4. If you imagine it, it will come. Like athletes preparing for competition, visualizing victory readies you for a victorious reality. Imagining a day of healthy eating helps you envision the necessary steps to becoming that healthy eater. Too tough to picture? Find an old photograph of yourself at a comfortable weight and remember what you were doing differently then; imagine resurrecting those routines. Or visualize getting advice from a future older, wiser self after she's reached her desired weight.
5. Send food cravings flying. Hypnotherapists routinely harness the power of symbolic imagery, inviting subjects to put food cravings on fluffy white clouds or in hot air balloons and send them up, up, and away. If McDonald's golden arches have the power to steer you off your diet, hypnotists understand that a countersymbol can steer you back. Invite your mind to flip through its Rolodex of images until one emerges as a symbol for casting out cravings. Heave-ho.
6. Two strategies are better than one. When it comes to losing weight and keeping it off, a winning combination is hypnosis and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps revamp counterproductive thoughts and behaviors. Clients who learn both lose twice as much weight without falling into the dieter's lose-some, regain-more trap. You've already tried CBT if you've ever kept a food diary. Before my clients learn hypnosis, they keep track of everything that passes their lips for a week or two. Raising awareness, every good hypnotherapist knows, is a key baby step toward lasting change.
7. Modify, modify, modify. The late hypnosis innovator Milton Erickson, MD, emphasized the importance of using existing patterns. To alter one client's lose-regain, lose-regain pattern, Erickson suggested she first gain weight before losing it—a hard sell nowadays, unless you're Charlize Theron. Easier to swallow: Modify your highest- calorie craving. Instead of a pint of ice cream, how about a cup of frozen yogurt?
8. Like it or not, it's survival of the fattest. No suggestion is powerful enough to override the survival instinct. Much as we like to think it's survival of the fittest, we're still programmed, in case of famine, for survival of the fattest. Case in point: a personal trainer on a starvation diet who wanted me to suggest away her gummy bear addiction. I tried to explain that her body believed her life depended on the chewy candies and wouldn't give them up until she got enough calories from more nutritious foods. No, she insisted, a suggestion was all she needed. I wasn't surprised when she dropped out.
9. Practice makes perfect. One Pilates class does not produce washboard abs, and one hypnosis session cannot shape up your diet. But silently repeating a positive suggestion 15 to 20 minutes daily can transform your eating, especially when combined with slow, natural breaths, the cornerstone of any behavioral-change program.
10. Congrats—it's a relapse. When clients find themselves, against their healthiest intentions, overindulging, I congratulate them. Hypnosis views a relapse as an opportunity, not a travesty. If you can learn from a real or imagined relapse— why it happened, how to handle it differently—you'll be better prepared for life's inevitable temptations.
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