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Transform your Life - Weight Loss via Mind/Body, Nutrition and Fitness

by Janet Thomson(more info)

listed in weight loss, originally published in issue 231 - July 2016

For our ancestors the need to lose weight was not an issue; for them the main challenge was getting more fats, carbs and even sugar into their diet. The first person known to have gone on a ‘diet’ was the person with the most plentiful supply of food in the land - our first King, William 1st, who we know as William The Conqueror. History records him as being a very fat man indeed; no doubt by today’s standards he would be classified as morbidly obese. He was so big that by the end of his reign he was too big to get on a horse, which was a huge problem as it was not only the key mode of transport, but also considered very regal.

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The No Food Diet!

His first attempt at losing weight was to eliminate food and live solely off liquid - typically alcohol, so beer and wine only became the first ever fad diet! Surprisingly, he did lose enough weight to be able to get back on his horse. Unfortunately this led to his demise; a short while later he was killed in a riding accident. It’s reported that despite having lost some weight, he was still so big that he had to be literally squeezed into his large coffin. In comparison, in current times some patients are so big that the walls of their houses have to literally be dismantled to remove them. So there the story begins; ironically the first ever fad diet didn’t really work. William was not only the creator of what became known as the ‘diet’, but also the first ever ‘fad diet’; as if that’s not enough, he was the first ever failed dieter.

Thankfully we now know a lot more about how to lose weight and the effect of nutrition and exercise on our body, and there are credible guidelines that can result in genuine and lasting weight loss. However so many people still fall foul to the latest trends and fad diets, and become trapped on the endless weight loss wheel, eventually ending up years later fatter than when they started.

Figures Prove our Figures are Getting Larger

Obesity rates in the UK have increased dramatically, going from 13.2% of men in 1993 to 24.3% in 2014 and from 16.4% of women in 1993 to 26.8% in 2014 (Health Survey for England). By 2050 obesity is predicted to affect 60% of adult men, 50% of adult women and 25% of children (Foresight 2007). A startling prospect. A recent Independent article estimated in the UK alone the Diet industry is worth £2 billion per year. The phrase “Diets don’t work” is common, yet many failed dieters keep trying the next best thing, and then reinvesting in yet another ‘diet’ that doesn’t work. No other industry would survive on delivering failures on such an epic scale.

Albert Einstein is widely credited with saying “The definition of insanity is
doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”.

The reason so many regimes do not work is that people simply cannot follow the advice for long enough to make life-long changes when it comes to food.  Most weight loss regimes are based around two elements, Nutrition and Exercise. This leaves out arguably the most important, which is the mind-set or psychological approach. When combined, these three elements become greater than the sum of their parts, and offer a complete and holistic approach that not only works, but by its nature is pain and deprivation free. This is the Holy Trinity when it comes to effective permanent weight loss.

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The Holy Trinity for Weight Loss

In my previous article Optimum Exercise and Fitness Regimes to Enhance Weight Loss I discussed the benefits of various exercise regimes on weight loss, and specifically fat loss; however as with nutritional advice, the best regime in the world will only work if you actually implement it. Knowing what to do is not enough; you have to implement what you know. For that you need to train not just your physical body, but your brain, in order to change your mind-set. Knowledge is knowing a fruit is a tomato - wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

When you combine the element of mind set with the two physical activities of changing your diet and strengthening your muscles, weight loss is not just easier, it’s inevitable.

The problem for many people embarking on the latest ‘diet’ is that they enjoy the foods that made them fat; that’s why they have been eating them! If they are sedentary they probably don’t want to go to the gym when they could be sitting on the sofa at the end of a busy day watching their favourite programme, eating their favourite snack foods. As the human brain is programmed to avoid pain at all costs, any regime that is built around not doing things that you enjoy, and doing things you don’t enjoy, elicits a feeling of deprivation not motivation and is destined to fail. In fact most people who are overweight know what to do, and some even know how to do it; they just don’t want to do it. Mindset is rarely talked about as an element of weight loss, but arguably it should be at the heart of every weight loss programme.

