Diets don’t work (but you don’t need them anyway!)
Weight management without dieting
The endless see-saw dieting that traps so many people for large parts of their life fail us miserably. In fact the only real beneficiaries are the companies that have a vested interest in the Dieting Industry. Billions of Pounds are spent every year by those who still believe dieting can solve their problems by enabling them to become the size and shape they want to be.
But did you know, that the best indicator of whether you will weigh more in 2 years time than you do now is to ask if you are currently on a diet?
Fortunately there is a natural, safe way to lose weight that doesn’t involve any dieting, drugs, surgery, powder foods or even calorie counting. Your body is incredibly well engineered to look after itself providing you allow it. The trouble is we don’t listen to what it is telling us. We’ve forgotten how to tune in to the subtle signals telling us we have had enough to eat.
We also have grown accustomed to using food to satisfy feelings other than hunger. For example, we eat for; comfort, boredom, stress, sadness, loneliness, anger, anxiety, habit, it’s meal time, etc etc. And the interesting thing is that eating for all the emotional reasons works very well, at least temporarily.
The underlying feelings of discomfort we are attempting to escape from do for the most part stop troubling us, at least for the period when we are actually savouring the wonderful food we are eating. It’s a distraction, a really enjoyable distraction. The only problem is that, whatever the underlying reason from which we are seeking solace is, it’s still there when we have finished eating. And now we feel even worse because of those unnecessary calories we have just knowingly eaten!
When we relearn to listen to our bodies and tune in to our feelings again we are half way there. Later on I’ll explain some of the ways you can do this. It’s not complicated and easy to do.
The pitfalls of dieting
More people are “addicted” to Diets than non prescription drugs. In fact, less people smoke (24%) than who diet (27%) in the UK. Overweight and Obesity are one of the greatest and rapidly accelerating health challenges facing the Western World.
Since the middle of the last century when food availability became plentiful and secure huge numbers of us (especially women) have fought to reduce our weight and attain “perfect” body shape. The list of Diets is almost endless, whether they be ; low carb, high protein, food substitutes, powders, amphetamines or diet alternatives such as calorie counting or food points.
The one thing all these methods have in common is that they don’t work and you constantly feel deprived and hungry. Very often we are just left miserable and, unfortunately, almost always it ends in failure in the long run despite perhaps early successes.
But we keep coming back for more. Always hoping that the latest fad or diet we have been told about by the media or an enthusiastic friend is going to be “the one”. Diets deceive us as, for a short period at the beginning, they seem to work. There are many reasons for this but the most important by far is that they all rely on Willpower and unfortunately, Willpower Does Not Work.
If you tell yourself that you will not eat the Chocolate Cake wrapped up in the kitchen but, in reality, want it and visualise or imagine the taste of it in your mouth, guess what, one of two things will now happen. You will either eat the cake pretty much immediately (and feel bad) or you will fight off the desire (and feel bad if perhaps a bit sanctimonious) and eventually give in at a later date. You will then more than likely binge and eat twice as much, or more, than you would have done had you given in immediately.
Eating habits, dieting and being overweight
It is arguable that one of the key drivers in our eating habits that lead us to being overweight is dieting itself. This constant obsession with food; how much, when, where, and what is not only boring and miserable it is utterly counter productive and fails to achieve any worthwhile purpose. Just imagine what you could achieve if you put all that thought and energy into something positive and beneficial, even creative.
Consider the following:
a). Diets force you to obsess about food by constantly reminding you of what you really want.
b). After months/years of dieting we completely lose touch with what our bodies actually want and need.
c). 3 million years of human evolution and natural selection of the fittest can’t be wrong. Our ancestors didn’t have personal trainers/dieticians, nutritionists, etc.
d). 98% of all diets fail by the end of year 2.
e). It’s the only industry where we blame ourselves instead of the product for failure. Imagine bringing home a kettle, plugging it in and nothing happens. Would you go back to the shop and say “Oh God, I am so rubbish I can’t even make this kettle boil?”
f). 30% of people on a diet actually gain weight.
g). Virtually all programmes appear to be able to demonstrate moderate success in promoting at least some short term weight loss… there is virtually no evidence that clinically significant weight loss can be maintained over the long term by the vast majority of people.
h). The more we deprive ourselves of a particular food the greater the cravings which then lead to binging. Dieting inevitably leads to overeating and binging.
i). Diets create a sense of failure because of an all or nothing mentality.
j). Repeatedly losing and gaining weight is linked to increased incidence of cardiovascular disease, stroke, impaired auto immune response and diabetes.
k). The problem with diets is that the whole point of their existence is based on a complete misconception of the problem. Diets seek to enable us to shed weight whereas the real problem is that we have become disassociated from a natural and healthy relationship with food. Weight Loss is merely a symptom of restoring this relationship.
l). Studies frequently show that men prefer “normal size” women to “skinny women”.
m). Ok, you probably knew that already and, admittedly, it is somewhat trite, but true nonetheless. But if so why do we just carry on and on doing what we have always done and thinking that the next diet will be different? Einstein once said that, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”
n). There are so many studies, of which the Diet Industry is a significant source of funding, that you can use one or more of them to support just about any assertion you want.
Weight control: What does work?
We also all know deep down that, in simple terms, if you eat when you are hungry, stop when you are satisfied and eat for no other reason, you will be the shape nature intended you to be and that, providing you live an otherwise healthy lifestyle you will also have every chance of being fit and healthy.
Why don’t we just do what we instinctively know is right then? As I explained earlier, we have lost touch with our bodies. We no longer hear the subtle messages from our stomachs telling us that we have had enough. Even when we do we usually ignore them. Furthermore, we just don’t trust ourselves or our bodies to look after ourselves.
