The ‘war on obesity’ – how hypnotherapy could help
There has been a lot of coverage in the media recently about Boris Johnson’s new ‘war on obesity’. Measures such as cycling on prescription and bans on junk food advertising have been touted as the new cure-all tonic to remedy out nation’s obesity crisis. Some are concerned about the nanny state telling them what to do, and the advertising executives are (I’m guessing) muttering in despair. But the question on many people’s lips is this: will it work?
Current statistics tell us that two-thirds of adults in the UK are above a healthy weight, with 28% classed as obese. It is logical to assume that a greater emphasis on exercise, coupled with a reduction of sugary snacks beckoning us from our TV screens, should go some way towards balancing out the nation’s weighing scales in the right direction. Indeed, similar nudge tactics have proved effective before: a government-funded study published in the journal Plos Medicine found that removing unhealthy snacks from the supermarket checkout was associated with an immediate 17% reduction in purchases of those items. Less items purchased equates to less weight gained. But is it that simple?
The bigger issue
On a biological level, weight loss is simple: fewer calories in, minus more energy expended equals weight loss. But relying on such simple maths ignores the bigger issue – that sometimes doing what we consciously know to be good for us is hard. That sometimes we are at war with ourselves.
Such internal weight battles occur when there is a mismatch between what we consciously want (to lose weight and be healthy) and what our subconscious mind is doing (engaging in consciously unwanted patterns of behaviour). Perhaps this national war on obesity is failing to address this inner battle that many people experiencing a weight issue express – a battle in which we feel like our own worst enemies and where the foe to be defeated is not the advertising companies or sugar levels, but our own instincts, compulsions and behaviours.
So if we are battling our own instincts, can such government nudge tactics work in the long run? Limiting unhealthy behaviours (through reduced advertising etc) could be viewed as akin to bandaging up the hands of a person who really really feels an urgent and all-consuming need to scratch their head. Just because they can no longer indulge that compulsion, doesn’t mean it has been resolved. Restricting it could even make it worse, especially for those with a more rebellious nature. As long as there is an underlying need or reason for us to continue behaving in a particular way, not even the strictest of nanny states can stop us, even if we want it to.
So how can we stop battling against ourselves in this way? Working with a curative, trained hypnotherapist could help individuals to understand (and ultimately resolve) the underlying reasons at the root of a particular behaviour or compulsion, such as over-eating. At the risk of stretching my war analogy to the limits, a therapist who is trained in working cooperatively with the subconscious mind could act as peace-keeper, seeking to resolve the internal battle between what is consciously wanted and what the subconscious mind is doing. Only in that way can we really find peace within ourselves.
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