How Habits can make you FAT or SLIM!

You probably recognise the cycle of eating too much, especially around this time of year, but maybe you do it throughout the year too. We eat for many reasons, comfort, fun, anger loneliness and sometimes, because we are hungry!

No matter what the reason is, if you understand your brain better and what creates our habits, I believe you have much more chance of changing them by using strategies and techniques to support them.

Scientists tell us that the habits emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort,  the brain likes to make almost any sort of routine into a habit, because it allows our minds to come ‘down’ more often.

Habits are stored in the basal ganglia, part of the brain which is central to recalling patterns and acting on them.  Let's say you start a new job and get there too early the first day, however, there is a lovely little coffee bar right next to your work and you decide to go in there and have a cappuccino before starting.  Very enjoyable!  Then you go to work and begin your new job.

The next day, possibly you are there a little nearer the starting time so you don't go to the coffee bar, however, the day after you do, because you’re feeling in need of a little lift.  You buy it and take it with you.  You do that for a couple of days,  a little 'treat' pattern begins to emerge, so the next week you call in almost every day for a coffee as you are now associating this with some pleasurable part of you going into work or some little comforter.  

You have just gained a habit that you may, or may not like it, but you have done it.  One thing we definitely know from scientific studies of the brain, is that we are definitely creatures of habit.

How it all works is quite simple; first of all, there is a cue, this is a trigger that tells your brain to do something e.g. 10.30 coffee time (whether you want one or not) then there is a routine (this can physical, mental or emotional) you leave the office and go to the canteen/coffee shop, or for that smoke) and finally there is the reward, you get the thing you are after and then your brain will decide if this particular habit is worth remembering to repeat again and again.  

After time this routine and the reward really begin to merge together until the brain begins to do it automatically and a sense of desire or craving can begin.  Oh, it's 10.30 am time for coffee, and so the pattern continues.

So habits can be useful or not, however, the important thing here is that once a habit is established, the brain stops participating in decision making and just does it automatically.

So, how can you apply that to some disempowering habits you have with food?  Think of your working day.  What do you do automatically that you wished you didn't? Well, let's take the afternoon snack.  Often people want to eat for a 'lift' or 'boredom' when they are at their desk or when they are just in the house, maybe with their children.  

First you need to become very aware of what habits you are doing and why, what's it getting you, peace, ‘me time’, stimulation, fun.  Then ask yourself how can you get the same feeling but doing something different, so that you can begin to override the old craving and build some new, healthier neural networks.  I find that helping people to do this is very motivating for them.

Once you have established that and you are sure the new habit is something that will give you what you want, then you must go about conditioning it, this takes focus and real desire to change, it can be done with hypnosis as well as ‘stand alone’ techniques you can use in your daily life.  

It's a decision to wake up in one's life and not just do things automatically just because we can't be bothered to stop and think about what we really want and apply different ways of being and doing. So, you can begin to think 'slim' and get the ‘habit’ or think... whatever you choose!

“Habits maketh the man” 

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Written by Denise Bosque

I’m a registered Clinical Hypnotherapist since 2001, NLP Master Practitioner (2000), Linden Anxiety Recovery Coach (2015), EMDR Practitioner (2012), Mindfulness Practitioner (2015), and Drawing & Talking Practitioner (2018), located in Twickenham & Ealing. People see me for issues around Confidence, Relationships (including Couples Coaching), Weight  Loss Virtual Gastric Band) P… Read more

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