Are You ‘Fed’ Up With Twixtmas?

Female Feet Standing On Electronic Scales For Weight Control In Red Socks With Christmas Decoration

How are we doing over there? Have you managed to make a dent on the mountain of snacks and nibbles that made your cupboard look like a post-apocalyptic food store (who knew the shops would only be closed for just one day, right?)

If you’re like most of the country, you’re probably wedged into an armchair watching The Sound of Music (which, by the way, you hate), ploughing through a tin of Quality Street you don’t need or want – because, well, it’s Christmas, dammit! – and muttering darkly about losing weight.

Over the past few weeks there’s been a lot of online chat about exactly this subject. How to rid yourself of the extra pounds that pile on while you digest the aperitif that is Christmas and await the entrée that is New Year. A time of year known by some as Twixtmas and by others as the somewhat ruder perineum. Go ahead and look that up. We’ll wait.

It occurred to me that there was a common theme to all the social media, blogs and online articles, which was the assumptions they made about what causes weight gain and what motivates us to then lose it.

By and large, the overriding message is a bit simplistic: if you really want to lose weight, just eat less.

Biologically, of course, that’s completely true. In the end, the metabolic science behind gaining and losing weight is about as simple as it gets:

If you consume more calories than you burn, you’ll put weight on. If you consume fewer calories than you burn, you’ll lose weight. So far, so obvious.

Things get a bit more complicated – though only slightly, in truth – when you factor in individual metabolic rate (some people have a slow metabolism, others burn energy more quickly). And we can ramp up the complexity a bit more by adding in particular health conditions that impact the metabolism.

But in the end, the formula is the same and from a purely metabolic, biological perspective, if you adjust your calorie intake so that it’s either equal to or less than the calories you burn, you’ll either maintain or lose weight.

It may not suit the story we tell ourselves, but steroids, an underactive thyroid, Cushing’s Syndrome or diabetes – four common conditions often ‘blamed’ for unwanted weight gain – aren’t responsible alone for how you might look or feel. That’s down to how you mitigate their impact.

Shedding some of the mince pies you’ve consumed during the two weeks of Christmas is one thing, but habits like comfort or binge eating that you find impossible to change are quite another.

On the surface, it’s not difficult to see how obesity and the food consumption that leads to it can be interpreted as laziness or indifference. 

Yet, what the ‘just stop eating so much’ brigade fail to either understand or acknowledge is that for many people who struggle with weight, their relationship with food isn’t about greed or gluttony. Neither is it an inability or disinclination to temper their eating habits.

It’s about a psychology that is so deeply and fundamentally ingrained they don’t even associate their ongoing weight issues with the state of their mental health.

Yes, on a visceral level, people who are chronically overweight probably have a sense that they’re not entirely happy in life.

Some, though not all, will struggle with the way they look and feel. If they step on the scales at all or look in the mirror (avoidance of both is actually far more likely), they won’t necessarily see that the extra pounds are the calling card of some distant emotional trauma or unresolved emotional disappointments that the subconscious has long-since erased from the memory.

These damaging experiences often, but not always, relate to pent-up disappointments in the vast library of a subconscious that remembers everything – particularly everything that is painful, confusing or negative.

Troubling or just flattening experiences in our past can become so deeply buried that we either have no longer have any recollection of them or we do have conscious recollection but just have no idea e haven’t processed the event or disappointment and moved on.

Then there are the unhelpful beliefs that shape our behaviour – old time classics like believing we’re not good enough, that nothing works out for us, that there’s something wrong with us, that we can’t get what we want in life.

We may not spend our daily lives consciously thinking these negative thoughts, yet they still sit lodged in our subconscious, perfectly formed hand grenades that were created by disappointing, flattening or even shattering experiences from which we have not fully healed.

(A word to the wise here: don’t believe what they tell you about time – it’s not always the great healer people like to believe it is because the subconscious has absolutely no concept of time whatsoever. As far as your subconscious is concerned, that damaging experience might just as well have happened yesterday).

The result is often a daily feeling of boredom – which, when you dig a bit deeper and investigate it properly, is usually impotent rage and/or frustration – flatness, mild or not so mild depression or anxiety.

And what do we do in response? We eat on! 

