It’s a startling statistic, but research shows us that in 2009–2010, 35.7% of U.S. adults were obese.
This number has remained relatively unchanged, but it translates to just under a whopping 80 million people who are technically in the obese category. Our culture isn’t kind to those people who are overweight. People in this category can feel like failures. They may have medical concerns related to their weight, or emotional issues they are dealing with. While some people may love their love handles and enjoy being size XL, most people do not.
We can look at all of the cultural factors that lead to this – lack of access to good food in many low-income areas, too many fast-food restaurants with easy accessibility, lack of family time to sit down together and enjoy a good meal, bigger portions served in restaurants, too much salt and sugar in processed foods, lack of exercise with too many people being sedentary, and the list goes on and on and on. There are all kinds of conditions that prevent any of us from being the weight we desire and feeling in good health as a result.
But some people are thin. There are people who live in this same culture, up against all of the obstacles outlined above, who manage to stay thin. We could chalk it up to “genetics” or a propensity toward a strong metabolism, but deep down we know that isn’t always the case. Some people are just disciplined. They stay away from food that’s not good for them, and they don’t feel compelled to eat everything that’s on their plate.
Why? What’s the difference? Much of weight has to do with the way our minds have been programmed since we were children. As a hypnotherapist, I deal with this in clients all of the time. Think about the “Clean Plate Club” your parents wanted you to join. Or the starving children in Biafra that would starve if you didn’t eat what was on your plate. We develop a sense of guilt that if we are wasting food, someone else is being hurt as a result of our waste.
Then there is the comfort aspect. Many of us grew up getting root beer floats when we were sick, or candy from our beloved grandparents each time we visited. We begin to associate good feelings with the food that isn’t good for us!
And for some people, weight protects them. If one has had an experience with sexual assault, or even just having an older person gawk at them and comment on their body in a sexual way when they are young and developing, they may use their weight as a shield against future advances.
There are many roots for growing a bad relationship with food. In many cases we aren’t even aware of the tapes we play relative to food. We don’t realize that we are eating to solve a problem or assuage our guilt. Self-hypnosis can be a very useful tool for playing new tapes in our minds and developing new messages around our relationship with food and weight.
For example, think of the word “diet”. Do you connote anything positive at all with dieting? Of course not! It’s about deprivation and lack. It’s about a period in time you will deny yourself, and once you get through it, life will return to normal (i.e. “more fun”). We associate good habits with feeling deprived or denied.
If your goal for this year is to lose weight and adopt a healthier attitude toward food, don’t start with the diet. Start by reprogramming your mind to think more like a naturally thin person. Thin people have different tapes that play. They might have grown up seeing apples and pears as “treats” and learning to exercise for fun. They might have been given smaller portions and taught to get more food only if they are still hungry after they finish the small plate. They might have learned to enjoy fresh, natural food and not eat as much processed.
In any event, the tapes they play are different. If you want to think thin, try this exercise this year. You will need to practice it a few times to have it take hold.
- First, you need to make a commitment to doing this and knowing it will work. Don’t just “try” half-heartedly and go into it believing it will be just another failed attempt.
- You must find a quiet place to do the exercise. No interruptions. No worries about what you need to do in the next 5-10 minutes. Sit comfortably somewhere with your back flat against the back of a chair, your feet flat on the floor and your hands resting comfortably in your lap.
- Close your eyes (but first read the instructions so you will know what to do!) and breathe deeply. Take deep breaths in through your nose and let them out through your mouth. Do this until your breathing is deep and steady and you feel relaxed as you sit and breathe.
- Begin to count from 10 down to 1. At the count of 1, allow your body to fully and completely relax. Clear your mind of everything and continue to breathe deeply.
- Say the following to yourself over and over: “I think like a thin person. I eat only what I need when I need it and I become conscious of the food I eat. Everything I put into my body affects me. I choose only the food, and the amounts, that are good for me.” You will need to memorize this to do it with your eyes closed, so read this several times with your eyes open until you get the gist of the words. You do not have to say them exactly, but stay close to the script.
- As you say these , picture yourself eating healthy food, exercising, smiling as you lose weight and feeling more healthy. You look good in your imagination. You feel good there. You see it clearly.
- Do this on a consistent basis three times a day for about 5 minutes for a series of 21 days. Research shows it takes us 21 days to adopt a new habit.
Start programming your mind to think thin!