Since the Outbreak of covid-19 many of us have had our lives completely turned upside down and we are all struggling in our own ways. It has affected people in different ways. For some just having some space to talk through things can make a huge difference to how they cope.
For others, the lockdown has meant that they have spent a lot of time reflecting on what's important in their lives and what's not, and they may as a result want to make some big changes but without knowing where to start. Sometimes it takes a conversation with somebody skilled who can listen to what it is that you're saying and give you the space to explore it in your own way and help you to actually make a pathway forward for yourself.
I think if there is a silver lining in all of this, it's that we are being given the gift of time and the gift of space to think more clearly.
If you'd like to explore any of this stuff and you'd like some extra support then why don't you make contact with me online today and we can hook up by video link and together we can explore everything that you're struggling with and look at all your ideas and aspirations for the future together.
You will find my contact details on the website.
Traditional forms of weight reduction have always sat around diet and exercise, and although these are crucial aspects of any weight loss programme they do not take into account our very individual relationship with food, and the act of consumption.
Many people struggling with their weight will know only too well the hell of yo-yo dieting. Slimming options usually mean reducing or eliminating items from ones diet. Abstinence relies on will-power alone and is rarely successful, leaving individuals feeling deflated and despondent when they eventually give in and return to habitual eating patterns, their weight increasing as a result.
Bringing therapy into your weight loss programme can be a very effective way to kick start everything. EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) works to unearth hidden feelings and limiting beliefs that impact our self perception and how we look after ourselves and our bodies. It can be hugely supportive in alleviating cravings and revealing hidden traumas or aspects of our lives that cause us to engage in dysfunctional relationships with food. Unlike other addictions, we can’t go ‘cold turkey’ because we need fuel to survive and carry out basic functions. We need fuel to build and regenerate the cells in our bodies, to enable us to consider and solve life’s challenges and to function in an optimal physical state. Survival of our species has relied upon an in-built natural instinct to hunt out calorific foods, and this is hard to override by will power alone.
“From an evolutionary point of view, junk food cravings are linked to prehistoric times when the brain's opioids and dopamine reacted to the benefit of high-calorie food as a survival mechanism. We are programmed to enjoy eating fatty and sugary substances, and our brains tell us to seek them out.” psychologist Dr Leigh Gibson, Reader in Biopsychology at Roehampton. University (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1382217/Why-crave-junk-food-fruit-veg.html)
Our lives have steadily become marked by festivals and celebrations around food. Annual celebrations such as Christmas and Easter are today largely based around sweet sugary or fatty foods and Birthdays have become synonymous with cake. We are conditioned to use food for comfort as well as celebration and nutrition.
Whenever our brains experience something pleasurable it responds by releasing a chemical called Dopamine. This can be in response to a romantic encounter, drug use, a holiday or simply enjoying a takeaway. Whenever this neurotransmitter is triggered within the brain we feel good. The human body used this neurotransmitter and others like it to encourage and develop behaviours that would contribute towards our survival, such as hunting. When we exercise or exert ourselves and take up the challenge and succeed, we are rewarded by the release of these chemicals, which encourage us to continue to repeat the behaviour or activity. This was true for primitive man when he hunted and for primitive woman when she was part of positive interactions with other tribal members. It is easy to see how eating can get out of hand when we are constantly being rewarded with Dopamine ‘hits’; these built-in mechanisms may have helped the survival of the species but they are doing little to keep us ‘in shape’ now!
“Sweet food can actively alleviate pain by releasing opioids, thus excusing us for giving sweets to a hurt child. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that chocolate causes the brain to release these euphoria-inducing chemicals.” psychologist Dr Leigh Gibson, Reader in Biopsychology at Roehampton University.
Eating can be a way of managing our emotions. Strong emotions illicit discomfort, resulting in a desperate desire to escape or calm our systems. Many of us have learnt to do this using alcohol or drugs and many more using food. What we are trying to do is to alter our mood state by activating the release of Dopamine. In other words we have learnt that we can escape discomfort by certain activities. Being able to sit with your emotions often requires a deeper understanding and appreciation of what has generated them. EFT is very effective at creating a lasting positive change for people who over eat. It helps individuals to become aware of their behaviours and choices including their need to self sooth, thus giving them greater control over how they can choose to do this. Eating can then become a conscious act of sustenance instead of a subconscious means of controlling uncomfortable emotions. Once we become conscious of our eating, we are free to control how much and what we choose to consume.
Diane Robinson, PhD, a neuropsychologist and Program Director of Integrative Medicine at Orlando Health offers these tips to help recognise the emotional connection you may have to food:
"The goal is to take emotion out of eating and see food as nourishment, not as a reward or coping mechanism.” (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151201093606.htm)
Hypnotherapy works by enabling us to make contact with the subconscious part of our brain that stores all our patterns of behaviour. The area in the brain designed to alert and protect us from threats to our wellbeing is very sensitive to perceived dangers, and will often observe new behaviours or choices as unhelpful or injurious. The use of trance work within hypnotherapy enables us to to bypass this response and to imprint new ways of responding to situations without triggering a stress response in the individual. In other words we can set up new programmes or responses towards food and eating. Combining both these therapies can be very effective at kick starting your journey into weight loss. It is an empowering and positive process that puts you firmly in the driving seat of your progress, it does not involve diet sheets or exercise plans but it can incorporate the creation of a plan of action if that feels appropriate for you.
Stress often features in the picture of over eating because stress can vastly reduce sleep, which in turn often sees us turning to high calorie food to keep us awake and focused during the day. Being sleepy also increases our release of ‘hunger hormones’ such as Ghrelin, which in turn will see us reaching for more snacks to keep us going. “The body produces a hormone called cortisol in response to stress," explains Dr Gibson, "Its primary functions are to increase sugar in the blood to be used up as energy by the body's cells, suppress the immune system and aid in fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism. It also blocks the release of leptin and insulin, increasing hunger.” (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1382217/Why-crave-junk-food-fruit-veg.html) When Leptin levels drop in the body this triggers an increase in appetite and can explain some of our food cravings.
Studies have shown that when we are stressed, we're more likely drawn towards high-energy foods, such as cakes and sweets. The stress response, designed to prepare us to see off danger used to mean calories were burned up as energy was expended in fighting or fleeing from the source of danger. Stress as we experience it in today’s society means we are much less likely to actually to burn off the calories. We are now in this modern age experiencing chronic stress, which means our bodies are often looking for sources of high energy or calorific food over a prolonged period of time.
“Obesity and overweight affect together over a third of the world’s population today, and if current trends continue, an estimated 38% of the world’s adult population will be overweight and another 20% will be obese by 2030” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6163457/)