The subconscious works hard to keep things that way, offering appealing (and sometimes not-so-appealing) distractions designed to block any prospect of having to face them down.

Food isn’t the only soother, but it’s often the drug of choice, especially for women. In many ways it’s the least harmful drug of choice – it’s obviously far better to be eating too many slices of pizza than banging the gak on a daily basis – but it’s still a life inhibitor.

If you don’t feel happy with your own eating habits and your body then the risk is a compromised sense of self-respect. And it can delay you actually living your life. Many people I work with put off doing things until they have ‘lost the weight’ – things like looking for a relationship, for example – so it can be a real life-stopper.

It’s important to love the body you’re in, and that’s fine as long as you do – but if you’re unhappy then it’s your prerogative to do something about it. 

That doesn’t mean beating yourself up about how you look (that’s a whole other blog), but if you want positive change and want to feel good about yourself then that is absolutely something worth fighting for.

If losing weight healthily is part of that – and I want to stress the word healthily here, since so much emphasis is put on looks and body image, and the last thing I want to do here is add to that – then more power to you.

Any addictive or negative compulsive behaviour can be a candidate: alcohol is a common one; shopping, gambling and drugs are others among many.

Lots of us have a love/hate relationship with food and alcohol that manifests itself in weight gain and can probably be described as ‘normal’ even if it’s not exactly ideal and in those cases a healthier lifestyle is the important step that’s needed to get back into shape.

But where food consumption (and therefore weight) is governed by trauma, life becomes an emotionally draining rollercoaster of crash diets and punishing exercise regimes that work for a while until the subconscious pulls up the mental drawbridge and convinces you that what you really need is cake. 

Food (or any other coping behaviour) becomes the currency of reward. Got through a challenging day? Well done, says the subconscious, you’ve earned a pizza.

To vandalise the art of Fat Boy Slim, it’s an exhausting and, ultimately, futile cycle of eat, sleep, crave, repeat that is destined to continue until we deal with what’s really causing us to behave as we do.

Trauma therapy untangles the carefully-constructed web the subconscious has weaved, supporting you to recognise and acknowledge what’s happened in the past and helping you to reach an acceptance that allows you to process the event or events.

The processing – or resolution – is central to the healing process and hypnotherapy for trauma or feelings you just don’t want to face facilitates this in a safe, secure environment designed to protect you.

However much we might like to believe it’s possible to change the way we respond to trauma without going through this process, I know from experience that it’s not.  The only way is ‘through’.  

Treating the symptoms might mask the problem for a while, helping you to convince yourself that you’re free from the shackles of food or drugs or bad financial decisions. But the thing about trauma or unresolved emotions is that eventually it will come calling again.

And it might be obvious, but we’ll say it again anyway: not all weight issues are linked to trauma. If you’re carrying a few extra pounds you’re struggling to shift but you’re broadly happy with yourself and your food relationships, then hypnotherapy for weight loss could be the little kickstart you need.

But if you’re eating even though you’re desperate not to, can recognise damaging patterns in when and how you eat, know your weight makes you camera-, mirror- and scales-shy and the problem is a daily issue, it could just be there’s something in your past that you need to deal with to be able to move on as you’d like.

By asking for help and support to resolve the issues you’re dealing with, you’ll find yourself better equipped to live life to the full and no longer compelled to ‘eat on your feelings’.

If you feel like you need help and support in your relationship with food, or if you simply want to shed a few pounds to shake off the excess of Christmas, then our amazing weight loss expert Sandy Robson is someone you need to spend some time with.

From tackling entrenched eating disorders to providing the small mindset change needed to kickstart a healthier lifestyle, Sandy offers tailored support, which can include the amazingly effective and non-invasive Virtual Gastric Band. You can find out more about Sandy and book a consultation with her by clicking here.

Unwrap Your Zen This Christmas

Broken Christmas Ornament

Well done, you made it! To misquote John Lennon, another year over and a new one just about to begin. Now there’s just the tricky issue of Christmas to navigate and it’s plain sailing all the way into 2019, right?

Well, yes – but that’s easier said than done.

Over the last two weeks or so, I’ve seen quite a lot of stuff online about why Christmas is a terrible time of the year.

