There's no denying it; trying to lose weight can be a long and challenging journey. If you've ever tried and failed to lose weight before then you probably know just how frustrating it can be - especially when feelings like stress, low self-esteem, sadness and boredom crop up.
It's not unusual for people to get into a cycle of dieting, overeating, feeling guilty and dieting again. This is known as 'yoyo dieting' and makes weight-loss difficult to sustain.
While fad diets and nutrition plans focus on what you put in your mouth and how often, hypnotherapy changes how you feel about what you eat. For instance - on a diet you might eat a carrot and wish you were eating a carrot cake, but with hypnotherapy you can learn to enjoy the carrot and not give that cake a second thought. It might be hard to imagine a world where you'd happily turn down your favourite food for something healthier, but with certain hypnotherapy techniques it may be possible to change your thinking patterns and gain control over cravings in a way that doesn't depress you.
By targeting the unconscious mind with powerful suggestion techniques, a hypnotherapist will help you develop a new, positive relationship with food and exercise. The aim is to make you feel confident about your body, change any negative thoughts about eating and help you lose weight healthily and responsibly without impacting your emotional wellbeing.
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Do I need to lose weight?
A lot of people insist they need to lose weight, whether they're overweight or not. The truth is, very few people are happy with the shape and size of their bodies, regardless of whether or not they need to lose weight.
According to official statistics, 61.3% of adults and 30% of children in England need to lose weight because they're overweight or obese.
You may need to lose weight if you:
- have a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more
- are a man and your waist circumference exceeds 37 inches
- are a woman and your waist circumference exceeds 32 inches
- have a high body fat percentage for your age and sex
- have pain in your joints (excess weight puts greater stress on joints)
- have type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease.
To lose weight it's important to eat less and exercise more. Signs you are overeating include:
- You eat so fast you do not really taste the flavours in the food or notice your body signalling that it is full.
- You always eat everything on your plate even if you are full, so as not to waste food (this can be reinforced by parents during childhood).
- You eat when you are bored or lonely.
- You eat when you are upset or miserable.
- You eat to reward yourself (i.e. I've done so well at the gym, I deserve this chocolate bar).
It's unhealthy to be overweight or obese because you have a higher risk of developing/suffering from:
- type 2 diabetes
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- heart disease
- heart attack
Being heavier than average can also have social repercussions, including discrimination, verbal/emotional bullying and even physical abuse. This stigma can intensify the feelings of shame and inadequacy some people feel when they look in the mirror. Feelings like this can lead to:
- low self-esteem
- low self-confidence
All of these emotions can quite seriously reduce a person's quality of life and even have a domino effect on their careers, relationships and everyday experiences.
While it is important for overweight and obese people to lose weight for health reasons, it's not good to feel down or depressed about it. According to a survey of body image attitudes in the UK, one in four adults say they feel depressed about their bodies and one third of men and women say they wish their bodies looked more like those seen in magazines.
Because body shape and size is so tied in with the western idea of beauty, people are constantly looking for 'quick fixes' to cut corners. Diet pills, fad weight-loss diets and gruelling exercise regimes are just some of the ways people try to lose weight. What you have to ask yourself is - am I happy doing this? And - can I carry on doing this for the rest of my life?
To lose and keep weight off, you can't just go on a six week purge and then go back to your previous habits. You have to make real and often major lifestyle changes. This can be hard - after all, sugary, fatty, starchy food tastes good and exercise takes time and effort. What makes weight-loss harder is the emotions we associate with certain foods and the act of eating. This is where hypnotherapy techniques may have an advantage over those used by nutritionists and personal trainers - in order to change your body, you need to first change your mind. You have to ask yourself - why am I unhappy with my body, and why can't I lose weight?
Why can't I lose weight?
Lots of people try and fail to lose weight for a huge number of reasons. These reasons are often unconscious, making it hard for us to overcome them. Hypnotherapy aims to expose these reasons, allowing clients to finally break through barriers that may have been preventing them from losing weight for many years.
Common reasons you might find it hard to successfully lose weight include:
You comfort eat
When we are babies we learn to associate feeding with the comfort of our mothers. Some experts believe this association never really leaves us. As we grow older and we take on more responsibilities, life can get more stressful and food can offer a reversion back to those early days of complete dependency. If you've ever found yourself reaching for a chocolate bar after a busy day, or ordering a take-away when you feel lonely and sad, then you might be a comfort eater.
