5 easy hypnotherapy techniques to avoid overeating this Christmas
Yippee, it’s Christmas. This is the season to party and to let go. For some of us, this means having a few more drinks and indulging in lots of food. For some of us, it's a season of trepidation and dread. The temptation to eat lots of lovely food is all around us. We get goaded into trying foods.
We've all experienced someone coming around with a box of chocolates or slices of cake, and you say "No thanks", but the person with the plate goes, "Oh go on. It’s really good, you’ll love it, it’s only one." Before you know it, you're shoving the chocolate in your mouth. "I didn’t want to eat that," you say.
Extra food is not only present in workplaces and social gatherings, we tend to buy more food for home. Chocolate in fancy boxes at ultra-cheap prices can be too tempting for us. With food all around us in easy reach and extra tempting food at this time of year, it is very hard to resist.
The issue is that when we give in to this temptation, it can make us feel like we are weak. That we have no willpower. This then breeds feelings of guilt and shame. Shame that we cannot control ourselves. Shame that we are grown adults and we know that eating these foods is not healthy for us, so why can’t we stop?
Believe me, if it was that easy, you would have stopped by now. Overeating is an unconscious pattern that has come about as a way of coping or managing deep-seated emotions. Half the time, we are not aware of what is behind our eating and that is why it is easy to blame ourselves.
Let me say that our eating patterns, including overeating, are not our fault. It is a normal bodily response to something like trauma or adverse events, major or minor, and somewhere along the line, we find that food calms us. This pattern is then set up unconsciously.
Hence, telling ourselves off for not being in control is futile. Bringing in awareness, kindness and support is what will help to break eating patterns that have been set up for years.
5 hypnotherapy techniques to help manage your overeating
These tips are a mixture of managing the behaviour and working on the unconscious, so you are attacking your overeating from both sides.
1. Plan your meals out
Planning your meals out will enable you to know exactly what food you will need. That way you can plan your shopping trips around your meals and only buy what you need. If you are online shopping do it when you are in a calm, relaxed state. Avoid being hungry so that you do not go mad and buy lots of food. When shopping in the shops, avoid the aisles with all the boxes of chocolate and seasonal goods, this stops you from being tempted to buy them. Visualise your path beforehand and have a little mantra to help you stay on track.
2. Stop the restriction
Many people find it hard to find a balance. So it is all very well saying find some balance and have a little of something that you love, but a lot of people don’t trust themselves to not eat the whole packet or box. However, not allowing yourself something only makes you want it more. Ease up on the tight restriction, do allow some things or allow some things at certain times to help find some sort of balance.
3. Stop tactic
When you feel the urge to binge, you can try a CBT technique which is to interrupt your train of thought and behaviours. For this to work well, you will need to practise this before you have any urges, so that when you do have an urge, it will come automatically to you.
- Slap the back of your hand, not too hard, but enough to go ooh. It’s to stop you in your tracks.
- Shout aloud "Stop" in your head.
- Take three deep breaths, breathing in through your nose and blowing hard out of your mouth.
- Do something else. Think beforehand about what you will do instead. This might be, going outside of the house to take a few mins. It might be dancing to your favourite track.
- Practise these steps quite a few times, until it becomes automatic.
Not many people realise the power of self-hypnosis. It is a skill that can be learnt and, much like meditation, it helps to relax your mind and to relax the part of your mind that wants you to go ahead and overeat. That few minutes of peace that you can create in your mind and body using self-hypnosis gives you the space to be less manic and more mindful in your thoughts and behaviours around food. It gives you the space to allow you to be in control of your eating.
- Find somewhere to sit or lie down comfortably
- Focus on your breathing, allowing deeper exhales.
- Scan up and down your body as you are breathing and just pay attention to it, noticing how each body part feels.
- When thoughts come in, say thank you and let them go.
- Spend as long as you want in this peaceful state.
As you are in a state of relaxation, you can get up and be wide awake anytime you wish to. Make this a daily habit for it to be effective.
One thing that the hypnotherapist creates with a client is something called the therapeutic relationship. I like to draw upon a type of counselling called person-centred counselling. This means the client leads the therapy and we work with whatever the client brings into the room.
A relationship that is based on empathy, compassion and positive regard is formed. This allows the client to experience what it is like to have a relationship where someone has their best interests at heart, someone is supporting them. Someone understands and feels what they are going through.
One thing I notice is how people speak and treat themselves; it's not always very nice. I notice people when they have binged being harsh with themselves, saying they "shouldn’t have eaten that", or how useless they are for "not being able to stop eating", frequently saying that they are "not good enough".
Together, we work on turning this around so people are empowered to give themselves supportive and loving comments. When we feel supported and empowered, it helps us to break the cycle of overeating.
It might sound like this:
- "I’m useless, I can’t stop eating." vs "I’m OK, I’m learning to be more in control of my eating."
- "I’m not good enough." vs "I’m good enough right now this moment."
Listen to how you are talking to yourself and imagine you are talking to your best friend. Talk to yourself as you would a best friend.