I don’t know, maybe the mood of the moment is to be fed up with life. I don’t know why that should be the case, and maybe we should blame Brexit for it, since that seems to be responsible for everything else that people perceive to be wrong in life generally these days.

I think for most people, Christmas is a wonderful time of year (though, as I said in the article I wrote this time last year, we should be careful about setting our expectations too high and constructing an ideal that the festive season will never match), but there’s no doubt that for others it can also be a something to be dreaded.

Bereavement, grief, loss and isolation are all obvious triggers for issues around emotional wellbeing at Christmas. This is, after all, the time of year that trades heavily in the currency of togetherness and companionship shared in the warm glow of fairy lights and flaming Christmas puddings.

But because those raw emotions are so all-consuming, they’re easier to recognise even if they’re not easy to resolve. Support, empathy and care are always much more forthcoming when the symptoms of emotional discomfort are in plain sight.

It’s the invisible emotional damage that carries the heftiest price tag at Christmas.

So, what are the things that can make up the worst that this best of seasons has to offer?

Your bank account is empty, and your credit cards are maxed out

Yep. Christmas is ridiculously expensive. But a lot of us get sucked into the artificial bauble-strewn dream that the advertising executives create in our heads. In this fantasy, we are the kings and queens of the big gesture. It’s the marquee gift we can ill-afford and would never buy in a month of Sundays.

It’s the heady whirl of office parties, bring-a-bottle Christmas gatherings, meals out, the ridiculous must have bird-within-a-bird-within-a-bird roast (what the hell is that all about, anyway?), the Kuwait-sized oil reserves needed to fuel your car on the endless round of family visits to far-flung corners of the UK.

It’s the constant whirl of party invitations you feel you must attend if only to stop everyone getting all judgy behind your back. It’s the several dozen new dresses you need to buy with money you haven’t got (because you spent it all on presents for other people) so you don’t commit ultimate fashion faux pas of being seen out in the same frock twice (celebrities have much to answer for here).

In supermarkets, stress levels go through the roof to the point where people actually fight over the last turkey. I’m sure there are large numbers of people who think Armageddon is just around the corner. How else do you explain someone bulk buying 48 loaves of bread and enough double cream to bathe in?

And it goes on, and on, and on. Christmas is officially a crazy time of year when all rational sense goes out of the window.

What that leads to is stress and worry about how you’re going to afford the things that really do matter. So, here’s a thought: don’t spend as much as you think you should.

Maybe it’s too late to send back the marquee present, but if it isn’t, send it back. If you haven’t bought it yet, don’t. Get people to come to you. Be a rebel. Say no to the infinity-bird nonsense and buy an affordable joint of meat for Christmas dinner instead – you’ll probably enjoy it more anyway.

Do we really have to spend Christmas with your parents?

Uh-huh. Christmas. The season of spending precious time you haven’t got with people you’d normally go to great lengths to avoid. And all right, the in-laws are an easy (and therefore lazy) stereotype, but whoever it is you’re spending time with begrudgingly this Christmas, that’s who we mean.

Family are the friends who get chosen for you and the dynamics aren’t always easy. If you’re in a relationship, the pressure to play happy families is intense, every interaction a potential emotional grenade. Especially if the conversation turns to Brexit.

If your Christmas social commitments might be a trigger for conflict, it might just be worth reaching an understanding with your partner ahead of time about putting a sensible limit on the amount of time you’re each expected to spend with the people who you find difficult.

And it’s not just about having an agreement with your partner, either. It’s also about having an agreement with yourself about how and when you take a break from situations and people who trigger strong negative emotion.

Christmas is a joyful time, but it’s also a time when we’re expected to get along with everyone – and the fact is there are people who’ll do your head in whether it’s Christmas or not. Many a falling out has been avoided by a strategically-taken head-cooling walk round the block.

Can I pour you another?

I think I must have missed the memo where it became compulsory to consume the entire stock in the Sainsbury wine and spirit aisle in a single week. Yet such is the stress associated with this time of the year that over-enthusiastic self-medication seems to be the order of the season.

Beer, wine, whiskey (or more likely, given the trend of 2018, herbal-infused gin), cider, it doesn’t matter as long as it numbs the stress, right? Wrong. Because before long you’re going to be Jagerbombing your way to acute embarrassment, more stress and pitiless self-recrimination. All of which you’re going to need to face with a hangover.

