The endless struggle to achieve and maintain a healthy weight seems to be the topic of countless blogs, articles, conversations, prayers, conventions, medical discussions and inventions, as well as classes, courses, seminars, and research studies. I've come to the conclusion that our weight is determined by just one thing. And that one thing is our MIND.
I believe our weight has a whole lot less to do with what we eat and a whole lot more to do with what we think. Before you send me an e-mail outlining all of the reasons that couldn't be the case, let me explain my thoughts. Contemplate for a moment on those people who can eat anything and never gain an ounce. Or the people who do everything "right" and can never lose a pound. Or what about me? My thinnest time of life was a year when all I ate was brownies, ice cream, and an occasional meal that someone else made me. And one of my roommates who ate plates of veggies and lean meats but weighed a hundred pounds more than me? Calorie counters don't have all the answers.
Our mind is super powerful. And it's got one heck of a hard drive. In fact, every experience you've ever had and every conversation you've ever heard and all the non-verbal communication you've ever seen, is stored right up top. It's been kept and filed in your subconscious mind. Our subconscious mind uses this information to make conclusions and decisions and directs our life based on those conclusions and decisions. It's how we've formed our habits, beliefs, memories, and skills. It's where we access emotions and store our emotional responses.
Our conscious mind is the rational thinker, the analyzer, and planner. The subconscious and the conscious are both working really hard to help us survive, and succeed, in life. So what's the problem then? Well, what's nearly always the problem in relationships? Lack of communication! The conscious and the subconscious are each working really hard. But unless they are on the same page, then your two minds can actually be sabotaging your own goals and progress. This can happen in every area of our life, but today I'm focusing on how it can affect our weight. As a hypnotherapist I see these themes over and over again.
Mind Issue- Emotional Eating- From the moment we are born many of us have been trained to eat for emotional reasons. A mother may nurse her infant to comfort him rather than when he's hungry. From those first moments the idea is planted into the subconscious mind, "Food makes me feel better." A father may feel guilty for not being around much because he's working all the time so he leaves money for treats while he's out. The kids make the subconscious conclusion, "When you miss someone, treats help you be happy anyway." And how often have we heard things such as: "Oh honey, I'm sorry you've had a hard day. Let's make some cookies and you'll feel better." or "He's such a jerk, I can't believe he dumped you. Let's go get ice cream." or "Great job on your achievement! Let's go get dinner!" We begin to self-medicate with food. Our mind has a list of things we can do when we are overcome with emotions, both positive and negative. Food is often the number one item on each side of the list. And it's planted so deeply and firmly into the subconscious mind that no matter what our conscious goals are, we find ourselves turning back to food every time emotions surface. Fear, anger, powerlessness, boredom, frustration, loneliness, grief, and the opposites, excitement, joy, happiness, and celebration. Subconscious conclusion: Food is the number one answer for every situation.
Mind Issue- Ignoring Body Signals- "Your mother has been working hard all day to fix that food, you're going to make her sad if you don't eat all of it." Or how about "There are children starving in Africa; you are going to finish your plate before you leave this table." Shame. Shame. Shame. A child feels shame when told such things and what is the answer to a negative feeling like that? Food! The child eats the food to relieve the shame, and of course, so he can get up from the table and get back to playing. The problem: This pattern leads to ignoring body signals of hunger and satisfaction. It also ignores the signals our body sends for which foods it needs for proper nutrition and nourishment. Food is no longer something we eat because our stomach is asking for it and our body needs it, but instead, something we eat because it ends guilt and makes mom and dad happy with us. Subconscious conclusions: "Eat lots of food because it makes mom and dad happy. Eating lots of food helps get rid of shame. If I don't eat all of the food on my plate I am responsible for starving children."
Mind Issue- Resistance to Exercise- Obesity didn't used to be such an issue in the world. One big reason for that is because people lived active lives, it was part of their subconscious programming. They woke up and worked hard every day, that's how they survived. But life has changed. We no longer have to grow our own food or plow the fields or walk ten miles to get to town. Along the way, we have changed our minds. Instead of accepting that being active is an important part of survival, it's become "Exercise is what I'm supposed to do." Exercise. What does that word do to you? For many people, it sends a shiver of dread. Through experience and observation the subconscious conclusion is often made: "I hate exercise!"