Many of our food habits and associations are installed when we are very young. If as a child whenever you grazed your knee, lost your toy or generally got upset, and your mum said “stop crying and you can have a biscuit” then you are likely to have grown up programmed to use sweet foods for comfort and began a potentially lifelong process of emotional eating. Almost every romantic comedy reinforces this programming; when we see characters like Bridget Jones comforting herself from romantic disappointment with a large tub of Häagen-Dazs ice cream, it seems like the most logical thing to do. If you ‘reward’ yourself at the end of a hard day with a high fat, high calorie take away meal, then the thought of driving home and cooking a meal is denying yourself a pleasure that you feel you deserve. If your social life has always been built around food and drink, then the thought of having to drastically change your eating habits has huge unwanted implications on your personal life. Not surprising then that even the thought of a diet is so unappealing! No wonder so few people can stick to it. Why would you?

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Nikki Malone - client who lost over 6 stones after attending my workshop affirmed
“It wasn’t until I changed my mind that I could finally change my body”

The result of this is that if you have used chocolate, cheese, or any food or drink as a way of getting comfort, then it stands to reason that your unconscious mind will block any attempt to resist their removal from your diet. The pleasure association is just too strong. The good news is that you can delete old habits and re-programme your mind so that you genuinely don’t want to eat chocolate or cheese when you feel fed up or sad. You don’t have to stop eating out or socialising in order to lose weight; you just need to make a few different choices. You really can stop emotional eating. Does it mean you have to give up the more luxurious or less healthy foods altogether? Not at all. With the right techniques you will find that you can change your thinking so that you no longer crave food for comfort. You can naturally want to eat less and make different choices without feeling any sense of deprivation. In fact many people find they get a real buzz out of not eating something they used to enjoy; they feel totally empowered. It is important to remember that slim people eat unhealthy foods sometimes; they just don’t depend on them to make them feel better.

Your brain doesn’t come with a manual. If you want to change it, including changing how you think and feel about food, you have to first learn a little bit about how it works. This is surprisingly simple and can be interesting, stimulating and great fun. It’s surprisingly empowering to be able to take control of who or what programmes you. You can turn the clock back and delete any old associations that no longer serve you. Having one biscuit when you scrape your knee doesn’t make you fat, but repeating this behaviour over and over again certainly does. When you learn to make even tiny positive changes in your food choices and you repeat them over time, the compound effect on your shape can be quite dramatic.

It’s estimated we make around 200 food choices per day, and that ninety percent of
these are made by our unconscious minds; thoughts that we have had so often in the past
that they have become so automatic we are not aware we are even having them.

Here is a question I regularly ask my clients:

Q. Why do you think that, despite hating being fat, you are still doing the behaviours that make you fat?

A. The answer is that you have been distorting reality to fit existing ideas and beliefs and making wrong associations.

Do You Want to Harm or to Heal?

Over eaters don’t ever stop to ask themselves how they actually benefit from over eating, but these same people would never consider taking a knife and cutting away at their arm to relieve boredom, or to feel comforted? They understand this is wrong on every level and would never do that to themselves; there’s a name for that type of behaviour - self-harming and it’s a symptom of great mental distress. The shocking reality is: overeating and making your body fat is a clear case of self-harming; in fact, in some ways, it’s even worse than the more obvious forms because it’s insidious. That means it’s sneaky and deceptive - it’s self-harming by stealth. When someone self-harms with a knife there is clear evidence of that behaviour in the form of a visible scar. Excess body fat is clearer and more visible than any scar and can’t be hidden with long sleeves. This might be an extreme example, but for neurological change you must associate a more powerful painful emotion with the behaviour, that compels you to change so that you get a better feeling.

No amount of personal physical training will address the issue of using food to self-harm;
it has to be down to specialized emotional coaching or therapeutic techniques.

Turning Information Into Action

Let’s look at how your emotions drive your behaviour. If you have two opposing feelings, the strongest of these will determine how you behave. It’s not possible to feel good and bad at the same time, because one feeling will dominate. For example, you want to be slimmer than you are now, yet a part of your mind still wants the feeling or ‘hit’ it gets when you eat too much, or when you get comfort from certain heavy fattening foods. You can’t have both, you must choose.

You are free to choose - but you are not free from the consequences of your choices.

All behaviours need two things to be installed; a strong emotion, and an experience. For example if whenever you got upset as a child your mother said “stop crying and you can have a biscuit”, this experience repeated over time installs a pretty powerful belief that eating when you are upset makes you feel better. This in turn generates a behaviour that becomes a habit. Unless that association is changed, overriding that behaviour will be at best challenging, and for some impossible.

