Curious, isn’t it, how we find so many explanations for why we can’t seem to control our weight? Everything from “I don’t have time for anything except fast food!” to
“I can’t use my stationary bike because it's covered in clothes” to “The dog ate my menu plan.”Living well results from a combination of many factors which are, for the most part, within our control and one of the core elements for producing a sense of wellbeing is a healthy body. While most of us know the “rules” for achieving that, it is in following those rules that some of us lose our way.
Each of us has an innate capacity to control our willpower. Willpower can be defined as that force which permits us to accept or reject personal actions which benefit or harm us. For example, when faced with the choice between a pizza with extra cheese and a salad for lunch it is willpower which causes some of us to choose the salad. So what is this thing called willpower, and where is it exactly?
The short answer is that willpower is part of our belief system and habit patterns, and it resides in our subconscious mind. The longer, more complex answer requires some understanding of the three levels of the mind. At the deepest level is the unconscious mind, which controls our automatic bodily functions, such as heart rate and digestion, with no conscious input from us. The next layer is the subconscious mind, the seat of our habit patterns and belief systems, and the top layer is the conscious mind, which receives and processes the barrage of daily stimuli and input from the world around us.
Let’s look at the problem of overweight/obesity/morbid obesity. These terms are scientifically definable by BMI (body mass index), with a BMI of 25-29.9 as overweight, 30-39.9 as obese, and 40 or above as morbidly obese. But, more importantly, they are also definable by the degree of willpower each of us brings to the issue of maintaining healthy weight. Excess weight is a major factor in causing heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and a lack of self esteem.
If you are carrying excess weight, think of how often you have made the conscious decision to “finally get that weight off,”or said to yourself, “today is the day I begin my diet.” And how many of us, several weeks down the road, are really any lighter or healthier than when we made that conscious decision? The sad fact is that the conscious mind, for the vast majority of us, is incapable of penetrating to the deeper layer of the subconscious mind where our willpower resides.
Why is it so difficult? Why do so many people end up frustrated and disappointed in themselves? A big problem is that there is
a gateway between the conscious and the subconscious mind, guarded by a fiercely powerful monitor called the “critical factor.” This protects our beliefs and habits from being altered constantly by stimuli received by or originating within the conscious mind, but one’s conscious decision to diet must pass through this critical factor gatekeeper before it can enter the controlling habit and belief system in the subconscious mind and become the modus operandi of the body. The problem is that the protective barrier will simply not permit easy passage of conscious thought and it is necessary to bypass this critical factor if one is to modify habits which are ingrained in the subconscious mind. Merely wishing the change, and consciously deciding on it, will not suffice.
Hypnosis is a powerful method for achieving bypass of the critical factor, and it permits selective modification of the underlying belief systems and habits in the subconscious mind. It is important to understand what hypnosis is, and what it is not. First, it is not control of the subject by the hypnotherapist; it is not magic; it is not capable of making one say or do anything which would not be said or done without hypnosis; it is not a sleep or zombie-like state. Hypnosis is merely a state of extreme relaxation, during which the subject is awake and aware of surroundings; the subject remains fully capable of accepting or rejecting suggestions into the subconscious mind. Since both hypnotherapist and subject are in accord over the goal of helping the subject, all positive suggestions are readily integrated into the subconscious. The therapist might well be described as a guide through the process, facilitating the subject’s opening of the subconscious mind and permitting the therapist's suggestions regarding good eating habits to become a part of the subject’s new habit patterns.
The end result of a hypnotherapy session is a subject who exits the hypnotic state refreshed and relaxed, with a new sense of complete control over future eating habits and the resultant weight loss. To heighten the benefits and strengthen the power of the hypnotic and posthypnotic suggestions, I provide my own subjects with a CD of the hypnosis session to keep. I urge them to listen to it many times over the first few days, and to use it afterwards whenever they would like to reinforce their newfound control.
Thus, hypnosis can be seen as a potent method for “reprogramming” the subconscious mind of individuals, putting them on autopilot with regard to healthy, weight-reducing eating habits and the subsequent maintenance of a desirable weight. The boost to self-esteem this provides is extraordinary. “Finally, I’m in control of me,” one subject told me. The typical therapy session lasts for about one hour, and generally only one of these relaxing sessions is required to achieve results.
There remains a group of people with excess weight who already have the requisite willpower in their subconscious to comfortably follow a healthy diet. This group, however, lacks the structure to build and implement the dietary habits that would permit success in their attaining and maintaining a healthy body weight. For these individuals, enrolling in a well-designed and well-run weight control program is the route to dietary success. There are a number of such programs available. My personal bias (being an M.D.) is for a medically-supervised program because of the added benefits of pre-program medical screening to assure a safe weight loss and ongoing medical oversight to be certain weight loss is producing no untoward metabolic or cardiovascular changes. Also, in appropriate cases, a physician can prescribe appetite suppressant medication. If a program without medical supervision is chosen, I would urge individuals to consult with their personal physicians before and during the weight loss process.
So, how can you achieve and maintain a healthy body weight? If you are seeking a positive modification to willpower, there is the very pleasant use of hypnosis, of which generally just one session is needed. For those seeking structure in a weight loss and maintenance program there are centers which specialize in such plans. And finally, for those desiring the best of all possible worlds, there is the combination of hypnotherapy and a well-designed weight loss and/or maintenance program at a specialty center.
Whatever route you choose, remember that your ultimate goal is to take control of your own body, your self-esteem, and your healthy and attractive future. Good luck!