Mind Issue- Dieting: The world is full of mixed messages and insane amounts of contradicting advice on what, when, and how much to eat. And so we try one diet after another. One of them will surely work. One of them has to be the answer. We lose weight and gain it back. We gain weight and lose it. We begin to lose and then we plateau. We cut out food groups. We increase other food groups. We yo you up and down and our body has no clue what we are doing. And because we've already been trained to ignore our own body signals, it has no way of communicating with us. And so it holds onto all the fat it can, trying it's best to help us survive. Subconscious conclusion: This person is trying to kill me. I have no idea when they are or aren't going to feed me what I need, so I'm going to hold onto everything I can.
Mind Issue- Negative Talk- "Be careful what you say, because you are listening." I don't know where that quote came from but whoever first said it is a genius. Such a genius. Our mind listens to not only every word we say, but also every thought we think. The world has taught us to look in the mirror and let the criticisms begin. What we may not have realized is that these very criticisms lead to the negative reality. Our mind works really hard to keep us sane. When we say, or think, something negative about ourselves over and over, day after day, our mind will work to make, or keep, it reality. Our words matter, so very much. If our words tell us day after day that we are fat and ugly, our subconscious conclusion will stay: "I am fat and ugly."
Mind Issue- Fear- Bad things happen. Really bad things sometimes. Too many people have been hurt and abused in too many ways. Abuse, emotional, physical, and sexual, can lead to many conclusions and decisions. A person who has been sexually abused often comes to conclusions similar to these. "If I am attractive men will take advantage of me." Then, because of social programming, they remember "Thin means pretty." and they make the subconscious decision: "Being thin is unsafe. I choose to be fat." Or those who have suffered emotional or physical abuse may make other conclusions such as "I want to be big so I can protect myself."
Mind Issue- Shame- Have you ever heard anyone say "It's not fair that you're smart and beautiful." Give that seed some time to grow and it can become "Being unfair is bad. I have to choose just one. I will keep being smart and will gain weight to hide my beauty." Or what about an individual who has been unfaithful to their spouse, who had an affair or in some other way violated vows. Or someone who hasn't been unfaithful but fear they might be one day because of constant attention from others, or perhaps just feel guilty for getting attention at all. Shame and fear can lead them to making the conclusion "Being too attractive is not good. It is easier to be faithful if I'm not so attractive."
Mind Issue- Punishment- Excess weight can often be a self-punishment. We collect all of the bad things that happen to us and that we have done or said or participated in or known about, and rather than forgiving ourselves and others, we hold it inside. We hold this emotional weight and it shows up as physical weight. Our body can reflect the weight of our emotions and painful memories stored inside our mind. Subconscious conclusion "I am a bad person and deserve to hold onto this pain." or even "There is no one I trust to take away these burdens. I have to keep them inside."
The thing that's important to remember is that our subconscious mind is making the best conclusions and decisions that it knows how to at the time. It's not a bad part of ourselves working to sabotage us. It's a beautiful part of us working the best it knows how to keep us safe and alive. It often makes conclusions that rationally make no sense to our conscious mind and so consciously it's impossible to figure out what is going on that's blocking us from achieving our goals.The conclusions I have outlined in this post are merely examples of the vast array of potential subconscious conclusions that are filed inside each of our minds; yours may be very similar or very different. That's where hypnosis comes in handy. Through hypnosis we can come to understand what conclusions are guiding us, where they came from, and how to change them to something more positive and helpful. Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy digs deep to discover the core issues and to help that inner voice switch to one that brings healing and positive change, rather than continuing with negative patterns and false beliefs.
As a client walked away from my office the other day, I had this thought come to me. "We can't force the extra pounds off of our body. But, we can ensure they have nothing to cling to."
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