One Small Change Leads to a 50 Pound Weight Loss
Sarah* came to see me looking to lose a significant amount of weight. At 42 years old, she’d been carrying the extra weight “as long as she could remember.” The amount had gone up over the years, but she was a heavy child, a heavy teen and it just went from there.
Sarah was one of those clients that, at first listen, seems to be doing “everything right” but unable to lose weight. When I asked her for a 1-week food diary, I saw a lot of healthy foods. No cheesecake, candy bars, not a significant amount of alcohol-a glass of wine a couple of times a week.
Sarah also moved her body. She walked 2 miles with her dog pretty much every day of the week.
According to what I was seeing and hearing, Sarah should not have been carrying the extra weight that she was. She had, by her account, a happy childhood. No history of abuse and she had a good relationship with her parents and her siblings. But her parents were also overweight and so were her siblings. Could it be genetic, she wondered? Am I just doomed to be overweight?
A lot of my job is being a good detective, and I’ve seen enough people to know where to look for clues. I started asking Sarah to go over more of her day with me, blow-by-blow. To give me a “fly on the wall” view of her habits and patterns.
Big Changes from Small Changes
What Sarah and I learned together was that it wasn’t the type of food she was eating, but rather two things that were keeping the extra weight on her body. And one of these things created the other, so there was really only ONE change Sarah needed to make in order to get the weight loss ball rolling.
What was that ONE thing?
Like SO many of us in our modern rush-rush society, Sarah ate while doing other things. Which meant she grazed a lot during the day. This eating pattern keeps your body constantly producing insulin, and insulin has one job– escort blood sugar out of the blood and into either the muscles or into fat.
If you graze constantly during the day, the muscles are going to be filled early on and the rest of the food energy is going to be escorted into fat. In addition, by constantly having your cells awash in insulin, your body becomes insulin resistant, and that leads to more issues with obesity and even diabetes down the road.
The science behind this is why intermittent fasting is so popular right now, and works so well for so many.
200 Extra Calories a Day Equals 20 Pounds of Weight Gain a Year
There’s a lot of debate and contention out there right now about whether the “math” of calories in vs. calories out really works for everyone. And while there certainly are individual differences in metabolism and other issues than can impact this, it IS a reality. Food calories are energy and if you take in more energy than you expend, it has to go somewhere. There’s no denying that. So without getting into the whole “good calories/bad calories” let’s just agree that if you eat too many calories your body does have to store that energy and fat is your energy storage sink.
Remember, too, that Sarah was eating healthy food. She was not eating junk. There were lots of veggies, lean meats, fruit and healthy foods. But because she wasn’t eating mindfully, she was not satisfied by her meals, and she was consuming more energy (calories) than she was expending (even with her 2 mile walks).
While I will accept that the generally accepted math of calories can be over simplified, it’s a good starting point to understand how easy it is to find yourself in a situation where you’re holding extra weight, or gaining weight. One pound of human fat holds 3,500 calories. 200 calories a day over and above what you burn off adds up to an extra 20.8 pounds in one year.
So, the good news is, 200 calories a day is not that much! And the bad news is, 200 calories a day is not that much. It can be too easy, especially when you have a grazing habit, to eat 200 or more extra calories in a day.
So, Sarah had some habits to change.
The “Solution” Was Also the Problem (and Vice Versa)
While Sarah had definitely picked up this habit from her family and grew up with the behaviors, it was also a solution to stress. Sarah discovered that when feelings of stress and anxiety built up in her, that was her trigger to reach for a snack, and then to mindlessly graze while continuing to work, or do whatever she was doing. The act of eating released dopamine and also connected her to times in her life when she felt loved and nurtured and was a “solution” to the stress she was feeling.
However, when we explored the feelings associated with the act of snacking, Sarah discovered that it also created stress in and of itself, that showed up for her as a “little swirling anxious feeling” in her right lower abdomen. So the “solution” to her feeling stressed out created its own cascade of stress and just kept the cycle going. Sarah needed an off-ramp.
