Our supermarkets are absolutely rammed with a smorgasbord of both sweet and savoury snacks to tempt the taste buds of every shopper. And who, these days, doesn’t fill themselves up with one of the handy treats stacked high by the queue to pay for fuel at the filling station?
There’s no escaping the constant, unlimited supply of snacks available 24/7. Most workplaces have a stash of sugary stuff to stuff down quickly without even stopping work for a break. There are cakes for birthdays, crisps or chocolate in a bottom drawer, buffet food left over from corporate events or someone from accounts who doesn’t mind popping out for takeaways.
The cupboards at home are never bare. There’s usually a ‘buy one get one free’ multipack, perhaps languishing in a special ‘treats’ cupboard, tempting you to eat twice as much of what you would otherwise have bought one of. And the snacks we buy are rarely healthy. They’re all processed for the profit of a food industry which is highly skilled at selling us junk in shiny packaging.
Most shoppers are completely oblivious to the hypnotic power of branding and advertising. The science of selling is sophisticated and subliminal. Everything from the position on the shelves to the smell in the store is designed to make us spend more. It’s the subconscious mind which is being influenced in this way and it’s that part of our neurological functioning which can be directed away from making unhealthy choices with hypnotherapy.
A cheeky snack now and again is not a problem in itself but fast food is usually an addictive combination of fatty, salty and sugary ingredients. These are described as ‘hyperpalatable’ and create what’s called the ‘bliss point’ – a hotline from the taste buds to the pleasure circuits of the brain sending the message that one biscuit is never enough.
Thus, snacking can develop into an habitual way of mindlessly overconsuming in response to a variety of emotions. We eat if we’re happy or sad, celebrating or commiserating, rewarding ourselves after a productive day at work or compensating for a bad one. Chocolate is a substitute for love or a declaration of it. Pretty much any social gathering requires cake, crisps, pizza or curry to get the party going.
Hardly any of this snacking is necessary to meet nutritional needs. Many of those I see about weight management perceive hunger as something to be avoided and therefore never allow themselves to experience it. When we say ‘I’m starving’, we are overstating things somewhat. This fear of hunger is ironic given that food is so much more delicious when consumed on an empty stomach.
Genes and hormones also conspire to sabotage any intention to manage and control weight. We are designed for a primeval environment where food was scarce and are genetically hard-wired to see food and eat it. Those who didn’t have a genetic disposition for gluttony would not have lasted long in that environment.
Even in recent history, just a couple of generations ago, a significant proportion of the population would not have enough food to go round. Parents would go hungry to make sure their children were fed and, in times of plenty, food would be piled up and every last scrap had to be eaten. So food is historically equated with the love of a mother hoping her children will survive in times of high infant mortality.
Hormones kick in with a craving for high calorie food if we’re tired or stressed to fuel the additional energy required for survival under pressure. And if we do get our hands on high calorie sugars or starches, our body’s blood sugar skyrockets then crashes, creating a craving for more of the same as powerful as any other addiction. This in turn drives a need for snacks that many dieters don’t count despite rigorously counting the calories of healthy, carefully prepared meals. Subsequently, a lot of those I see about weight control will be consuming more calories in snack food than at mealtimes, leading to inevitable weight gain that is often inexplicable to them.
To cap it all, willpower doesn’t work very well either. In order for willpower to work, it has to overrule the emotional, habitual demands of powerful subconsciously driven thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Our conscious rational self is no match, making the desire for self-control a continuous argument with ourselves that we will ultimately lose. This is why dieters end up feeling like big fat failures when they can no longer sustain the discipline of a weight loss regime and quickly gain weight again when returning to ‘normal’.
Hypnotherapy helps achieve behavioural change by enabling the subconscious to be in agreement with logical conscious intentions. In the process, I can help overeaters to deconstruct deeply embedded habits of a lifetime, dissociate from the triggers for their cravings and desensitise them to an addiction to something they are surrounded by all the time and can never completely give up.
It’s highly motivating and empowering for lifelong overeaters to discover they can make permanent changes to their lifestyle and habits without suffering from feelings of deprivation, guilt and misery typically associated with dieting. After all, food is one of life’s great pleasures, not an enemy to taunt or punish ourselves with.
A clinical hypnotherapist, master NLP and CBT practitioner based in the South East of England, Karen Martin has many years experience treating a wide range of conditions and disorders. Anxiety in its many forms, from phobias to panic disorders, and behavioural change, like weight management and smoking cessation, are issues she specialises in and has a consistent track record of successfully treating. In Karen's words "Hypnotherapy provides an armoury of weapons to give courage and strength to destroy anxiety and build defences against its return".
Find out more about Karen's work at Hypnotherapy Kent