THE BLOG

Harness That Voice in Your Head to Make Your Body Lose Weight

03/03/2014 14:59 GMT | Updated 29/04/2014 10:59 BST

I'm often asked about the conscious and unconscious minds - what they are and whether they really can work together to help people lose weight. Well first, what's the difference between the two parts of our minds?

The conscious mind's job includes logic and reasoning. What's two plus two? Your conscious mind works out the answer's four.

If you decide to wave at your neighbour, your conscious mind makes your arm and hand move.

Start to breathe slowly now...that's your conscious mind that's working and ordering your lungs to go slow.

But what was controlling your breathing and your heartbeat before you decided to slow it all down? That was your unconscious mind, which works away in the background controlling about 90% of what we do each day.

The unconscious is also the place where our emotions are controlled. It's what might make you afraid of the dark, or spiders or meeting strangers - and it's what decides your values and beliefs, a very important part of your personality.

Right then, what's all this got to do with losing weight? Well, as a cognitive hypnotherapist I know that it's possible to train your unconscious mind to guide you towards a healthier lifestyle.

In an ideal world everyone would just trust their unconscious to do the job of losing the weight and they would get on with everything else in their lives.

However, because the unconscious is not a "thing" - you can't touch it, see it, or smell it - most people are sceptical at first that's it's possible to programme it to help you lose weight.

So, you know the saying "seeing is believing"? Well this is why I advise people who want to lose weight to set goals, because when you see something happening you believe it, and goals have the added benefit of giving you direction too.

The importance of setting goals and breaking them down into small chunks is that every time you reach a small goal you'll believe more in the bigger goals you're aiming to achieve.

The conscious and unconscious minds can then work together to do the business. We already use both parts of our minds in everyday life without realising we're doing it.

Our brains are learning machines and if you start doing something consciously (ie you have to think about it) and then repeat it many times, the new learning becomes an unconscious activity. Then you don't have to think about that action any more.

Take driving a car as a good example. The first time you drive somewhere you need a map or a sat nav. You note down your destination or punch it into the sat nav. Then you either plot your route or let the sat nav work it out for you. However, as it's new you are very "conscious" and aware about making sure you go on the right road.

The more times you make that journey (like the school run or your drive to work) it soon becomes an unconscious activity and after a while you won't even need to think about it.

That's how cognitive hypnotherapy techniques work. They deal with your relationship to food at an unconscious level, training your brain to behave differently. One problem is that with food it's easy to be blown off course and lose focus.

It is much more difficult than driving because with food you meet hazards on your journey which may have to be dealt with consciously (because we all have to eat every day).

Long-ingrained habits such as diets, constant awareness of food via adverts, the way supermarkets use psychology to make us buy and potential triggers of an emotional nature can all be challenging.

However, I am constantly hearing people saying "when I was in the supermarket a little voice in my head said I should avoid the chocolate aisle" - now that's the unconscious helping you! So our conscious and unconscious minds work together all the time.

But of course, there are some people who like to be "in control" of all aspects of their lives so for them, trusting the unconscious to drive the car - or control the waistline - might be very difficult indeed. However, who believes wins!