Changing Habits with Hypnosis
Sarah’s habit of grazing all day long, instead of keeping her was long entrenched. It was the reason she was a heavy child and it was the reason her parents and siblings were also overweight — they all had the same habit.
Changing habits is easier with hypnosis than any other method. Using hypnosis I had Sarah imagine what it would be like to eat her meals without doing anything else, to focus on her food, enjoying each bite, the smells of the food, and really making mealtime pleasurable and fulfilling. Sarah’s response in hypnosis was that this was relaxing, she felt like her mind could finally “put down a burden” by focusing on just her mealtime. Not her mealtime “plus” – plus checking emails, plus watching a tv show, plus sorting mail, plus, plus, plus.
We also used Sarah’s creative subconscious mind to find creative solutions to her needs throughout the day, when in the past, she was grazing. It’s important — vital really — to acknowledge and meet the needs people have. Sarah discovered that she was eating when she felt stressed, primarily. And sometimes when bored. She didn’t take breaks and had created a habit of “powering through” her day. So her mind and body felt pent up and was looking for a dopamine release that her body knew it could get from eating.
In hypnosis I asked Sarah’s mind to come up with creative, alternate solutions, that would give her the break that her mind and body were looking for–a momentary escape from the stress and business, a distraction. This is a universal need, and easy to understand. Sarah’s mind came up with quite a few solutions. And importantly, solutions that were as portable and flexible as snacking had been. She spoke slowly and quietly in hypnosis, and I recorded her answers, in case she wouldn’t be able to remember them after the session which sometimes happens. Her mind came up with a couple of her favorite games on her phone, coloring with colored pencils (one of those books that are so popular now), listening to her favorite music, and several others.
Familiar Equals Safe and Comfortable — and That Leads to Permanent Change
The next step was for Sarah and I to make her new behaviors feel as familiar, safe, comfortable and rewarding as her life-long snacking habit had been. And of course we did this in hypnosis. In hypnosis, what you imagine in detail is treated as if it were really happening by the subconscious. So with some future pacing and timeline work, we convinced Sarah’s subconscious that not only were her new choices as good as, if not better than grazing on food, but that she actually had already BEEN doing things this new way for several years.
Sarah Checks In
Sarah and I only worked together for 6 sessions, which is a pretty typical length of time to work with a client. During those sessions there were other things we worked on in addition to her change in habits — increasing and repairing her self esteem, and instilling in her a deeply felt belief that she deserved to have a healthy, toned body, among other things. But the lynchpin change really was eating mindfully at meal times and not snacking outside of meals.
The goal of hypnosis is not directly weight loss. So I didn’t see Sarah lose a lot of weight while we were working together — it was only 2 months after all. The goal of hypnosis is to create long-term changes in behaviors and beliefs that create the “downstream effect” of weight loss. And Sarah certainly achieved those long-term changes.
Sarah checked in with me 7 months after our work together just last week — she is down 50 pounds!!! And while she wants to protect her identity since she has a pretty big and important job with a recognizable company in the Twin Cities, she did give me the OK to write up this story and include the specifics about our work together.
There Are So Many Sarahs Out There!
I’ve worked with so many people who came in for weight loss and what was really needed was an adjustment like Sarah’s. In her own mind, Sarah’s problem seemed much deeper and darker than it was. We tend to do this to ourselves, don’t we? Especially when we’ve been struggling with something for a long time — maybe even for as long as we can remember. I’ve had many weight loss clients whose most important need turned out to be stress relief. Once they re-arranged some of their priorities (to put themselves first) and installed some stress relief methods in their lives, the cortisol reduced and they were able to release the excess weight.
Being a detective and helping people get big results from sometimes what seems like small changes is a very rewarding part of my job. If you’re looking for a solution and you’ve tried “everything else” maybe it’s time to try hypnosis. I offer free consultations daily — book yours through the scheduling tool here. I’m looking forward to helping you!
*Sarah’s name and identifying characteristics have been changed per her request. Sarah has approved this article.