It’s that time of year. Time to go to holiday parties and shows, to shop and for many, to eat. Or, for many of us, to do our solid best at trying not to overeat. Many of us are thinking about avoiding excess food and weight gain over the holiday season.
You’re in the majority if excess food is a concern. A Cleveland Clinic study in 2019 found that 74% of Americans are concerned about their weight. The CDC stated in 2020 that the rate of obesity in the U.S. was 41.9%. The same report estimated the cost of obesity was over $173 billion in 2019 dollars. Awareness of the hazards of overeating is not the issue; individually taking the right actions to act and eat healthfully is.
Food and exercise are the two biggest levers we have to work with when it comes to our health. Of course there are other practices we can employ to have good health, like staying away from sick people or bathing and keeping clean. But the truth is, to maintain good health, almost all of us must pay attention to food and exercise.
I am a Clinical Hypnotherapist. With almost all of my clients I am helping them to identify what thought or thoughts they have embedded in their minds that are no longer serving them, and then to replace that thought with a new thought that serves them better. Replacing the prior thought is the means to success.
The mind works on positive associations. We are hard-wired to think about topics based on positive associations. For example, if I tell you, “Don’t imagine a pink elephant,” you will almost certainly imagine a pink elephant, despite the fact I said “don’t” at the start of the sentence. Positive associations are human nature.
These mind truths work in opposition to many of our current approaches to dieting. Many of the popular diets of today focus on what you CAN’T eat, instead of what you CAN. Low carb, Keto, Paleo, the list goes on and on. I don’t mean food allergies or food sensitivities. If you don’t feel good after eating something, you shouldn’t eat it. I’m talking about the diets that recommend major restrictions.
It can be really tempting to try a restrictive diet. In some ways, restrictive diets seem easier. It feels straightforward and easy to adopt a rule for yourself like “no bread” or “no sweets.” The problem is that if you spend a lot of time thinking “no bread” or “no sweets,” what is likely to happen? It’s the pink elephant situation; you are likely to think about bread and sweets, making your attempted avoidance of these foods even harder.
So, what will help a person who wants to be a healthier weight succeed at reducing weight permanently?
Change your thinking to focus on Optimism.
Optimism is good for your health
Researchers have been studying optimism for decades, and what they have discovered is that optimistic people remain healthier and live longer. Optimistic people bounce back faster after an adverse health event like coronary artery bypass surgery or orthopedic surgery. Optimistic people have longer and higher quality of life metrics after diagnoses of cancer, Type I diabetes, and HIV or AIDS even years later than pessimistic people.
Optimism improves blood chemistry
Studies has shown optimists have different blood chemistry, including higher levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants are believed to protect your cells against free radicals, which may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases. You can edit your blood chemistry by changing your thoughts. Amazing!
Optimism is associated with better overall diet quality
“Optimism was associated with better overall diet quality and less snacking. It was also associated with consumption of healthy food groups as well as unhealthy food groups typically consumed in social eating occasions,” revealed a 2020 scientific study.
A positive and confident feeling about the future has been shown to increase creativity and to promote a better relationship with food and other healthy behaviors, including exercise and sleep.
How do you apply optimism in your quest for health? Here are three easy ways.
1. Focus your thoughts on all the many delicious and nutritious foods that you eat, not the things you are trying to stay away from.
Remember the lesson of the pink elephant. Train your focus on what you want to think about and eat, not on what you limit or cut out.
2. You are a strong, capable person, with more achievements that you can remember. Put the force of your past successes into your self confidence you can do this.
Take a deep breath. Recall something that you did that went right in the past. It doesn’t have to be big. Getting the kids to school on time, standing up for yourself or your team in a meeting, or showing up to be a volunteer for something all count. You can do this!
3. Don’t over-stress about it. If you slip up, forgive yourself and move on.
If you do over-eat, notice it, and take another deep breath. Take about 20 seconds to reflect on what happened - did you feel pressured to taste the cake at a party? - did you purchase a gallon of ice cream at the store and have it sitting around? Don’t beat yourself up. Notice. Forgive yourself and move on. Tomorrow is another day.
This holiday season, when you are shopping, singing, wrapping or cuddling, be optimistic. Optimism is a key to health.
For more help with your optimism, food and mood management, come to my online class on December 6, 2022 at 6.30 pm Pacific “Hypnosis for the Holidaze: Boost Your Mood, Not Your Food.” Sign up today.