The festive season seems to last longer and longer doesn’t it? Christmas seems to start mid October these days! The Christmas advertisements are on the television, shop fronts are covered in sparkly adornments and of course, we start reaching for those bigger trousers as our waist lines start to increase due to the scoffing that goes on at this time of year.
You should see the winter time mugs of hot chocolate that my wife makes when we go to the Beach Hut at this time of year when the sun shines. All wrapped up watching the sea, the beach quiet and a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of Summer… Then she fills the mugs with hot chocolate, topped with cream and brimming over with marshmallows… Then comes all the rest… Party food of every kind…
Then when December arrives…. Mince pies. Mulled wine. Turkey feasts with roast potatoes and those delicious pigs in blankets (sausages wrapped in bacon). There is chocolate of every denomination. Huge hams. Slabs of smoked salmon. It is the only time of year I eat dates and sugared almonds! There are snacks and nibbles that accompany every get together… And there is the booze…
It wears me out just thinking about it. In line with the current online clinic here looking at weight loss, I wanted to offer another technique to help start the New Year weight reduction plans.
A problem is created when we eat to excess. The more we eat, the more our mind and body wants to eat. When we eat to excess, especially loads of simple carbs and refined sugars, and then when we sleep less during party season and drink too much, general fatigue also contributes to us eating more.
Then we start craving stuff. We crave and are only satiated when we are stuffed full and snoozing again. The cycle continues and takes all our might with our new years resolutions to get us on the straight and narrow again.
I get asked repeatedly about how to deal with cravings. The unwanted response is all about eating and drinking in such a way to ensure they do not occur in the first place. People don’t want to hear that stuff. They always tell me that they know they should have eaten a particular way in the first place… So today I am not going to be writing about that stuff.
So the next best thing, is to have a process aimed at dealing with cravings as they occur.
The process that I am illustrating here today originated as a means of dealing with cravings for cigarettes for using with hypnotherapy clients; the Red Balloon technique of Walch (1976) and has been used extensively and championed in the (1978) work of Stanton. There are many version of this out this type of process that you can find and although I am showing you how to use self-hypnosis with this sort of process for dealing with food cravings, it is often used for emotional disorders that require to be let go of.
Steps To Let Go Of Food Cravings
This process needs to be practiced formally a few times persistently before it can be used in real-life scenarios, so run through this process in detail, step by step and then at the end I’ll write about how to do this process without the formalised hypnosis session.
Step One: Induce hypnosis.
Then take a nice deep breath and as you exhale, allow your eyes to comfortably close.
Hold your dominant arm straight out in front of you, palm facing down and tune into the feelings within it.
Imagine as vividly as you can, that there is a large book (e.g. dictionary, encyclopaedia) resting on the back of your arm/hand, and every relaxed breath you exhale, imagine another one being placed on top of it making it feel as if it is getting heavier and heavier. Really engage your imagination and convince yourself that your arm feels heavier and heavier.
Affirm this by saying to yourself those words “heavier and heavier” repeatedly as you continue to let your imagination make the arm feel heavy. As it feels as if it is getting heavier and heavier, also imagine the arm starts to very slowly, but surely move downwards to your lap.
Tell yourself this with volition, do not allow other thoughts in to distract, repeat that sentiment, relax with the sentiment (too much effort or stress can impede the progress you make) and repeatedly tell yourself you go into hypnosis as you focus on the arm moving downwards and the body relaxing everywhere else.
When your hand reaches your lap, it rests, it relaxes and flops into a comfortable position.
Now you have induced hypnosis (with absorption and focus), move on to step two.
Step Two: Now start to imagine that you are walking along a pathway, a pathway of your life.
Notice what the path is made of and imagine hearing the sounds of your own feet walking along it. Become aware of where this path is – perhaps a place in nature, or in an urban landscape, or near the sea, or in the countryside, you choose.
Notice the colours and details of the sights around you. Become aware of the textures and shades of the colours and all that you see. Notice how it makes you feel to be in this place and hear the sounds of the place, the volume of the various sounds, what is close up and what is distant.
Tell yourself that with each step you walk along the path, you go deeper inside your mind and take some time to use this to deepen the hypnosis you are experiencing.
Once you have engaged your imagination as fully as possible, deepened for a while, then move on to the next step.
Step Three: As you walk, notice that you are carrying a backpack of some kind. As you walk along the pathway, notice that it is heavy and getting heavier. Notice that it actually is weighing upon you.
Imagine that the pack carries around with it all your cravings that you have accrued over recent times. Maybe it is those actual foods and drinks that are in this increasingly large pack on your back.
You notice that the pathway starts to move upwards slightly and as you walk uphill and as more cravings and foods are piled into the bag, it is becoming harder and harder to move smoothly and enjoyably.
Let yourself get to the top of this slope, feeling weighed down with those cravings and then move on to the next step.
Step Four: At the top of the hill, you notice that there is a large colourful hot air balloon with a basket sitting underneath it, tied to the ground you are stood on.
Now start to take one item at a time out of the pack on your back and place it into the basket. Notice what it is that comes out of the pack, become aware of what you were craving and notice that as you let go of them, you feel lighter and easier and more comfortable.
Let yourself start to free yourself of those cravings, place them all one at a time into the basket and notice that you feel lighter and more at ease with each and every item you place in there. Keep doing this, taking all the time necessary to completely empty the pack. Notice all the feelings attached to those foods, all the old desires and associations are leaving and being put into the basket. Watch it all sitting there in that basket.
Feel cleansed and free and in control of yourself. In fact spend some time to just feel a lighter sensation in your chest, in your stomach and your limbs. Really experience a genuine sense of lightness and easiness in your shoulders now that you have shed these heavy burdensome cravings.
Once you have spent enough time really noticing how much lighter you feel, then move on to the next step.
Step Five: Now go over to the ties attaching the basket and hot air balloon to the ground and untie it.
Watch all those foods, feelings, sensations, associations, cravings all start to float away into nothingness. Watch it all drifting and floating into the distance. Smile as you wave goodbye to it all. Enjoy the sense of being in control that you get from this.
Watch it until it becomes a tiny speck very far away that eventually vanishes and is gone for good.
Now start to take some good deep breaths and notice the lightness you experience not just because you have let go of your cravings, but also because you have taken control of who and how you are and that feels really good.
Step Six: Once you have enjoyed the lightness for a while and you are sure that the balloon is long gone and the cravings are no more, then you open your eyes, wiggle your fingers and toes, take a couple of deeper breaths and go about your day.
Practice this process 4-6 times with real focus and concentration. Then, when you are out at a party or festive drinks, or if you are at home and it is not time for your proper meals, and you are presented with choices for more and more naughty stuff, then breathe deeply, close your eyes for a moment and imagine placing that craving or that urge into the basket and letting it fly away.
Let it pass without resisting it or fighting the feeling, breathe deeply and then go and take some other action, engage in a conversation and congratulate yourself for taking control.
There you go, enjoy this process, it is going to help you a great deal with weight reduction this new year.
Adam Eason, author of “The Science of Self-Hypnosis: The Evidence-Based Way to Hypnotise Yourself.”