Nicola Griffiths, Cirencester Hypnotherapy Centre
I had to deliver a talk about weight loss a few years ago and I undertook some serious research to prepare for this presentation. What I found out surprised me as I discovered there were some major external influences at work.
Firstly, our brains are hardwired to get a ‘pleasure signal’ (i.e. dopamine) every time we eat. This goes way back to primitive days, so it’s not a recent development.
Therefore, when we are stressed (imagine going into the supermarket after a long day at work) and produce negative chemicals, such as Cortisol, the brain will want to balance this with a quick fix, so it’ll reach for a jam doughnut or equivalent in order to get a positive dopamine fix. Make sense?
Dieting successfully is all about balancing the negative and positive chemicals in our brain – who’d have thought? I thought it was just about eating less and moving more, which it is to a degree, but it’s not that alone.
Other major influence on our weight are the marketing giants. Whilst we might be on a bit of a good run, we only need to rock up to the supermarket when we’re tired, hungry or in a rush and everything can go wrong. I mean, why do they put chocolate at the check-outs where you have to queue?
As for the marketing, here’s a typical example: A certain fast-food chain were happy to put the calories on their packaging for a burger as they knew people would look past that, but not happy to put “You’ll have to walk for 40 minutes to burn off this Latte” as people could equate to that.
There’s also the so-say positive marketing messages that would like to persuade you that certain foods are healthy, via branding, healthy pictures, etc. Yet when you look at the amount of sugar you could almost faint, for example, a typical low-fat yoghurt contains five teaspoons of sugar!
Now these are just some of the issues we have to deal with – there are more. But whatever the issues, how do we overcome them to win the weight-loss war?
Firstly, it’s quite good to take the pressure off ourselves. I don’t mean with regards to dieting, but life in general. People who diet can relate to the fact that sometimes they can find the ‘on’ button to dieting and other times it’s simply hopeless. Why is that? Well mainly the dieting button can be switched on easily if life is going well. Then we’re producing some nice Serotonin and the brain doesn’t need to reach for a dopamine fix. So, if we get life sorted, we get control over food.
We can easily get a reward of Serotonin by doing one of three things: taking positive action; having positive interaction with others and by letting positive thoughts flow through our head. If we do these things then the brain is less likely to need a dopamine fix, i.e. it doesn’t need the equivalent of the doughnut.
These three things take a bit of effort though. Reaching for a doughnut doesn’t take effort at all, and that’s the problem. But think of it this way, doing constant battle with fat over years, maybe even decades, takes one heck of a lot of effort on a daily basis. So possibly it’s time to pick up the phone to a good friend and have a laugh (positive interaction), or take the dog out for a walk (positive action), or maybe just think about good things?
Nicola Griffiths runs the Cirencester Hypnotherapy & Health Centre which has numerous therapists who can help you get a positive mindset. www.cirencesterhypnotherapycentre.co.uk.