Once half-term's over it really feels like Summer's here so naturally you'll want to lose a few pounds for your holiday. So will you be doing what you've always done and go on a diet? If so, you're making a big mistake - because diets are just a short-term fix that are almost always doomed to fail.
Last year 29 million Britons went on a diet, according to retail analysts Mintel - that's two in three adults. And yet the official health statistics show that 64 per cent of us are still overweight.
So perhaps it's time for a dramatic new approach - to give up dieting for good! After being deeply involved in weight loss for more than 10 years through my work in Harley Street, I know one of the main reasons dieters aren't successful is they approach the problem the wrong way.
Instead of worrying about WHAT they eat they should be understanding WHY they eat. Most people focus on physical things like diet and exercise, but there's an emotional aspect to food they don't even consider - and this sabotages their efforts.
From an early age, most of us become emotionally attached to food. Parents use chocolate and sweets as a reward for being good or to make us feel better if we're upset or hurt. Birthday parties generally revolve around cake!
All this reinforces the association the brain has made: food/sweet treats/chocolate = pleasure. We become conditioned to use food not only for nourishment and nutrition but for comfort and the reward and pleasure it gives.
This creates powerful connections that can last a lifetime.
Put simply, food has a hypnotic effect on us. It puts us in a trance - how often have you come back from the supermarket and thought "Why on earth did I put those biscuits in my trolley?"
The natural behaviour when we want to lose weight is to say "Right - I won't eat chocolate and I won't eat cake, biscuits or drink alcohol or fizzy drinks because I know they're 'bad'. I'll count my calories and do some exercise."
The diet industry has been drumming that into everyone for more than 50 years. So people deprive themselves of their pleasures and cut their calories.
The problem is, deprivation doesn't work and here's why: when you need to make a conscious effort not to eat, your mind and body conspire together to make the opposite happen. It dates back millions of years to the survival instinct cavemen relied on.
When you cut back on your food intake, your mind lets it happen for a little while and then decides you're in a famine situation. So what does it do? It sends out signals to the parts of your body that produce and store fat and says, "Whoa! Hang on to the fat, we may need it!"
Then of course, hand in hand with deprivation our old friend willpower has to step up to get you through. That's the next tough one. Our environments are not set up to help us with willpower!
You see, willpower is like a muscle - the more you use it the more it becomes tired and weak.
Food retailers spend millions on psychological techniques which are designed to kill your willpower so you can't resist certain foods in supermarkets. All the coffee shops are the same. How many times do you go in for a coffee and buy something else?
Willpower and deprivation don't work because we're working against our own brains - and specifically our hormones and neurotransmitters which are controlled by the brain. So not only are you going to be miserable because you're depriving yourself of your pleasures, you're having to change your behaviour and habits.
The diet industry has made food the enemy and the body the battleground but it really shouldn't be like that.
People need a good relationship with food if they're going to achieve sustainable weight loss. They need to lose the mental hang-ups and develop good eating habits before they can begin to achieve their goals.
Dieting is a learned behaviour and absolutely can be changed. The first step is about de-hypnotising yourself from the trance you've been in for many years and starting to believe there is another way!
Most of all you need to believe you can do it and that you're worth it! It's important to realise why you diet and then find a substitute. Dieting serves a function and this function can't simply be removed - it has to be replaced.
By retraining your brain to instinctively make healthier choices, expect less food and enjoy moving more you can make lasting changes which will not only help you lose weight and keep it off but also improve your lifestyle beyond recognition.
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