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Why diets don’t work

Have you ever been on a diet and found that you ended up thinking more about food and your next meal?

Have you ever been on a programme that restricts some foods or involves points, measuring or tracking? When you did this were you even more preoccupied by food at this time?

There is a lot of solid science about why diets do not work.

The first is something called the suppression effect.

It works like this:

Try as hard as you can NOT to think about purple frogs. Do everything you can NOT to think about purple frogs. Push them out of your head and absolutely do not allow any thoughts about purple frogs to enter your head.

Now try NOT to think about chocolate. Do everything you can not to think about big melty chunks of chocolate, or how it tastes. Do everything possible to push any ideas thoughts or images of chocolate out of your head. Stop thinking about chocolate immediately and do not allow any thoughts of chocolate to enter your head as you are reading this. Definitely do not think about buying or eating chocolate today.

What do you notice about that? Was it possible to stop thinking about it whilst you were trying to not think about it?

Next, I invite you to think about what traditional diets ask you to do.

They ask you to NOT eat several types of food.

Trying not to think of something just means you will think about it more. The brain does not recognise the word ‘NOT’ or ‘DON’T’. It just creates an image of the word you have put next. This is best seen in the classic children’s scenario. Have you ever said to a child, DON’T press that button. What do you think happens next? Yes, you guessed it.

The child’s brain just hears, “press the button”.

So now we are developing an understanding that what we try not to think about, takes up more space in our mind. Researchers have known this about food since the 1940’s.

The Minnesota Starvation Study started in November 1944, and was designed to explore what happens to people when they experience dietary restriction. The researchers were Ancel Keys, and Josef Brozek and they found the psychology, attention and cognition of the participants was significantly impacted by the limited food intake and restricted dietary choices of the study. During the ‘starvation’ phase, they were served two meals a day and ate approximately 1570 calories a day.

As a consequence, the participants were far more preoccupied with food. Food and eating became focal points in conversations, reading, dreams, and even daydreams. For example, when they watched movies, the study’s participants were recorded commenting on the frequency of food and eating mentioned. Some volunteers developed concentration issues due to their preoccupation with food. Additionally, their interest in food expanded into new habits of reading cookbooks and collecting recipes (Garner & Garfinkel, 1985). Three participants even changed their occupations to reflect their extreme interest in eating and food: Three became chefs and one went into the agriculture field (Keys et al., 1950).

This demonstrates that when a person has choice and control around food removed, this creates an increase in preoccupation and intrusive thoughts about food.

I find it interesting that we have so many eating plans that radically restrict food because what I see in my practice, and in the media, is how this creates yo-yo dieting. What I mean by this is that people can focus their determination and willpower for a short time, over-riding and powering through all the thoughts about food, but this is not sustainable and then it runs out and weight rebound occurs, along with an extra dose of shame, failure and disappointment.

When you are working on issues with weight, most people need to be thinking about food less, and not more.

I help people work with their psychology, habits and motivation to think less about food so they can just eat a meal and then forget all about food until the next meal.

I use methods from all of the disciplines I am trained in and work from the inside out, linking behavioural science, neuroscience and hypnosis so that easily, and naturally, eating becomes easy and effortless leaving your energy, attention and motivation for the other things in life. Imagine being able to concentrate on work, your loved ones, your hobbies and interests without any obsessing about food?

Sound good?

Contact me to find out about what I offer and subscribe to my newsletter if you want to hear more about making better lifestyle choices and slimming without effort.

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