God help me!! I was in the kitchen pantry eating chocolate biscuits one after the other; almost inhaling them. I was getting no pleasure from the taste, but I could not slow down or stop and I was eating them as fast as I could so I did not get caught. I hated myself, I loathed myself, how many times had I been here and told myself that it would never happen again, but here I was bingeing in secret and hating my entire being as I was doing it. What was wrong with me, it was like I was possessed. Something seemed to take over my body and made me behave in ways that I just consciously did not want to do and I could not understand it let alone control it.
This was me 6 years ago and it is a story I hear time and time again from my coaching clients. I am a Bariatric Success Coach Eating Psychology Specialist and I help bariatric surgery patients to increase their weight loss success by understanding their eating patterns, their relationship with food and to understand the underlying drivers and limiting beliefs that drive them to self sabotage time and time again. I did my initial training at the National Centre for Eating Disorders in London, UK and have over the years studied many other disciplines including EFT, NLP and nutrition and I recently achieved a scholarship to become a Mind Body Eating Coach at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating in America.
So why do so many of us self sabotage our efforts to lose weight? Well, there are some real psychological reasons why this happens. In our brain, we have two parts (well 3 really but for this exercise, let’s call it two). We have our conscious brain, this is the part of our brain that we reason with, the part that tells us it is not a good idea to eat 5 chocolate biscuits in a row, that we will put weight on and we will not feel good about ourselves. This conscious thinking part of our brain is only the tip of the iceberg it is the part we are aware of and can reason with. However, the other part of our brain is our sub-conscious brain, this is much larger and as such makes up about 85% of our brainpower. It is is the large part of the iceberg below the water, our subconscious mind is what drives most of our actions, we are just not aware of it.
The main role of the subconscious mind is to protect us. It works out through our experiences (mainly our early years’ experiences) what keeps us safe and it stores these experiences and drives us to reproduce whatever tactics we have learned to keep us safe previously.
This is why a child who is taught to fear spiders because a parent does, runs away from a spider on sight and continues to do this into adult life even though they are told and consciously are know there is nothing to fear. The subconscious mind is trying to keep them safe. However, it cannot reason, it does not have the ability to think forward to the consequences it just looks for the most immediate solution to alleviate pain or fear.
The same happens with food. Food is used for many different reasons in our society other than what it was intended to do, which is to fuel our bodies. We associate food with love, death, fear, pain etc, we use it to help us through so many happy experiences and also to self medicate bad ones.
When I was a child, my Grandmother would miraculously produce a sugary snack from her pocket any time I hurt myself or cried, I was told it would make it better and it did. My subconscious mind learned that sugar alleviates pain from a very early age so even now when I am in pain, distress or just plain bored it sends signals that I am not even aware of to override my conscious mind and drives me into the biscuit tin. Before I am even aware of it I have devoured 5 biscuits and I am asking myself why? My conscious brain has lost out yet again.
So even though our conscious mind is telling us it is a crazy idea because our subconscious mind is so much stronger, often our subconscious wins through and we are stood yet again in the pantry devouring the contents of the biscuit tin in secret, hating our entire beings and crying out God help me!
So what can you do about it? Well, there are lots of techniques that will help you to overcome these urges. It takes work to retrain the subconscious but it is possible and when you can do this the freedom that you feel will be incredible. New research is being done into the psychology of eating all the time and it is my life’s passion to educate myself to enable me to help more of you to feel free from the bondage of food and get back to using food for what it was intended; a pleasurable fuel for our bodies.
I recently developed an intensive six-month program called Bariatric Success Solution which provides a weight loss surgery patient with everything they need to have long term weight loss success and freedom from the constant obsession with food, dieting and eating. My plan is to try and help the thousands of patients every year that due to lack of funding find themselves travelling abroad for weight loss surgery and do not receive the support that they require for long term success.