A vast majority of the population has probably tried some form of diet at some point in their lives, but the fact is, for most people, diets don’t work. Now there are probably many people reading this now who will disagree, focussing on the likes of Weight Watchers, Slimming World and all those other diet based weight loss institutions out there. And while these organisations may have short term success with their members, when you look a year, two years, five years or ten years into the future of those members, you often find that the weight loss they experienced through dieting is unsustainable, especially after the member stops going to the weekly meetings.
Many of you reading this will have surely experienced for yourself, trying countless diets, your weight going up and down like a yo-yo, feelings of exhilaration one week only to be followed by despair the next, getting to a point where inevitably you stop your diet and then the weight piling back on, in some cases worse than before.
So what’s really going on here? Why do diets not work and is it possible for sustained weight loss over the long term? Allow yourself to imagine for a moment, your life as it would be if you lived 10,000 years ago. Your life would have been nomadic, constantly on the move, hunting and gathering. Supermarkets and shops didn’t exist and there were no ways of storing food for any length of time. Your trigger to eat was simply driven by hunger. When your body needed food, it released the hormone to make you feel hungry, encouraging you to hunt and gather. When your body didn’t need food,that hunger wasn’t present and so you had no need to hunt and gather. Simply put, you ate when you felt genuinely hungry and stopped eating when you stopped feeling hungry.
From an evolutionary and biological point of view, the human body has changed little in the last 10,000 years and we are still primarily driven by this hunger / full signal. However, modern society has effectively disrupted this driver. Just think of the concept of meal times. Meal times are convenient in modern, structured society, but forcing the body to eat when it is not hungry is not healthy. And forcing the body to wait for a set meal time when it is genuinely in need of food is again, detrimental.
Now think for a moment about all those verbal messages around food given to children as they grow “think of all the starving children in Africa”, “You will be sent to your room if you don’t eat all that”, “Do you know how hard we work to put food on the table”, etc. I’m sure you can name many more sayings around food from your own childhood.
And then there are the non-verbal messages. Observing parents and peers eating a biscuit with a coffee or a bag of crisps with a sandwich. Being given a lollipop when they go to the doctors, sweets or chocolate when they need comforting, ice cream as a reward for good behaviour, pizza or takeaways as a treat for working hard. The truth is, by the time a child becomes a teenager, they have been exposed to countless verbal and non-verbal messages around food and eating. What they should eat, when they should eat, what foods connect with what emotional state, what circumstances certain foods are allowed in, etc.
So what does all this have to do with unsuccessful diets? Firstly, diets teach you that you are only allowed certain foods in certain quantities and certain times. This is not how the human body operates. Factors such as activity, the weather, illnesses, emotional states, fatigue and even brain usage mean that we need different amounts of food each day. Your body tells you what it needs and when it needs it. It is important to listen to your body and respond appropriately, not to try and force a particular eating regime onto yourself which may not be in your body’s best interest.
Secondly, forcing yourself to eat certain foods in certain quantities at certain times does not begin to uncover or reverse those negative messages you have been exposed to all of your life. The truth is, your subconscious mind will always win out over your conscious mind. So if your subconscious is convinced that chocolate is the best solution when you are feeling sad, you may be able to fight that impulse for a while, but ultimately, that conflict between your conscious and subconscious will wear you down and your subconscious will eventually win out. It is here that hypnotherapy has the greatest impact, changing these negative messages at a subconscious level.
So, are you genuinely still interested in losing weight and keeping that weight off for the long term? If so, stop listening to these fad diets and dieting organisations and start listening to yourself. Allow yourself to become more aware of those negative and harmful messages you learnt around food as you grew. And most importantly, teach yourself to tune into that genuine hunger and full signal from your body. If you are genuinely hungry, eat slowly until you feel satisfied. And once you feel satisfied, stop eating until the next time you feel genuinely hungry.
And if you are still struggling, why not look into how hypnotherapy can help you to break those negative messages and become more in tune with yourself once again. You may just find that you’ve held the key to sustainable weight loss within you the whole time!