Willpower, Weaknesses and Weight Loss

We hope everyone’s going well with sticking to their goals and plans for 2013, aka New Year Resolutions. It’s by about now that a lot of us are starting to wonder if the little bit extra we collected over Christmas around our waistlines (or thighs or bum or wherever you have a tendency to put on extra flab) is ever going to get off. Now, when we’re getting back into the swing of work, in most cases, is a good time to re-evaluate your diet and your exercise.

A lot of people come to a hypnotherapy clinic to get some help with weight loss. Some people have been known to scoff at this – isn’t it just a case of better diet and exercise? What’s the mind and your deeply held beliefs got to do with it.

The most obvious answer here is that the mind certainly does play a role in weight loss – we all have made those good resolutions to change our bad habits and to pick up some good ones.  A lot of people have started diets that put you on a strict food regimen.  But what happens after that? We tend to slip up and indulge in something. Strict diets get blown – you give in to the siren song of the Tim Tams and next thing you know, you’ve eaten the whole packet.  And you wonder how you can strengthen up your willpower so you don’t slip up again and actually manage to get that weight off and keep it off.

However, it’s not as simple as all that.  All the hypnosis, all the good intentions and all the willpower in the world won’t be able to conquer your basic metabolism and your drives. This is one of the reasons why crash diets that put you on a restricted regimen when you can’t eat this or that and half starve yourself don’t work. In fact, they’re doomed to failure.  You see, for centuries, the biggest problem the human body had was to make sure that it had enough fuel reserves to get through tough times. This is still the case in some parts of the world.  If food was short, the body got the “times are tough” signal and took action to make sure that the reserves would be there.  The actions in question were to drop the metabolism drastically so any food that is taken on board is used economically and the excess stored strategically about the place in the form of fat.  The second action is to send out the signals to wolf down as much as possible of whatever you can find.

Now, in the past and in countries with food shortage problems, this makes good sense.  If you were a Medieval peasant and you’d had a rotten harvest (and/or your overlord had taken most of it to feed his knights and other fighting men) and you came across, say, a bees’ nest dripping with honey or something else high in calories that couldn’t be stored in your house, you’d grab as much as you could and eat as much as you could, and you’d be able to stash what you didn’t need to fuel your daily work about your body in the form of fat reserves, which had the added bonus of keeping you a tad warmer over winter.

The trouble is that your body is the same as that of a Medieval peasant, except it’s a bit taller thanks to good childhood nutrition and is more likely to have a full set of teeth.  Your basic instincts can’t see the difference between a food shortage that’s self-imposed and one that’s imposed by winter, wicked barons or crop failures. So if you are trying to stick to a strict diet that sees you eating like than a Medieval peasant facing hardships – cabbage soup with a thin slice of bread and a small salad without dressing – and you come across something that contains a lot of calories, your body produces its own inner “Jewish/Italian momma” who urges you to “eat, eat, eat, my darling!  Don’t hold back – there’s plenty and you look so peaky and unwell!”  These instincts are stronger than your willpower, and the chocolate biscuits, the chips, the cake and the fast food are there, wafting delicious “eat me!” smells into your nose all the time.

So what is a modern person to do in order to get that weight off and keep that weight off?  The best solution is to ditch the crash diets and to make sure that you don’t go hungry.  Good food such as fresh fruit and vegetables, complex carbs and low-fat proteins all keep your blood sugar steady and level, and they last a lot longer than the processed high-fat, high-sugar options.  And exercise – a good brisk walk every day (first thing in the morning or last thing at night is great in the hotter weather) or something similar will work wonders, especially if you haven’t exercised before.

You may need some help breaking addictions to certain comfort foods.  These tend to be the downfall of many a good eating plan.  This goes beyond just finding that you feel less cranky if your blood sugar is at a reasonable level – that’s not comfort eating.  Comfort food and food addiction is when you can’t resist certain foods and can’t do without them, preferably in large quantities.  Often, these foods are “treat foods” such as chocolate or ice cream, and people with a weakness for these are often subliminally trying to make themselves feel loved, accepted and special by eating these party foods or treat foods.  Chocolate is particularly potent, as it stimulates the body to produce the “love chemical” known as phenylephylamine.

If you feel that you can’t live without chocolate, there are two things you can do to help yourself break the addiction.  The first is to switch to dark chocolate (70%+ cocoa solids), as this contains less fat and sugar as well as having a massive amount of vitamins and minerals.  This sort of chocolate is dark, bitter, rich and complicated, like the male lead in a trashy romance novel.  And it makes you feel full quickly, so you’re unlikely to eat too much of it.  Roses also deliver a dose of phenylephylamine, so buy yourself a bunch of scented roses and/or plant a scented rose in a pot so you can smell it regularly.

Keep up the good work.  Weight loss should be slow and steady to work well, so hang in there!