Thinking Yourself Thin

Eating better begins in your head. Follow these 4 steps to change your relationship to food.

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Many of us go on a diet this time of year, but few lose weight. Studies show dieting only has a 5 to 9% success rate. For the rest of us, restricting what we eat slows our metabolism and leads us to binge down the road (a recipe for weight gain and the #1 diet mistake.) Instead, experts say the key to maintaining a healthy weight is to change how we think about food.

One way people successfully do so is with hypnosis. Though scientists don't understand exactly how it works, it seems that hypnosis brings your brain into a trance-like state in which you tune out the outside world (much like when you're reading a book or watching a movie). In that state, you're highly suggestible. Your conscious mind (the part that likes to over-think things) shuts off, and your subconscious, the part responsible for impulse and imagination, takes over. Hypnotists take advantage of your open mind, and train your brain to follow different impulses, changing your eating behavior from the inside out.

The goal of weight loss hypnotists is to make healthy eating a natural instinct (replacing that familiar compulsion to eat an entire bag of chips). Below are the 4 main ways they retrain your brain. The good news is that you don't have to be hypnotized to make them a part of your routine. Just start today, and, with repetition and practice, you can change your relationship to food.

Eat When You're Hungry

It may seem counterproductive, but eating when you're hungry gives your metabolism consistent work. When you skip meals or ignore hunger pangs, your body assumes a famine is coming and slows down to conserve every calorie. So the next time you do eat, your body burns up fewer of the calories you take in and begins to store fat for the tough times ahead. Instead, listen to your body. When it is legitimately asking for food (as opposed to just looking for something to do), give it some fuel. You're letting your body know that there will always be enough and there's no need to panic.

Eat What You Want

Here's another rule that sounds like a healthy eating taboo. But making food forbidden only makes it more tempting. If you have a particular craving, satisfy it. Of course, this doesn't mean that you can eat whatever you want, in whatever quantity, whenever you want it. Practice good eating habits and portion control - but if you're craving mac 'n cheese - there's no hard, fast rule saying you can't have any. However, try updating your recipe for a healthier, and still tasty alternative, like the Kitchen Diva's Mac 'n Cheese.

Eat Consciously

Research shows that eating food in front of the TV leads you to overeat. The same goes for being on your computer, listening to the radio, or reading a magazine. Instead, focus on the food and the process of eating it. Studies have shown that when people slow their eating speed, put their fork and knife down, and chew each bite about 20 times, they eat significantly less. Being aware of how you eat and taking your time will help you enjoy food more, digest better, and eat less.

Stop When You're Full           

Shoveling bites of pecan pie into our mouths floods our brain with happy chemicals that override the signal from our stomach that says we are full. By eating slower, you will be able to receive the message. Listen to it.