent; some issues can be dealt with in one or two tapping sessions, others require detective work and modifications to your original statement. Sometimes, it’s necessary to tap daily and often for several months, but as it’s free and discreet, you can fit these sessions in whatever you’re doing,” says Kim.
Stop the Food Fight (The Journey): http://www.stopthefoodfight.org/
Kim Trevett and Emotional Freedom Technique: www.holisticlifestyleclub.com
Jennifer Nicole Lee’s Mind Body & Soul diet: www.mindbodyandsouldiet.com
Constant Craving by Doreen Virtue: www.hayhouse.com