by Alternative Medicine and Hypnosis Management Academy
Excerpt from the audiobook
Why You Over-Eat and Struggle to Lose Weight
We’ll start by dealing with the reasons behind why you over-eat and struggle to lose weight. When you become aware of situations, habits and compulsions that lead to over-eating you can start to make changes to alter those behaviours forever.
Our focus will be on food-mood diary, emotional and habitual eating, your inner voice, new strategy generator, and focused thinking and hypnosis.
As with any process of change it’s a really good idea to keep a record of your progress along with any concerns, achievements and general observations. Writing things down helps to rationalise thoughts and provides a visual record of just how well you are doing! Therefore, I recommend that you keep a journal and note down your thoughts, progress and challenges daily. In conjunction with this and to track and become aware of your eating patterns you are also going to complete a ‘food-mood’ diary:
Own a Food-Mood Journal
For the next few weeks complete a ‘Food-Mood’ diary in your journal. This should look something like the table – which you can recreate in your journal or keep a copy on your computer.
Be honest about what you record in your Food-Mood diary – no one else needs to see it so you may as well put down everything that you eat and be interested to see if a pattern emerges.
As you get used to stopping and thinking about how you feel when you eat something you will start to notice that some of your ‘hunger’ is not physical but emotional or habitual.
Emotional and Habitual Eating
Over time you may have become conditioned to eat when you feel sad, angry, depressed or hurt. It’s not necessary to examine the personal historical reason for this but it may have been connected to a stimulus/response situation such as food being given when you were upset as a child. As a result, you may have started to view food as a comfort – something to ‘take the pain away’. Perhaps you have used food as a diversion from other issues in your life, it makes you feel better while you are eating it, but you feel worse when you stop and realise how much you have eaten – so you eat more to feel better again. It’s a horrible vicious circle. Often you will look for the temporary ‘high’ that comes from sugary foods – which will boost your blood sugar levels making you feel better but then your blood sugar levels will crash very quickly afterwards making you feel even worse.
Our brains are wired to maintain a level of endorphins that makes us feel good. When these levels are depleted because of stress or anxiety we often crave something that will give us a ‘boost’ (literally something that will boost our endorphin levels). A really quick way to do this is to eat something fatty or sugary – but of course we know that isn’t good for us so we experience a short relief from the unpleasant feelings inside but know we are doing ourselves harm in the long term – and this makes us feel bad again!
Another behaviour that may emerge from your Food-Mood diary is ‘habitual’ compulsive eating. This is where you feel the compulsion to eat because perhaps you are bored or because you always eat when you watch TV or go to the cinema for example. Other eating behaviours which fall into this category are – finishing off your children’s leftovers, finishing all the food on your plate, eating whatever is given to you in case you offend your host, always having a biscuit or cake with a cup of tea or coffee. These are habits and simply becoming more aware of them by recording them in your food-mood diary may make you think twice about doing it, but often habits are difficult to break consciously, without a new strategy.
So, by keeping a record of your eating behaviour you will start to see that you eat for 3 reasons:
- Because you are physically hungry
- Because you are ‘emotionally’ hungry -compulsive eating
- Because you have learned unhelpful food habits – habitual eating
It’s reasons 2 and 3 that are keeping you overweight. Go back to your Food-Mood diary and mark down the numbers 1, 2 or 3 next to the entries to indicate the reason for eating against the food you ate.
You are now taking a very powerful position – becoming witness to your own behaviour. By taking a step outside of yourself and observing what you do, you can identify behaviours that you weren’t aware of before. That puts you in the ideal position to change them!
You can identify patterns from your food/mood diary of when you eat ‘emotionally’ and ‘habitually’ and you can now recognise situations that may lead to these types of eating behaviour. In your journal – write down these situations or stimuli. For example:
“I eat when I experience [emotion or feeling]”,
“I sense [emotion or feeling] due to the fact [circumstances, memory, stimulus]” For example: “I consume while I sense anxious”,
“I sense anxious due to the fact my boss units me unreasonable targets”* cont./
“I eat when [situation]”
“The reason why I eat in this case is… ”
For example: “I devour when I clear away the kids’ leftovers”
“The cause why I devour in this situation is that I don’t want to waste food”*
*It’s not absolutely necessary for you to consciously know why you have compulsive behaviour – the reasons will be held in your unconscious mind Listening to the recording and practising your own focused thinking (which you are guided through later in the chapter) will access and resolve these issues.
