What if I were to tell you that weight loss had very little to do with will power, but everything to do with evolution and stress?
In March 1998, J Stradling and his team published a clinical trial in the International Journal of Obesity Related Metabolic Disorders that took 3 groups
- Hypnosis with energy intake reduction
- Hypnosis and Stress reduction
- No hypnosis and dietary advice
3 months all group showed a 2-3% weight loss
18 months, only group 2 – Hypnosis with stress reduction showed significantly more weight loss.
The study of weight, and appetite is a vast subject which I can only touch on briefly in a blog, but with 2020 statistics showing in England 67% of men and 60% of women were overweight or obese, and over 870,000 hospital admissions where obesity was a factor, we need to look for answers, and they are not to be found in fad diets.
Let’s look at some basic biology
Leptin is a human protein produced in proportion to the amount of fatty tissue we have. It’s our friend.
telling us when we are full, but the more fat we have, the more we produce. The more we produce, the more we become desensitised to it. For reasons we will look at, we are genetically programmed to switch it off if there is a bounty of food before us, but our stress tells us that might not be the case soon.
Ghrelin is a hunger stimulating peptide, but for unknown reasons, it is in lower levels in obese people, so there is confusion as to its link with obesity. But it is thought maybe we are therefore more sensitive to it. It is linked to tiredness and lack of sleep. Is this sounding familiar? The more tired I am, the more I want to snack. So the more I add to my fat stores, the more tired I am.
Then there is insulin. There are whole research papers written about this, so I will sum it up – we have the same number of fat cells, fat or thin, but when we overeat our fat cells get fatter. Insulin regulates the processing of the glucose and fat in the cells keeping them nice and narrow, but when we eat too much, the insulin struggles to keep up, and the fat cells get fatter. We become insulin resistant. Eventually, the cells balloon and break, becoming toxic material in our fat, causing inflammation, heart disease, cancers and diabetes.
The more this process takes hold, the less leptin we have to tell us we are full, the more ghrelin tells us we are hungry, and tired and the more we reduce sensitivity to insulin, so stop processing the fat we are putting in, increasing the inflammation and illness we have. So you can see that healthy eating is all about keeping these chemicals in balance. A diet does nothing except upset the balance even more.
Why do we overeat?
Most people will say they “comfort eat”, we eat to socialise, we feast, we associate food with feeling good. Why? Well, dopamine. It’s the feel good neurotransmitter. It’s the neurotransmitter of addiction, because it always wants more. That one square of chocolate that was divine last week, doesn’t quite do it this week…. But two might….until eventually it’s the whole bar. Even so.. it’s not really that satisfying after a while. We crave the instant gratification of sugar and fat, preferably in combination, because they are very fast to give us that dopamine, energised feeling. And essentially, biologically, food is all about energy.
Why? Back to the caveman.
As hunter-gatherers, food was only plentiful seven months of the year. So in the 5 months it wasn’t, to survive, we were rewarded with dopamine for going out, risking life and limb, in the freezing cold, walking miles to find that deer and carrying it back. Using almost as many calories to get it, as eating it would give us. But in summer, when all was plentiful, we would gorge ourselves on the plenty, to lay down fat stores to see us over the harsh winter. We could override Leptin. And we still do. We go into the supermarket, and we are in a bountiful summer. We are driven to lay down fat for the winter that never comes.
So, why isn’t everyone affected? Stress’s vicious circle
When we are stressed or anxious, we usually don’t know why. We just have a feeling….. that all is not well….so your brain says “eat all this now, this threat that I am sensing in my anxious brain, might appear tomorrow and be too much to allow us to eat, so get it while you can!”.
Adipose fat cells produce cortisol, a stress hormone, so the more adipose tissue we have, the more stress hormone we produce, the more stressed we are the less we sleep, fatigue encourages you to be sedentary, and to seek fast energy with high calorie fatty and sugary foods.
So, if you don’t carry stress with you, your body’s complicated balancing act is likely to work better. You can eat more because your insulin works well, and because you aren’t always chasing the feel good foods.
That’s OK , I’ll burn it off going for a run
Don’t let me put you off exercise. It’s a brilliant thing for our mind and body. But if you are overweight, and the above imbalance is occurring in your brain, you cannot just lose weight with exercise. Your hypothalamus has stored the weight it is now convinced you need to cater for that long winter, and the threats your brain have told it are imminent. When you burn calories as you run, it won’t want to release energy from your fat stores – it will want you to make it up. So, you feel hungry after you exercise, especially for high energy, sugary, fatty foods and carbohydrates. Even if you resist that temptation, it will just slow down your metabolism to conserve energy.
That’s where I come in!
Serotonin is the sensible big sister neurotransmitter. It keeps our brain balanced and content. It is an inhibitor. It says “no, don’t do that. It isn’t very sensible is it?”.
I help you deal with your stress
If I help you deal with your stress, get your brain working for you to identify what your body needs, it will help you rebalance and make healthier choices, naturally to aid your weight loss. It will help control the stress hormones that upset the finely attuned chemical reactions in the brain and body.
The work I do, for weight loss, concentrates on getting you to produce more serotonin in your brain and reduce your stress, therefore the adrenalines and cortisol for long terms solutions. Knowing the causes of your weight gain, not the emotional one, but the scientific reasons and working to reset your brain is the key to long term success. And hypnosis, along with talking therapy, helps us get there a bit quicker with a lot less conscious effort, or “will power”