Does food control you?

Do thoughts of food consume many of your waking hours?

I have worked with several clients recently who felt this way.  What they will eat next, what they should not eat, what they want but 'can't'  have (because they are on a diet).....it is like a 24 hour self-service restaurant going on in their heads!

And apart from all these thoughts being exhausting, it leaves very little space in the mind to focus on the other things in life.

If you were to imagine that there is one park space in the mind for a thought, it means that for another thought to come in and park, the first thought has to move out.  So if one thought refuses to vacate the park space, then no other thoughts get attention - and a pretty big line of thoughts can build up, further reducing mental capacity.

A few years ago I came across the 5-2 diet and this lead me to a book by Dr Michael Mosley - he of Trust me I'm a Doctor fame.   The 5:2 regime was all about losing weight but when you then got to your target weight, he recommended a period of 24 hour fasting once a week.  I wasn't sure if I could go 24 hours without eating anything - not so much physically but did I have the mental power to do it?

The answer - it was surprisingly easy!

The physical benefits were just as Dr Mosley suggested but what really interested me was the role of my thoughts.  I decided to do it on a Monday and the first 'Eureka' moment was getting out of bed and realising I didn't have to think about what I was going to have for breakfast or when I would fit it into that morning's routine.  It was like the food thought 'car' sailed straight on past the park space and allowed me to focus on other things.  It literally was 'one less thing to think about' which was strangely liberating.

Same for lunch.

But then around mid afternoon I was getting really hungry and my body was starting to yell for some food.  My tactic - not to let that thought of food park up!   

With clients I often talk about the choice of not answering the phone if it is ringing - and I think we can all relate to swiping that red phone icon when we don't want to take a call!  So I did this with the message coming from my tummy - just ignored it.  And funny old thing, it stopped calling!  My mind was choosing not to listen to my body so it shut up!  Prior to this, the tummy monster typically got a pretty snappy response.

One of my commitments to people is that I would not ask them to do anything that I have not already done, or would not be prepared to do.  So having experienced the benefit of fasting, I now recommend this to clients who come to me for weight management help.  One lady decided to do this the day after her first session.  Whilst she also experienced some physical benefits, what she noticed was that she had gone from being one of these people who started thinking about their next meal as they were eating the current one, to someone who felt liberated from those thoughts.  She said it was like food thoughts were white cars and she now had a sign up in her park space saying "No white cars allowed!"

And what was even more beneficial was that on the non-fasting days, there were still very few white cars around - she said she only really thought of food now when she was grocery shopping.

This new 'parking system' had a ripple effect.  Because her mind was no longer full of white cars trying to park up, she could concentrate on other things.  Her stress level had gone down and she was less grumpy with her children, she was being more effective at work, she was sleeping better - all benefits of having a better car parking regimen!

I could rant on for quite a long time about diets but I'll save you that and suffice to say, to maintain a healthy weight you are happy with is not just about calories and nutrition, but has a lot to do with using your mind in a different way.

This technique was not the only one we used; there are several I teach people who want to have a different relationship with food and when combined, they have proven to leave people in a place where food no longer controls them and their health improves - with no dieting.

The park space idea whilst it works really well with food (and if you want to know about the other techniques please get in touch), is one that can be used for pretty much any thought.  I am sure we have all experienced thoughts that park up and fail to move on - the things we dwell on.  However this simple piece of imagery, reversing that thought out and choosing the one you want parked up can be surprisingly effective!

Are you willing to manage your park space more effectively now?

Published by Caroline Cavanagh Clinical Hypnotherapist and author of Anxiety Alchemy. on |


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