The Problem is Habit
We all know that 95% of people who lose weight on diets regain it and this is can be a rather depressing thought. However researchers at the University of Hertford discovered that when people are successful in the long term, it often coincided with a major life change – a new job, house or relationship. This is great news for those of us on the cusp of an exciting new future but leaves those of us with more routine lives with a conundrum. But there is hope. The Hertford team suggest that even small changes in routine can alter the bad habits we have acquired. After all many yo-yo dieters often cite boredom as an eating trigger. The Hertford approach to weight lost is to do something different – The no diet diet.
Difference makes the difference
To get a different result you need to do something different and you need to do something different every day. This is all about habit breaking. Your eating habits may seem completely random to you but in fact we all have habits that enable us to carry out our lives with minimum effort and this includes bad habits like over-eating. It may be that there is a habitual feeling you respond to – anxiety, stress, loneliness, or just an uncomfortable sensation in your mouth. You may give yourself permission by habitual thinking – it’s just one, I can’t do this or I deserve chocolate after the day I’ve had. Or your actions might facilitate over-eating. I have clients who find reasons to pop into the village shop daily, or who leave tempting goodies in full view. Maybe you feel compelled to finish things up because your mother told you to. Did you really do everything your mother told you to do?
The new things to try need not be time-consuming, expensive or glamorous. The Hertford team list activities as simple as talking to a neighbour or throwing something away as well as more effort intensive ideas like learning a new skill. It can be as simple as parking somewhere different. Until I read their book I had never noticed that I always park in the same place at the supermarket. Their suggestions start small but of course end up with a deeper consideration of how we maintain habits and how we can change them. There is no escaping the fact that In the end long lasting change involves thinking differently, feeling differently and acting differently. If you leave any of these out of the equation there is a risk that the changes you make will not stick.
Fletcher, B, Pine, K, Penman D. (2005) The No Diet Diet: Orion;UK
Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy (CBH) is hypnosis combined with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques. CBH is based on the principle that hypnotic states are a normal part of existence and whenever you arrive at your destination without having consciously driven there, you have been accessing a form of hypnosis. Similarly if you lose yourself in a book or film to the extent that you forget the characters and action are not real, then you have had a form of hypnotic experience. Hypnosis is then a naturally occurring state that:
- has an intention or goal
- harnesses the imagination
- requires a relaxed but focused alertness to what is happening
In CBH clients are aware of what is happening, are able to respond and remember most of what occurs because they are using their own minds and imaginations to create the results they want. The hypnotherapist is merely the facilitator. The approach is collaborative and therefore less directive than some forms of hypnotherapy. I always teach the client self-hypnosis techniques and this means that outside the therapy room, the client can practise the new behaviours or perspectives, and apply the techniques to other problematic situations. This makes treatment very good value for the client.
It is a problem solving approach and whilst this may make it seem less magical than stage hypnotism and it is important to realise that whilst hypnotherapy is very helpful in smoothing the path of change, and can often seem magical, it is not a magic wand in that it cannot make you do anything you do not want to do. This means that you must be ready to change and willing to behave differently and try new ideas. Believe it or not, those people up there clucking like chickens do actually want to be there, curious as it may seem. All successful hypnosis depends on the individual cooperating with the hypnotist.
I have used CBH very successfully for a number of problems including weight loss, smoking, anxiety, confidence building and habit control. It also works well alongside mindfulness based practice which is another well-researched and effective method of stress reduction. If ou wish to know more about how CBH could help you, get in touch soon.
Hypnotherapy can be very effective with helping people stop smoking.
I was taught that smoking cessation works best with a one session approach and in my early days as a hypnotherapist that is what I tended to favour. And indeed, in many cases, it works just fine and lots of people have left the room as non-smokers. However, there were also the clients that were plagued with cravings or just a sense of loss. Many people lament the loss of the camaraderie of the smoking group and this can be more difficult to overcome than the nicotine addiction for some.
I started to experiment with more sessions over time, rather than a single session, and for some clients this approach is preferable. Many clients have a sense of how they would prefer to proceed and in this case, it is easy. What you believe affects the course of treatment so if you believe you need more sessions then you will. If you believe you can do it one, then you will. When I say believe I mean belief at a deep, emotional level. That “just knowing” something which is not the same as believing that it ought to be possible.
If you were not sure, then how could you decide? If you are not sure that you have a deep belief then will it work? A telephone chat or a short pre-treatment meeting can help with the decision about how to proceed. Things to consider are:
- How motivated are you?
- Why are you doing this?
- Who are you doing if for?
- How highly do you rate your ability to give up?
- What frightens you most about giving up smoking (I find a lot of fear in smokers contemplating giving up)?
- Do you consider this a habit or an addiction?
- Is the timing right? What is coming up socially for you?
Interestingly the fact that you may have been smoke free in the past but relapsed need not deter you. There is research by Norcross and di Clemente that suggests that it can take a few attempts before we master change permanently. They also suggest that not everyone contemplating change is necessarily ready for action so it may well be more appropriate to work first on your motivation and self-belief before deciding the date of your smoke free life. This helps explain why some folk can become smoke-free in one session and others need some time and mental preparation before taking the plunge.
Summer is approaching and the bikini season is almost upon us.
This always leads to a flurry of weight loss enquiries in my practice. There are many different approaches to losing weight and healthy eating but one thing I always recommend is that people become more knowledgeable about the quality of the food they eat . Women are often very aware of the calorie content of every morsel but not necessarily the nutritional content. In a world that is packed with new diets and new weight loss theories it can be difficult to know what a healthy choice looks like. I don’t think you need to be a nutritionist to work out that foods with the highest nutritional content are the ones we need to eat most of the time. I think it is also important to look beyond calories, fat and carbs and think about vitamins, minerals and amino acids. I am not a nutritionist and am therefore wary of recommending particular diets or eating regimes but I do read a great deal about nutrition and the impact different types of food have on the nervous system and the body. The biochemistry can be hard to get through but I think it is important to understand food in broader terms than calories.
There are interesting theories about the addictive nature of sugar and carbohydrate and whilst I realise that these theories are contested in some quarters, my experience strongly suggests that this is indeed the case. My weight loss clients virtually always have cravings for sugar or other forms of carbohydrate. People simply don’t become overweight on a diet of salmon and green vegetables and neither do people generally binge on salad. Many over eaters feel in the grip of uncontrollable urges to eat the foods they know are causing the problem and I think there is evidence to suggest that not all of these urges are purely psychological. As a therapist I always consider the emotional factors in weight issues but I am increasingly coming to believe that cravings can have a physiological as well as psychological root.
Some books that have given me pause for thought are listed below. Warning: You might have to plough through some science but persevere (or just skip to the recommendations).
Gary Taubes; The Diet Delusion (Long and thorough)
Robert Lustig: Fat Chance. The Bitter Truth About Sugar
David Gillespie: Sweet Poisobn (written for the Australian market but the science works anywhere)
David Gillespie: Toxic Oil (ditto)
William Davis: Wheat Belly
David Kessler: The End of Overeating
Anything by John Briffa
Eating Less: Gillian Riley – an interesting take on facing food addiction