Weight loss: Are you sabotaging yourself?

There’s so much more to losing weight than thinking about what you eat. We all know that a nutritious diet and exercise play a big part in achieving and maintaining a healthy body. However, one thing that often gets overlooked is what is going on in our heads and in our hearts. A number of people who have come to me for weight loss know how to lose weight. They can recite the rules of any diet, list the calorie counts of hundreds of foods, quote the calories burnt with a 10 minute run on the treadmill...and yet, they still can’t reach or maintain their healthy weight. As one client said to me, “I just seem to keep sabotaging myself. I know what to do, but then part of me just says...Oh, go on, just that little bit won’t hurt...And before I know it, I lose control and undo all my hard work.”

Another of my clients talked about her vicious cycle of being overweight, and being afraid to go out for a run or to the gym. Part of her loved the idea of running, but another part of her was very concerned about what everyone would think about seeing her “huffing and puffing” as she jogged down the road; as a result, she didn’t run and she continued to be overweight.

My clients will often describe their goal to become healthier, as a feeling of being split in two, “it’s like there’s an angel on one shoulder telling me what I need to do to be healthy, and a devil on my other shoulder, saying 'go on, you deserve it...Treat yourself' and then I binge eat.”

A lot of work has been done in the field of NLP that can help examine conflicting parts of our personalities, with a basic premise that every behaviour has a positive intention. In other words, the devil on the shoulder actually wants to do something helpful, but is currently doing it in the wrong way, in this example, by binge eating. The positive intention of binge eating behaviour may be a person’s way of giving themselves a break, a way of allowing some freedom in an otherwise highly controlled life. Once the positive intention is understood, it is possible to identify better ways to satisfy this need; rather than binge eating, perhaps allowing some freedom by listening to music or going out for a walk. Once the devil starts to join in the team to help out, rather than sabotage, major changes can take place. 

If your diet and exercise regime aren’t working, have a think about what is stopping you. It may be that the timing is wrong, that other priorities are getting in the way, that you need more information on how to go about it. Or it may be that as much as you try, part of you just sabotages everything you try to achieve. Think about that part - what's the positive intention?

Linda Hayman

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