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No One is Born with Low Self-Esteem

Most babies are constantly praised. The first time you said “mum” or “dad” you probably got a big clap and a great big kiss or hug! The first time you took a few steps it’s unlikely that someone said “Is that IT? Two measly steps? Johnny next door can do ten steps and you barely do two? What rubbish!” and much more likely that you were rewarded with smiles and cheers.

 As toddlers we are taught how to walk and talk out loud; at school we are taught how to read and gather information in the hope that we learn and become ‘intelligent’; but nowhere in this process is there any formal teaching for how to gain emotional intelligence or how to develop a good set of values and beliefs. We are taught how to discern between a cat and a lion, but not how to identify a positive thought from a negative one. We are taught how to speak to our superiors and are punished if we get it wrong. If we speak in hurtful terms to a fellow student we are taught (rightly) that this is bullying and is cruel and must be stopped, but we are not taught the difference between good self-talk and the danger of constant negative self-talk. Yet when we get that wrong, we become an internal self-bully. Many children are taught that they must eat everything on their plate, but very little about the reality of what is on their plate and how it can affect their health. Many children are given a biscuit or ice cream as a treat or reward, when what they really need is some positive encouragement.

In 2 Minds

We have two minds, a conscious mind that we are aware of which process approximately 7 pieces of information simultaneously, and an unconscious mind which simultaneously processes billions of chemical and thought based signals. These thoughts are based on past experience and learnings and they dictate everything we do.

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When we have a conscious thought we immediately search our database of memories to find something similar, which we do instead of considering which approach is relevant in the moment. We revert to the previously established thought or behaviour. All installed habits or behaviours are a result of our past experiences, which form our belief systems, and create powerful associations. These associations and what they taught us form our beliefs and our values, which dictate our behaviours in every area of our life. When you want to change a belief or a habit you must first establish the original emotion that installed it in the first place, and then use a new even stronger emotion which you can associate with doing something differently.

When we try and use our conscious minds to change a belief or a behaviour, we can for a short time override the origin of that behaviour if we really focus on it; but for true change to occur naturally you must change the associations that formed the belief. If you think of the two minds like an iceberg  with the tip above the surface, and the true structure and strength being under the water line, you must sometimes dive deep to change your natural settings.

There are a range of effective therapeutic coaching techniques that can aid this process, including hypnotherapy, thought field therapy (Tapping), NLP and many other coaching modalities. In simple terms when the pleasure you associate with change - in this case is weight loss -  is so great and so powerful, then change is a natural process and self-sabotage is diminished. With the right nutritional and physical elements in place, you genuinely can have the body that you want without any sense of deprivation.

If you want to lose weight or to help others lose weight, answer the following two questions:

  1. What is the best thing that will happen when you do lose the weight?
  2. What is the worst thing that would happen if you do lose the weight? 

The second question is the one that contains the answer you really need. Most people say “nothing” but there will be something, otherwise you/they would have done it. You or they are associating some (possibly hidden or denied) benefit with not changing, that is more powerful emotionally than the desire to lose weight. When you identify it and resolve it, you will not just lose weight from your body, you will take a weight off your mind.


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About Janet Thomson

Janet Thomson is a UK’s leading expert in Mind-Body Health & Fitness, combining academic knowledge (MSc. Nutrition and Exercise Science), certifications in psychological therapies with extensive experience in the field of personal development and change over 30 years. She is trained in a range of psychological therapies including Clinical Hypnotherapy, Thought Field Therapy, Neuro Linguistic Programming, Havening, CBT and Life Coaching, and combines elements of these techniques with her nutrition background to bring about rapid and permanent physical and emotional change. Janet is a best-selling author with the Fat To Flat fitness programme; her book Tapping For Life (Hay House 2010) teaches readers how to use Thought Field Therapy (TFT) and other techniques to eliminate a range of negative fears and emotions including stress, anxiety and phobias. Think More East Less (Hayhouse 2012) includes practical exercises to change how you think and feel about food. Jane is the creator of The Placebo Diet, a life-changing new weight-loss program launched in January 2016 fusing a programme of focused mind exercises with simple-to-follow colour code nutrition plan. The Placebo Diet (Hayhouse) is published 2016. Jane runs certified training courses for exercise professionals and therapists, as well as workshops for the general public. Her Power To Change private coaching & training practice has offices in the Midlands and London. She is also a former college lecturer and Head of Training for a national slimming brand, from which she went on to open and run her own chain of health clubs in the Midlands. Janet may be contacted via

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