There are a multitude of reasons why people struggle with weight control, many of which are unconscious. This article explains that it is not just about the food. Without recognizing and understanding your opponent, your struggle will continue to bring more of the same results. I will assist you in identifying what you are up against as well as a range of reasons that could be holding you back. Tools to release the obstacles that get in the way of managing your weight are given. You are encouraged to give yourself that inner permission to succeed.
Let us look more closely at a struggle that shows up in our lives time and time again — losing weight. Think of the many industries that are preoccupied with weight loss, such as diets, weight loss supplements, exercise programs, health clubs etc. Those industries are successful and continue to expand because they promise people that they will lose weight when we buy and use their products. People sometime lose the five, ten or fifty pounds only to gain it back often to lose it again and again. So what is really happening here?
To give you an example, a client arrives for psychotherapy asking for help in order to lose weight or to manage the "yo-yo syndrome" of losing and gaining. Quite often the client is well versed in nutrition, the latest diet headlines and is preoccupied with getting on some prescribed way of adhering to a program with which she or he has had problems. The deep fears/problems around the real reasons that weight management is so difficult have not been addressed and what is being presented is really a smokescreen for deeper problems, conscious or unconscious, that are running the show.
What I have seen in my practice is that people expend a tremendous amount of energy on self-control, self-denial, willpower and persistence. It may help superficially, however it is only a short term solution. While our culture seems to value willpower or the “white-knuckle” approach, it does not help in breaking an ingrained habit; it is not effective. Neither is a quick fix, although our culture seems to expect such.
What becomes clear is that we overestimate the powers of the conscious mind, and we underestimate the power of the unconscious mind. None of us is pleased to learn that our will is not enough to resolve the problems and that there are always unconscious factors at work. We eat for a range of reasons that have nothing to do with hunger. What then is behind our emotional eating? Simply put, emotional eating serves a multitude of purposes. The following are some examples.
- Food distracts us from many painful emotions such as sadness, grief, loneliness, shame, helplessness, anger, anxiety, etc.
- Food raises our blood sugar levels causing many of our emotions such as depression and anxiety to be somewhat numbed, at least temporarily.
- Certain foods raise endorphin levels similar to a drug response and elevate mood thinking, such as chocolate or other comfort food. Overly stressed people often use food to diffuse their tension instead of using more effective stress reduction techniques. Food works as a quick fix in the moment only to accumulatively attach to our hips, bellies, and add to our stress load later. Some foods are associated with "the good times."
- There are people who believe if they carry more weight they will be safer in the world, stronger and healthier. Clients have told me that they associate loss of weight with fragility and dying.
- Some people fear the full expression of their sexuality and use weight to keep themselves from facing their fears.
The above examples are few compared to the many ways the unconscious can interfere with conscious goals. What to do? Take some time, get relaxed, go inward and reflect. What is your storyline that keeps you stuck around weight issues? What purpose does your preoccupation with weight, diets and food serve? How does it keep you safe? What does it keep you from doing in your life? What consequences do you fear? There are always consequences when we change, some good, some not. Family members may want us to stay just as we are because if we change, it may make them anxious. They may even up the ante. Whenever I went on a diet, my ex-husband showed up with chocolates.
One of the first things I do when somebody comes to me about weight struggles is to ascertain the real culprit. With their permission after a full assessment, clinical hypnosis may be in order. Hypnosis helps me to access the clients unconscious to determine if there is an inner agreement to do the work. If there are other problems, they may have to be addressed first in order to prevent sabotage. Often it is just making clear what barriers are in the way. Get an agreement for change and go to work. Get to know yourself at a deep level. If you have trouble getting there, get professional help. You are worthy of success.
There will be slip ups, forgive yourself and start again. Blessings.
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