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How many of you have opened an Easter egg or bar of chocolate only to realise 15 minutes later that it has all gone? You check just to see if the dog (or your partner) has a guilty look on its face, or if the chocolate has fallen down the side of the sofa but no…it’s all gone…you’ve eaten it all and not even noticed or enjoyed eating it! What a waste! The same thing happens with wine too, so I’m told!
So, what happened?
Well I can almost guarantee that you were doing something else at the same time. We often see it as a treat to sit in front of the TV with some chocolate or wine, catching up on our favourite shows, and that’s OK as long as you don’t do it all the time but the thing is, it distracts you from what you are doing, that is, scoffing all of that chocolate.
Now your brain is an amazing thing. Your brain will automate something that you do regularly, for example you only have to think about your journey to work or the school run and how you rarely remember the actual journey unless something unusual happens. You don’t have to think about “mirror, signal,manoeuvre” or about using the clutch, break, gear stick or accelerator…you just do it. In this instance this is a good thing but sometimes our brains automate unhelpful behaviours, such as bad eating habits.
I was born in the 70s and grew up in the 80s (some would disagree with the'growing up' bit!). There was a lot of media exposure around people in other parts of the world suffering terribly from famine. As a result, my generation were ‘trained’ by our parents to clear our plates of food,regardless of what was on it or how much because those people in Africa were literally dying from lack of food so who were we to waste what we were given. Many before and after have also been taught to eat this way for various reasons eg post rationing or due to the recession where people are mindful about their finances. So as adults, we tend to do the same thing, we just clear our plate. This is fine if our food and portion sizes are healthy but at this time of year, when many of us are spending time with our families over Easter or going away on holiday, there is a high probability that we are going to overeat or eat unhealthily.
Now you have a choice…you can either just see it as something that is short-term and inevitable, and just enjoy the time spent with friends and family; or you could make some small tweaks which will help stop you eating too much, whilst at the same time, not feeling that you are missing out:
1. Portion control - With chocolate or Easter eggs, break off a small amount and put in a little bowl, leaving the rest in the fridge or on the side for future use,so even if you are eating mindlessly, you are not gorging the whole lot in one sitting. The good thing about chocolate is that is doesn’t go off quickly, so you don’t have to eat it…you are just making that choice, and as long as the dog can’t open the fridge, it should be there when you go back at a later time! You can also do this with your meals...only have small amounts of food on your plate rather than big portions...you can always go back for more but only if you are still hungry. You may be surprised at how full you can feel on smaller portions.
2. Disrupt the habit - If eating out of a bowl, place the bowl on the opposite side of your dominant hand. Seems a bit weird right? Well your brain has automated eating with your dominant hand and not your non-dominant hand, so you have to be more conscious about when you pick up some of that chocolate. Obviously the more you do this the more likely your brain will automate it but it’s a start!
3. Leave some food on your plate - This only needs to be a forkful or two when you are eating a meal, but it reminds you to stop when you feel full and not when your plate is clean. You then start to pay more attention to how full you feel rather than whether the plate is empty and you have eaten the 10 roast potatoes your mum has deposited on your plate!
4. Eat mindfully – Don’t eat your meals in front of the TV because you are then focusing on the TV instead of what you’re eating. Instead, eat at the dinner table with no distractions if possible. Pay attention to what you are eating…notice the smell, the texture and the taste of the food, really enjoy every mouthful, and then stop when you’re full.
5. Use self-hypnosis - Imagine eating some food before you have your meal. Use as many senses as possible so imagine what the food looks like, what it tastes like and what it feels like in texture. A study from the US found that imagining eating food first suppresses the appetite to eat more, just as if we had physically eaten,so if you imagine the full process of eating, eg chewing/swallowing etc, it produces a similar effect in the brain to actually eating the food, thus reducing your appetite. One of my clients also used this technique to imagine eating a chocolate cookie after craving one. She didn’t have any in the house but if she went out and bought some, they only came in packs of 8 biscuits and she didn’t want this temptation in the house. So, she imagined eating one of these cookies, using all of her senses. Afterwards, she felt like she had actually eaten one, so didn’t then bother to go out to buy any. She didn’t feel that she had missed out and saved money as well as those extra calories!
These are just a few techniques that we can employ easily all the year round,not just during the holidays.
Have a go at some of these over the Easter break and let us know how you get on.
Annalise Kirk is a professional hypnotherapist based in Basingstoke, Hampshire. Annalise has been a qualified, full-time hypnotherapist since 2010 and has helped hundreds of clients achieve their goals and overcome personal issues using hypnosis, CBT and NLP techniques.Follow me on TwitterConnect on LinkedInLike me on Facebook
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