Because these issues are generally subconscious and behavioural, hypnotherapy is a great way to treat and remedy them but first, in order to fully understand how to tackle your food consumption, you need to identify the kind of ‘eater’ you are. You may be a combination of more than one kind or you may just have one of these issues.
Comfort / emotional / binge eater
This is possibly one of the most common issues that mums have when it comes to weight. The good new is that emotional eating is a learned habit and just like any learned habit can be unlearned. It is the most liberating feeling to know that you have overcome emotional eating and that you no longer rely on it to make you feel better.
It is something that we probably learned from an early age. In the not too distant past there were lollipops given at the doctors for being good, you may have been comforted with sweets or given chocolate as a treat or to cheer you up. Televisions and films perpetuate the habit with stick thin actresses gorging on ice cream after break ups and bad days at work.
Chocolate is known to contain components that trigger a chemical reaction that makes you feel similar to the feeling you get when you are in love, so it’s understandable that you may turn to chocolate on bad days. However, the irony of the situation is, that emotional and comfort eating can become a vicious cycle.
Whilst the initial ‘high’ (yes, just like a drug) of eating your chosen comfort food makes you feel better and comforted, soon new, negative emotions kick in. Guilt, shame, disgust can all be present as can the physical feeling of sickness and over-fullness. At this point, if you are ever tempted to make yourself sick I would urge you to seek proper medical help as this is a deep-rooted issue. However, many mums stop short of this and just live with the discomfort until it subsides.
In fact, it is not uncommon to know that you are full, know that you have eaten more than you want to and to still keep eating. This is a form of self harm and must be addressed. Some of my clients also binge eating in this way in secret, hidden away from their partners and their children. These kinds of habits can be repaired and fixed but it takes a little time.
Over eater (lost the ability to tell when full / has to clear plate)
Another habit often learned during childhood is being a fully paid up member of the ‘Clean Plate Club’. Times have changed now and whilst children are encouraged to try a variety of foods they are also encouraged to eat to their appetite. Many of us mums will have lived through a time where we were expected to clear our plates at mealtimes. An after effect of the rationing, our parents and grandparents came from an era where being grateful to have enough food was expected and therefore finishing everything you were given was seen as good manners.
However, with the increase in convenience food, portion sizes and ‘snack foods’ this is no longer necessary and actually a bad habit to be in, if you have learned to over eat and lost the ability to feel full.
After years of overriding this signal it may take a little effort to find the feeling again but it is possible and necessary in order to lose weight.
Over eaters simply eat too much food. It doesn’t matter what the food is, if you eat too much of it you will gain weight. Easy tips and techniques can be to stop half way through a meal and see how full you feel. Wait a little before you continue and see if you really want any more. Slowing down your eating speed is also good, chewing mouthfuls more thoroughly and becoming ‘mindful’ about eating rather than just shovelling the food in mindlessly.
Using a smaller plate and therefore having smaller portions also works. Studies have shown that when people are faced with larger plates they fill them with more food and therefore eat more. Studies have also shown that people feel more satisfied with smaller portions when they are served on smaller plates. It’s about expectation. If you are given a full plate of food, even if it is a smaller plate you will expect to feel full at the end of it.
Have to have popcorn when you watch a film? Always have a biscuit with your coffee, a pastry in the café with friends? Then you are an habitual eater. You are eating because of the context you are in and not because you are hungry. This is a conditioned or learned response and again the habit can be broken. Many mums find that once the children are all in bed and the house is tidied up that they reach for the snacks when they sit down to relax in the evening. If this is you then this is habitual. It’d dangerous because if you are distracted whilst you are eating then you are likely to eat more than you realise. A family pack of biscuits or crisps can be gone before you realise that you were eating them. Changing this habit is tricky. Try to work out if these are really times when you are hungry. If you are hungry then you must eat, but you need to identify whether it is a real need or a craving (like cigarettes). If you are really hungry try to choose a food that is filling and measure out your portion. Have a ‘proper’ mini meal, such as a sandwich or a salad or a couple of oatcakes and humus rather than a few crisps. Even better have a piece of fruit. Don’t watch TV and eat it or you won’t notice you ate, sit and eat it at the table and consciously chew and enjoy it, before sitting down to watch TV.
Perhaps harder to solve is the unhealthy eater. The person who simply enjoys foods that are not the wisest choices. Perhaps the easiest way is to think about what these foods are doing to your insides, the effect that all the saturated fat is having on your arteries and the strain it is putting on your internal organs. Try to change your food choices a bit at a time, by substituting the odd thing each mealtime and making more conscious choices to incorporate healthy foods into your diet too. I remember listening to Heston Blumenthal talking about educating your taste buds and its true. You keep trying a food, over and over again until you like it (a little bit like you do with kids when you’re weaning – and beyond!). You can learn to like other types of foods and to make better choices most of the time.
Once you have identified the kind of habits you have you can take steps forward to changing those habits either by mindset, NLP or hypnotherapy. Its long term, its sometimes slow progress but if you take action it can be permanent.