Alcohol is probably best avoided altogether in stressful situations – it’s rarely the answer to the problem you’re trying to resolve.

Molehill, meet mountain

The thing about Christmas, from a mental health perspective, is that it’s the world’s largest magnifying glass, and it comes with a festive soundtrack. Chris De Burgh may well be on the radio singing about peace on earth and goodwill to all men, but that counts for nothing when you’re alongside Chis Rea, top to toe in tailbacks (tailbacks, your partner helpfully reminds you, that you could have avoided if you weren’t such a bloody slave to the satnav).

The queue for the tills at Boots are so long you need to bivouac overnight to reach them and TK Maxx looks like Glastonbury, but without the really great bands.

Everything that’s annoying gets magnified. As a result, tempers fray, sensible heads overheat, and words are said that will still be quoted back to you, accompanied by a savage expression, the following June.

Because these miss-you nights are the longest

After a few Pernod & Blacks, there’s a good chance you’ll start to feel nostalgic about an old relationship. You’ll forget that neither of you had been happy for at least three millennia and the whole thing imploded in a carnival of finger-pointing and shouting that lasted well into the early hours, when you left their house and spent the night sleeping in your car.

Christmas is a time when the memories we create are most vivid, and because we spend a lot of time around people who are also pretending to have the jolliest of jolly times, we start to convince ourselves that whilst the grass on the other side might be covered in snow, it is nevertheless almost certainly greener than what’s currently growing under our own feet.

And so, for some of us, Yuletide is a time when we mourn what we once had and consider ourselves poorer for it. But a bit like the Christmas fantasy we’ve been conditioned to believe in, it’s not reality.

Since when did it become a requirement of Christmas to be in a relationship, anyway? If you are, and you’re happy, then fantastic. I’m genuinely pleased for you. But if you’re not, you shouldn’t be feeling like you’ve failed in some way.

It’s totally okay to be single. In fact, it’s healthier to be happily single than it is to be in some awful relationship just because some idiotic social convention says you really should be seeing someone. That’s not actually a thing. It never was.

In short, Christmas is a time when it’s easy to lose sight of what’s good in your life. It’s a time when we feel pressure to be happy and joyful and carefree actually feel worse because our own reality doesn’t shape up to that expectation.

If you really want to be happy this Christmas, you’ll need to make sure you’re serving up a good dose of realism with the chestnut stuffing. That doesn’t mean you need to be the Grinch. But it probably does mean putting yourself first when every instinct is telling you not to.

Whatever your take on Christmas, we wish a merry one for you. But to really enjoy it, you have to remember that it’s just one day. Just one period of 24 hours. It’s not some kind of witching hour where you have to have everything in your life figured out.  It really doesn’t have to mean so much.  

You’re a work in progress. We all are. As humans, we are things of beauty because we are imperfect. Christmas is chaotic, but it should be chaotic in a way that leaves you breathless in a good way. So, be kind to yourself – you’ve earned it.

Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time?

Funny Cleaner

Christmas. A time for peace, joy and goodwill to all. Frosted breath plumes, comforters snake about collars, greetings and laughter fill the air. A myriad of a thousand tiny lights add sparkle to a tree beneath whose branches beautifully-wrapped gifts await new owners.

At this time of year, we’re bombarded with vision after vision of what a perfect Christmas should look like. It’s all firelit ochre tones, people laughing gaily, families coming together in a blaze of harmony, perfect presents under perfect trees, high romance and not a raised voice to be heard.

In a perfect Christmas, perfect things happen. It snows in big, fluffy flakes and everyone is tremendously happy about it. Families smile and laugh with each other in a big happy love-bubble. Boyfriends propose with diamond rings submerged in glasses of champagne. The turkey exits the oven bronzed with those little chef hat things on the end of each of its legs. Monopoly is played without a single disagreement over how much rent is owed on Mayfair.

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Additional Credits

Video by Weeks360.

Photography by Liz Bishop Photography.

Production by Mark Norman at Little Joe Media and Joanne Brooks.

Hair by Jonny Albutt.

Make up by Olly Fisk and Nabeel Hussain.