As a comfort eater you will find it more difficult to lose weight because you've let food become your coping mechanism and without it, you might not know how to deal with your emotions.
You lie, or delude yourself
You might insist you hardly eat a thing but if you're overweight or obese then something must be going wrong somewhere. In order to lose weight, you have to be completely honest about how much you eat and exercise. Even when you keep a food diary or use a food tracking app, it's easy to forget about the odd snack here and there. Perhaps you pick at ingredients while you make dinner, perhaps you have a few forkfuls of leftovers from the fridge. Perhaps you have a biscuit with your afternoon tea, or sneak a treat at the train station on the way home. It's often these 'on the move foods' that catch us out but they really do add up. Even if you religiously stick to salad for dinner, conveniently ignoring all the things you eat in-between won't be doing you any favours.
You ban food
Like a mysterious box you're told not to open, cutting food out of your diet can make that food all the more appealing. If you find yourself having a daily face-off with the office cookie jar you're more likely to want to binge by the end of the week. The key to sustainable weight-loss is to learn self-control. If you can train yourself to stick to just one treat every so often, without feeling tempted in-between, then you'll be able to enjoy your favourite foods without putting on weight.
You don't exercise enough
Exercise is just as important as diet when it comes to losing weight. Sometimes mental blocks can stop us wanting to exercise, including:
- feeling a lack of energy
- feeling too self-conscious to exercise in public
- not wanting to sweat
- convincing yourself you'll 'go tomorrow' (every day).
Exercise is definitely a mental thing. Hypnotherapy can help you break down those mental blocks stopping you from making the most of your body. More often than not, getting your body moving and your heart pumping will make you feel better about yourself in general, leading to healthier behaviours and a happier life.
How does hypnotherapy for weight-loss work?
Hypnotherapy for weight-loss is becoming increasingly accepted and, as more people give it a go - more popular. Only recently has hypnotherapy for weight-loss been given the credit it deserves. The idea of hypnosis is still met with scepticism due to misconceptions about what it is. It is useful to know that during hypnosis you will not:
- be out of control
- be asleep
- be told to do anything you don't want to do
- have your memory erased
- be forced to reveal your deepest darkest secrets.
Hypnotherapy is not some occult art - you won't be prized open and exploited by your hypnotherapist; you will remain in control throughout your sessions.
So how does hypnotherapy for weight-loss work?
1. Your hypnotherapist is essentially a coach. He or she will guide you into a state of deep relaxation.
2. Once your body and mind are in relaxation mode (much like a daydream), your hypnotherapist will be able to access your unconscious mind (the part of us that works all the time but that we're not necessarily aware of i.e. innate instincts and survival mechanisms).
3. Soothing, carefully worded scripts can be used to explore a client's reasons for overeating and suggest new ways of thinking through visualisations. You have the control to reject any suggestions you don't feel happy with without any guidance from your hypnotherapist.
4. Over time you will learn how to replace your negative habits and eating patterns with positive ones suggested by your hypnotherapist.
One of the most commonly asked questions in hypnotherapy consultations is - will hypnotherapy work for me? The answer to that is it's hard to know until you try it yourself. While it certainly won't work in the same way for everyone, the process of talking about developing good habits and getting rid of bad habits should help plant a new level of awareness when it comes to food and exercise.
Hypnotherapy was classed as an 'effective' treatment for weight-loss according to the Chambless & Hollen (1998) criteria for 'empirically-supported treatments' following a review of conditions hypnotherapy can be used to treat.
Hypnotherapy for weight-loss techniques
While each case is different because everyone has different reasons for wanting to lose weight, some suggestions you might encounter during hypnotherapy for weight-loss include:
- Envisioning the body you want or the level of fitness/health you wish to achieve.
- Imagining how you will feel with your new look and health.
- Imagining yourself reaching that goal effortlessly.
- See how much you will have improved from today.
- Imagining how energised and confident you will feel.
- Realising that the more you exercise, the more you will want to exercise and the easier it will become to do so.
- Whenever you get the urge to eat something unhealthy, or eat when you're not hungry, imagine not reaching your goal and think about how that will make you feel.
These visualisations and many, many more are designed to empower you so that you can take control of your choices. Hopefully you will learn to enjoy the taste of healthy food and stop craving sugary, fatty things. You should also learn to enjoy your body and not see it as a source of anxiety. By tackling those deep feelings forming the foundations of your eating habits, you can learn to adopt a healthier lifestyle and enjoy doing so.
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