Help with losing weight is one of the two most common problems people come to see me about. And interestingly it’s one of the most difficult to treat. I believe that the solution to weight loss is not all in the mind, but equally, it’s very hard to keep the mind on track a couple of weeks into a new way of eating. Gary Taubes’ excellent article “What if it’s all been a big fat lie?” in the New York Times explains how we’ve been fed mis-information for the past few decades, and that has really screwed up our bodies in a way which has made us, certainly in the Western world, a race of people who are fatter now than at any point in history. It’s easier to gain weight, harder to lose it, and the side effects of being fatter are really unpleasant. Amongst others, tiredness, lack of energy and reduced motivation to do anything much. Taubes’ book “Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It” suggests that, contrary to popular culture, these side effects are actually a consequence of becoming obese, it’s simply not the case that they are the cause of obesity. A fact that my patients find reassuring.
So how can we help someone lose weight?
When a client comes through the door wanting to lose weight, what do we do? Some people are easy, I’ve had a number of people who eat mainly fresh food with junk only on high days and holidays, they are the people who simply tend to have a weakness that they can’t resist indulging. Usually chocolate! There are any number of NLP and hypnosis techniques that will work brilliantly for this situation. I prefer to choose the techniques which are not aversion based. I don’t really want people gagging when offered a piece of chocolate. I always think that it’s better if they can either take it or leave it, and simply feel not bothered whether they eat the chocolate or not.
What if diet really is the cause of the problem?
It’s more difficult to help people who simply don’t know that their diet is the cause of their problem. And here, because the solution does mean changes for which they are solely responsible, it’s really important to set people up for success. It’s important to begin with a little education and to find a diet which suits them and which they feel will fit into their lives without too much pain. One of my personal favourites is the paleo style Caveman diet, as gluten has been linked to a number of health problems which also cause lack of energy, digestive disturbances and the like. Noticeable improvement of any of these conditions helps to motivate the individual to stay with the eating plan on an ongoing basis. Of course one of the things which best motivates people is to see results. For this reason a Fast weight loss diet plan can be the answer. Having read a few fast diet plan tests, I sometimes suggest the 3 Week Diet. Although it’s not the easiest plan to follow, standing on the scales each morning and seeing the weight drop off is usually enough to motivate most people to get started. And once they are started, we can work on discovering which strategies are most effective and how we can integrate those into their lifestyle to help ongoing weight loss and subsequent weight maintenance. Significant dietary changes can be too much for some people – and less radical diets can feel more achievable. For women the Venus Factor might be the one they can imagine themselves succeeding with. That’s the important thing. Once a person believes that they will get a result, it’s much easier to stick with the diet.
How do we stick to the diet?
It’s true to say that almost all diets will work – if people stick to them. But sticking to them is the really hard part. So our next job is to examine the triggers for eating and develop mental strategies to re-train our minds into making healthier choices – and making healthier choices seem highly desirable. Mentally, we start by implanting the goal deeply into the client’s mind. To do this, we ask the client to imagine what will happen once the weight loss goal as been achieved. Make the most vivid, detailed, positively realistic picture possible. Picture the scene; .you got on the scales that morning and you were at your target weight. You feel wonderful, filled with joie de vivre, full of the kind of energy you used to feel when you were younger. As you look in the mirror, you see a body you thought you’d never see again. Attractive curves where before there was an overflowing stomach. You notice how much better you look in your new, slimmer clothes. As you go about your day, friends tell you how good you look, and once the day is nearly over, there is energy to spare for a wonderful romantic time with your partner – who you are happy to undress in front of.
So how to we stop wanting it now?
Then we turn to address the more immediate, short term, triggers for eating. I feel unhappy or bored or If I don’t eat it up it’ll just go in the bin. There are any number of these little habits or incidents throughout a week which are so deeply ingrained that it’s very hard for us to consciously argue with the “instant gratification” part of our brain which produces such strong feelings of need. The first thing to know is that these feelings of need will subside. They are difficult for our minds to maintain for very long and any distraction will help move the mind on to think of other things and allow the feelings to subside. If the phone rings, you completely forget about the cake while you chat to your friend. The second thing we would do is to look at any specific triggers for unhelpful eating. The purpose of NLP at this point in the process is to help people be more conscious and thoughtful at the point where their “instant gratification” reaction (eat the cake) ultimately makes them feel bad. Our job is to help people have a wider range of choices in the way that they respond to the trigger. As everyone is different, the skill is picking the technique(s) which will be most helpful for the client and tailoring it specifically so they gain maximum benefit. The video below shows a clip of one of the UK’s most innovative NLP trainers, Andy Austin, working with a client who’s weight loss has plateaued. As he questions her, he’s paying particular attention to the language she’s using, especially the metaphors. This gives huge clues as to how she is internally representing the different aspects of the problem. And often why the problem is not going away on it’s own. Often a change of perspective is one of the things which is required in order to find new solutions to old problems.
There are big clues to picking the right techniques and approaches and that will have to be the subject for a follow-on post. If the person seems hypnotisable however, it’s almost always more beneficial to use a more hypnotic version of whichever technique. The reasons people put on weight are many and varied, I hope this post has given a brief overview of the way that NLP can help the weight loss process by tailoring the whole approach specifically to the individual, taking into account how they they see themselves, their life situation and motivations.