Your inner voice
So you have now identified the times, places and situations where you over-eat and will be more aware of the factors contributing to that behaviour. We all have ‘strategies’ for everything that we do whether it is how we get ready for work or our day ahead, how we organise our shopping trips or spend our leisure time. Strategies involve following a pattern of behaviour in response to particular stimuli or triggers. But the good thing is that you can change your strategies by ‘re-programming’ how you respond to triggers and installing new strategies. But before you do that, go back to your ‘witness position’ and this time think about how you talk to yourself. Take a moment to think about what sort of things your internal voice is saying to you, right now and when you feel compelled to over-eat or after you have eaten something you consider to be ‘bad’. More than likely, its not very complimentary. Perhaps you berate yourself for eating something you decide you ‘shouldn’t have’, or maybe you call yourself names or tell yourself that you are disgusted with your behaviour or decide what other people think of you and tell yourself that too. Imagine how you would feel if other people talked to you the way you talk to yourself. Imagine saying those things to someone you love – how does it make you feel? Not good I bet. But constantly disappointing yourself can lead to self-loathing and that constant internal fight between denial and reward, seeking comfort and then berating yourself is stressful, not to mention mentally exhausting. Stop verbally abusing yourself. You wouldn’t put up with it from anybody else so change that internal voice into one that is supporting, loving and kind – you deserve it. Praise yourself for having taken the first steps towards changing your lifestyle forever and appreciate all the good things that you do for yourself and others.
Write a list in your journal now of all the positive things about yourself (there are plenty of them) for example: “I am a good friend and always have time to listen ” or “I have patience with my kids ” or “I take good care of my pets” and “I am a good person”.
Acknowledge all the good things you are and do and then acknowledge the fact that you recognise that you need to make changes to your relationship with food, and that you are working towards a new healthier lifestyle. Allow your internal voice to practise patience and understanding when you feel you have gone offtrack – in the same way you would if a child made a mistake or got confused. Your internal voice can be encouraging and supportive – after all its a part of you, and all parts of you have your best interests at heart.
Create New Strategies
As I said earlier, our brains are designed to work with strategies – our actions are a sequence of events constructed around our thoughts, feelings and information we take in from the outside world through our senses. Compulsive and habitual eating patterns of behaviour are also ‘strategic’ – there is a trigger and then a sequence of internal events that result in you achieving a result. The trigger could be an emotion or event resulting in a familiar internal dialogue, recalled internal feeling, sound and/or image. This leads you to take a particular action (e.g. eating a huge slice of chocolate cake when you feel upset or eating a bucket of popcorn every time you go to the cinema) to complete the strategy and achieve a result (e.g. to provide comfort or fulfil a pattern of behaviour).
But you can make new strategies. The most effective way to do this is by changing them on both your conscious and unconscious levels. On a conscious level you can use the exercise on the next page to target specific triggers and change the way you respond. This exercise is particularly good for habitual eating patterns (strategies). It works with the way your mind forms a strategy through its representation of images, sounds and feelings and enables you to re-program and form new connections with a new behaviour in response to a trigger situation. Once these patterns are in place, they become unconscious.
Think about a situation where you want to respond differently.
Look downward to your left and talk to yourself internally – asking yourself “what do I want to do differently in this situation” and “what would I look like, what would I hear and see in this new way of behaving”?
Look upwards to your right and visualise yourself carrying out this new behaviour exactly as you want it to be. (If you have difficulty seeing yourself behaving in this new way, you can think of someone else who already does it.) Watch your new behaviour as if you are seeing yourself in a movie. Make all the changes you need to make to what you see and hear until you have it exactly as you want it. Notice how other people react to you in this movie and what they see and hear too.
Look downward to your right and feel yourself stepping into that movie now – as if you are actually there looking out from your own eyes. See what you can see, what you can hear and notice how that makes you feel.
Check that everything feels right and go through the process from 3 again and make any changes you want to make. Do it twice more.
Think about the stimulus or trigger that will be your prompt for this new behaviour and imagine that happening in the future. Imagine yourself acting in this new way and feel how good it feels to have that response.
You might need to practise this a few times and once you have the routine right – try getting yourself into a really relaxed, comfortable state and closing your eyes before carrying out the steps.
