Does the devil in your mind really doom you to diet failure?

One of my clients, Kate, called me the other day in a bit of a dither. She had just had a terrible binge, in which she felt completely out of control with her eating. She said she had been eating like her labrador and, having seen said labrador dining, I knew this was serious. Kate wanted to understand what had gone wrong, because before this incident she had been very successful with the enlighten programme weight loss course and had not binged for a long time.

We talked about what Kate had eaten that day (same as normal), whether she was upset or angry about anything (no), whether she had let herself get very hungry (no), whether she had stopped listening to the hypnotherapy CD (no). Nothing seemed to have changed and we were about to give up, when she said: “I did read this thing in the Daily Mail about dieting… I don’t suppose that could have triggered anything…” Whilst I am not a great fan of the Daily Mail, I haven’t previously held it responsible for eating binges.

Kate had read an article in the Daily Mail called: “How the devil in our mind dooms us to diet failure”. The article said that there is a little “devil” inside us that wants to eat chips and chocolate and a little “angel” that fights with the devil to make us eat good stuff (all very Old Testament). Some of us have stronger angels than others and those people are better at choosing Celery Surprise in preference to steak and chips.

Kate had read this article and had jokingly told her husband about her “devil”. Then suddenly, she got an irrestable urge to eat (and eat, and eat, at high speed).

After a bit more reflection and a conversation with her unconscious mind (using a technique which she learned on our home study course), it turned out that the part of Kate responsible for her eating didn’t like being called a devil and had had a bit of a tantrum. Once she acknowledged that it was not a devil and was actually on her side, things went back to normal.

It’s true that there are some areas in life where there is a conflict between the hedonistic part of you which would rather sit and watch “Britain’s Got Talent” and the responsible part that knows you’ve got work to do. However, your relationship with food doesn’t need to be like that.

When things are working well, you should feel the urge to eat healthy foods and enjoy just small quantities of things like chocolate or junk food. I think it goes wrong for so many people when they start eating foods full of sugar and chemicals (and this includes some “healthy” low fat breakfast cereals and snack bars) because our bodies and brains can’t cope with the addictive nature of these foods. The other big problem is when we make certain foods “bad”, causing them to take on a tantalising “forbidden fruit” quality.

It is possible to get to a point where food is a pleasure not a battle. Perhaps Kate’s unconscious mind was reminding her that if you choose to go into battle with your body and your unconscious mind, you’ll probably lose.

As I thought whilst trying to get my friend’s very unwilling horse onto a horse box yesterday, if you’re going to pick a fight, it’s not a good idea to pick one with someone bigger and stronger than you!

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