“When it came to the point where I physically wanted to fight against reducing my food intake, I knew there’s a problem and it’s something I need help with,” muses 38-year-old Micheal Lomas.
The UK-born, UAE-based expat had spent much of the early part of last year gaining weight when the global pandemic brought life to a standstill for a while. “I was getting to the point where I was ridiculously big; I was the biggest I had ever been, so May last year I quit smoking, July I started training,” he says. But while the exercise was something he’d work on, working on portion control seemed to be a problem.
Food, he says, was comfort. “I used to find a lot of comfort in food – it was my go-to thing. If I felt down or I needed a pick-me-up food would be there and that’s what I would do,” he recalls. Then came the meeting that would change it all. “The area that I live in, there’s a group of guys and we play football. One day after a match I got to talking to one of the guys and he told me the story of one of his neighbours; a couple that had done this course [virtual gastric band surgery]. And what he said to me was, ‘I hadn’t seen the guy, the neighbours, for like three months and I saw somebody doing something to their car and I didn’t recognize them and it was the same person, they’d just lost so much weight.’ So that kind of convinced me to at least have a conversation, to investigate a little bit more.”
And so came the meeting with Anna Yates, of Mind Solutions, who has devised a four-step programme that combines counselling, NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) and hypnotherapy to help you revise your relationship with food. “It took me a long time to understand that my body will tell me when it wants food instead of my brain telling me when I want food,” explains Lomas. “This programme changes the way you function.”
Here’s how it works.
Session 1: Let’s talk about food connections.
This is an intense one-and-a-half hour session where you talk about your relationship with food; what it means to you and how it has affected you over the years and why. Your daily intake is noted and you are asked to make a note of three things: 1. How has the habit helped you, 2. 8 ways you are going to replace this habit, and 3. 8 ways you’ll reward yourself for changing this habit. These lists must go up somewhere you can see them easily and often.
About 30 minutes of this session is a personalised hypnosis track played to you, where you are asked to visualise what is and what could be (both good and bad). This clip is sent over, so you can listen to it each night – or day – before the next meeting. “There’s a fork in the road and there’s a downward bit where it’s a slippery slope. This is the bad path, in 12 months’ time think about where you’ll be and what you are going to have to do. That’s really horrible, you don’t want that. What’s everybody going to think? And you’ve got the other path which has a little more difficulty and it’s going to take a little more control but you’ve got control and this is where you can get to. And you’ve made that choice and you’ve made that choice over and over again. And it’s the same with affirmations, when you are providing that [positive alternative], repeating that action over and over again it changes your behavior,” explains Lomas.
Session 2: Talking specifics.
Besides speaking more about why food affects you the way it does, this session deals with nutrition, macros and understanding portion control that would work for you. At the end of this meeting you will have homework, to keep a food journal for a week, in which you write what you eat and when, and what you were feeling at that moment.
Session 3: Recap and get ready for an operation.
This is a revision class where you go through once again everything you’ve talked about, take note of progress and triggers, and get ready for the next step. By this time, things have become more routine; the tracks – like affirmations are calling for change; this is autosuggestion at its best.
Lomas recalls his days between sessions. “Waking up at half past 5 in the morning, listening to the tape before I get out of bed at 6, and then I’d do a 5k run. And at night I’d listen to the tape and fall asleep with it. That would be the routine,” he recalls.
Session 4: The operation.
In this session, you are taken through the gastric band operation with a detailed presentation complete with video on how the band is placed and what you can expect from it. Finally, you are hypnotised; a virtual gastric band is placed through this process in your stomach. You are full.
“Every time we [people who are overweight] eat we have that kind of annoyance at the back of our mind that bit that doesn’t allow us to do it [stop]– you want to do it, you don’t do it. Why don’t you do it? That little piece of information that seems to be missing, that’s what she [Yates] puts in. That little bit of focus that you need to be able to make that change. What it [the plan] does, is it re-programmes the unconscious part of your mind, so the bit you don’t think about – it reprogrammes the mind so that your database of food, your experience with food is reset. So food doesn’t comfort you any more – it’s there for sustenance. I eat to need not to comfort.”
Lomas is full of praise for this method of aiding weight-loss. Now, 30kg down, he says: “My whole persona has changed. My attitude towards life has changed. I’m more energised. I’ve lost weight, gained muscle and I’ve run my first 10km last week. That’s, like, unbelievable for me who couldn’t go around the car park. I couldn’t run 100m 12 months earlier, so running 10km now is huge.”
“The key to this is listening to your body,” adds Lomas. And the key to that, is understanding your mind.