Focused Thinking and Hypnosis
Changing your strategies at an unconscious level is something you can do yourself effectively through focused thinking and listening to the Weight Loss hypnotic recording in the bonus chapter. Focused thinking is also known as Self-Hypnosis.
Often patterns of behaviour resulting in compulsive or emotional eating have their origins deep in your unconscious mind. You might not even be aware of the event or situation that formed the initial connection between eating and feeling different. A lot of our behaviours as adults stem from how we experienced events, emotions and relationships in our past, sometimes originating in early childhood. At that stage, connections were formed between triggers and responses – with the intention of putting us in the best and happiest position. Those responses may have been useful at the time but might not serve us as well now. For example, you might have been encouraged to ‘eat everything on your plate’ and you did because it made your mother happy, and that felt good. However eating everything on your plate now really only makes you overweight – especially if there is too much on your plate to begin with. The behaviour remains but the result is unhelpful, so breaking that connection between overeating and emotion at an unconscious level will enable you to move on to a more helpful relationship with food.
‘Focused thinking’ is best carried out in a ‘light trance’. A trance is something you experience frequently – several times a day in fact. It’s like daydreaming or that feeling you get between sleeping and waking. You might also have experienced it while driving and reaching your destination without really remembering the journey. These are all trance states and they allow your attention to be turned inwards and your unconscious mind to make changes free from the distraction of the outside world (and your internal voice). Of course, just like when you are daydreaming or driving, if something happens that requires your conscious awareness then you immediately become aware of the external world and can give it your full attention.
Before you embark on your own focused thinking or self-hypnosis, now is a good time to listen to the hypnotic recording that accompanies this part of the book.
Practise focused thinking daily – it’s a great way to relax and de-stress as well as to make changes at an unconscious level. Make sure you know all the steps before you start.
A – Getting in the ‘right state’
Find a comfortable, quiet place where you can be undisturbed for half an hour.
Sit or lie down and focus your eyes on a spot above eye level. Stare at that spot intently noticing everything about it, notice also any sounds you can hear around you and notice how you feel. Breathe deeply and as you exhale, move your eyes downwards and just allow them to close.
With your eyes closed focus on your breathing, allowing it to become relaxed and even – and notice how relaxation can spread throughout your body until you feel calm, peaceful and comfortable.
Now allow your tongue to move from the top of your mouth so that it is relaxed and that internal voice starts to fade away so that all you notice is a quiet, peaceful place inside your head. Give that peaceful space a soothing colour and texture. Just allow the feeling to develop for a few minutes and enjoy it.
Congratulate yourself for taking control of your future wellbeing and for having all the resources you need to make change.
Practise this procedure a few times and then introduce some ‘suggestions’ by focusing your thinking. (Move on to part B)
B – Focusing your thinking
Think about the situations where you overeat (refer back to your food- mood diary if necessary). Think about how you would like to act differently in those situations and imagine yourself doing it.
See yourself acting in the new, desired way and imagine what you would see, hear and feel.
Think about what you would say to yourself to describe what your new way of acting is e.g. “I consider what I want or need to eat from an objective point of view. I recognise when I am feeling an emotional need and find ways of tackling that without food”. It’s important that you phrase this in the positive tense.
Then think about what you could tell yourself to do in future when you encounter the situation in which you want to act differently e.g. “each time I feel angry and upset l will close my eyes, take several deep breaths and sort out what is making me feel that way and decide what I can do about it in a calm and rational way”. Again, this should be phrased positively.
So, to summarise the steps for focused thinking:
- Think about the behaviour you want to change
- Imagine yourself carrying out the new, desired behaviour
- Put your new behaviour into words (in the present tense and stated in the positive)
- Put into words your new strategy for responding to a trigger relating to your new behaviour (stated in the future tense and in the positive).
Now put parts A and B together to give yourself a powerful tool to make changes at an unconscious level. Carry out regularly – every day if you can manage and add as many suggestions as you like (following the steps 1-4 for each one).
Getting it All Together
Well done for coming this far. You have made lots of progress in gaining awareness of your eating habits and in making changes on a conscious and unconscious level to overcome compulsive and habitual eating.
Keep recording in your Food-Mood diary and spend some time now writing in your journal about how you have found your first steps towards changing your lifestyle forever. Keep practising your focused thinking as you move on to the next chapter.