Instead, we have become brainwashed into thinking that someone else, perhaps everyone else, knows better than we do. But, in fact, no one knows our bodies better than we do. No one else can possibly understand how you feel and think better than you.
It makes sense surely, that if you deal with an emotional problem with an appropriate solution it will get better. For example, if you are lonely one night and you decide to eat to mask those uncomfortable feelings by eating to make you feel good you will still be lonely but just avoiding the symptoms. They will still be there underneath.
The feelings of loneliness will continue to be with you even if they are hidden from your conscious mind. As soon as you stop eating however, they will return. And then you will have a double whammy as you then feel; disappointment, guilt or feeling low as a result of overeating again.
The key to dealing with any emotional problem is firstly to acknowledge it and then understand it. And, in order to do this you will need to develop your awareness of your body, thoughts and emotions. This will take some time but like anything, the more you do it the better you will get.
Listen to your body, mind & emotions
So spend 3-6 minutes a day ( a fraction of the time you currently spend worrying about your weight) on just listening to your body, mind and emotions. Make it at regular times each day so you don’t forget. Perhaps 3 times a day for a minute or two each time.
Then, once you have practised this for a week or so you can take the next step. The next time you have uncomfortable feelings and wish to mask them with eating use the technique you have learned to tune in to your body as you “comfort eat.” Don’t judge yourself and certainly don’t be critical as this isn’t the point. You’re here to learn.
Notice what your body is feeling, how you feel emotionally and what you are thinking. Most importantly, ask yourself, “what is the food doing for me?” Really “listen” and become aware of yourself. Tune in to all those physical sensations, emotional feelings and your thoughts. Don’t avoid “comfort eating” at this stage. Just observe yourself and listen uncritically.
The next step is a slightly bolder one which you should only approach when you feel ready and comfortable. Simply make up your mind to not respond to these uncomfortable feelings by your usual method of comfort eating. Just simply tune in to yourself for a minute or two.
Also ask yourself. Am I really hungry, how uncomfortable is it really to live with this feeling of, fear, boredom, anger, sadness, etc etc. You may well find that these feelings not only diminish but sometimes disappear. This is because you have confronted them rather that run away. Running away is in fact resisting and what we resist persists!
If the feelings continue to persist just do what you would normally do and eat what you fancy. Remember, this is not a Willpower method. You will achieve what you want with understanding, acknowledgement and appropriate solutions. You will almost certainly not get it right first time or even quickly but you will get there confidently and permanently because you are finally responding to yourself healthily for the first time.
Eating slowly and without distractions
This is, along with the Tuning In mentioned above a vital element in the whole re-education process. Our bodies send subtle signals to our brains informing us that we have had sufficient food. However, if we eat quickly or with distractions we just don’t notice them. There are many studies which conclusively prove that when we are doing something else as we eat we eat more.
So, when you eat, wherever possible, eat slowly and without distractions. This does not mean eating alone in a darkened room. You can do this with company. You simply slow down and relax more as you eat your food. Taking time to savour every mouthful, chewing at least 20 times each mouthful. You’ll be amazed at how much more you enjoy the food and, in time, at how much less you actually eat.
The effects are quite startling sometimes. You may even find that, as you truly take the time to appreciate the flavours, colours and textures of your food your taste begins to change. Some foods you used to really look forward to lose some of their appeal and some foods you could take or leave you may now see in a different and much more pleasant light.
You don’t actually need to exercise to lose weight but it’s good for you. You’ll feel better; physically, emotionally and mentally. As a by product you will shed excess weight more quickly for obvious reasons but this is not the most important reason to exercise by any means.
In fact, the best reason to exercise is simply this. Do it because you enjoy it. I’ll take this a step further. If you don’t enjoy it there simply isn’t any point because you will soon stop doing it. Nobody exercises regularly over any length of time without enjoying it. That is unless they are a perfectionist or suffer from one of the family of OCD Disorders.
Whatever exercise you decide to do it must be fun or at least gives you a good feeling as you are doing it. It really doesn’t matter what form the exercise takes whether it be; walking, dancing, sex, running, golf, tennis, swimming, gardening, mountain climbing. Just as long as you enjoy it and there is no medical reason why you should not engage in that particular activity.
Find out what your body enjoys. Trust your body, it knows more than anyone can ever tell you. As a result of this increased fitness you will feel better, physically, mentally and emotionally and as a result you will have less desire to eat for comfort.
Hypnotherapy for weight management
Hypnotherapy can also be extremely beneficial as an aide to the principles outlined in this article. As well as being able to help identify more complex issues preventing progression the use of Suggestion Therapy and Imagery can help facilitate you towards your goal.
The reason Hypnotherapy is so good is because it communicates with the subconscious mind and is the only therapy specifically to do so. Since all our emotions sit in the unconscious it is entirely appropriate to help us understand and deal with emotional issues that may be holding us back. Sometimes it enables people to unblock a previously intransigent problem and at other times simply helps to speed up development towards our goal.
There are no side effects of hypnotherapy and, contrary to popular belief, you are always in control. Allied with NLP and CBT positive results can be fast and impressive.
Deeper problems and more complex situations
Whilst the principles explained above work for most of the people most of the time there are obviously exceptions and complications. This is natural because of the nature of being human and the fact that we are all different.
Sometimes there can be deeper psychological issues of which this is not the arena to discuss. In these circumstances it is vital to see an expert in the relevant specialism to help. Always consult your Doctor initially if in any doubt. The information provided here is not an alternative to proper medical care.
|About The Author
Laurie Malyon practices Hypnotherapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) in Edenbridge, Tonbridge and Sevenoaks Kent.
Laurie’s areas of expertise are emotional problems, eating disorders, ME and confidence and anxiety issues.
Find out more about Laurie’s work by visiting his GoToSee profile page here