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The Surprising Way Hypnosis Changed My Approach to Health and Fitness

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In honor of my upcoming 40th birthday, I set out on an ambitious journey to lose weight, get healthy, and finally find my balance. I started the year off strong by committing to 30 days of Shape's circuit workout challenge, breaking up with diets for good, and even seeing a therapist for my fear of stepping on the scale. But I was still struggling with my biggest issue—nagging thoughts of self-sabotage. Ready to turn them off once and for all, I decided to try hypnosis.

It came to me after I woke up from a disturbing dream where cookies rattled around in my head, refusing to stop until I ate them all. (Seriously.) I woke up shaking, trying to figure out what was happening. As I got my bearings, I decided that the "noise" I was constantly battling—the noise that rationalized that it was okay to eat a cookie, skip a workout, or binge on Bravo instead of doing things I know are good for me—needed to get drowned out once and for all. I remembered how a friend quit smoking for good with hypnosis, so I figured it might work for me too. I found certified hypnotherapist and life coach Alexandra Janelli, the founder of the new wellness center Modrn Sanctuary in New York City, booked an appointment, and prepared to see her for a nap that would change my life.

Except, hypnosis was nothing like I expected it to be. If, like me, you imagine a pendulum swinging in front of your face until you drift off to sleep as subliminal messages are whispered into your ear—well, you're wrong. You do most of the work—and it's not pretty. (Here, Everything You Need to Know About Hypnosis for Weight Loss)

After entering Janelli's office, she naturally asked me why was I there and what I wanted to gain from the experience. I told her I was looking to turn off the chatter in my head and motivate myself to work out and eat right with the goal of losing weight and getting healthy. I thought that would be enough for her to conjure up the right words and phrases to pump into my subconscious. I was wrong.

I was completely caught off guard when she asked me why I wanted these things, if I really needed the things I was asking for, how these asks would look and feel when I attained them, and if I was ready to bring them into my life. I had to stop and think about it. Do I want to lose weight or do I need to because I think I'm supposed to? That was just the beginning of what would turn out to be one of the deepest and most intense therapy sessions of my life.

Janelli took me back to all the times in my life that I was both successful and unsuccessful in my quest to get healthy, work out, and lose weight. And it hit me that I did not want to necessarily be thin or have the willpower to perpetually stick to a diet. What I really wanted was permission to put myself first and lose the guilt whenever I did something that might require others in my life to pick up the slack. I wanted to stop self-sabotaging myself. I wanted to feel like I deserved "me time." It's not actually about the number on the scale.

Now, I thought for sure that after this eye-opening conversation that Janelli would lull me to sleep and magically make this all come to fruition for me. Nope. I lay back in a very comfy chair but I did not sleep. I was relaxed, but I kept talking to Janelli the entire session, answering questions about how putting myself first would look and feel. She brought me back to a time in my life when I practiced yoga six days a week. I wasn't just visualizing myself in the yoga studio, I was re-experiencing what that level of commitment felt like and remembering the amazing way my body tingled whenever I finished a session. The goal, according to Janelli, was to connect with thoughts and feelings that resonated with my wants. We re-associated them in my mind in a way that would guide me to positive outcomes.

A powerful tool during the session was when Janelli had me find a word that I could use post-hypnosis to serve as a trigger. Whenever I felt off track or unsure, this word was to anchor me back to my goals and wants. Without hesitation, I decided my word was "reset." I said it out loud and I instantly knew that it would help me make better choices whenever I felt like I was slipping.

Moments later, Janelli was pulling me out of my hypnotic state. My body felt like jelly and I was sure that nothing changed. In fact, I left the center to head back home via Grand Central station and treated myself to a burrito for lunch. But, as I started to eat, I asked myself—what do I really want and/or need from this burrito? Truthfully, I didn't need the extra grease, and I didn't particularly want it either. Yes, I wanted something to satiate me on the train, but I also wanted to feel good about that choice. So, I took off the tortilla, scraped away the cheese and sour cream and only ate the meat and veggies. Sounds small, but for me, resetting a food choice by eliminating the carbs/fat after it's already in front of me is unusual.

And ever since, I've found myself identifying my wants and needs a lot better. Sometimes I want to go to yoga (sometimes I don't; that's okay). And sometimes my schedule is super busy, so I need to order takeout (that's okay too). Giving myself a pass to choose what I want and need in every situation has helped me make more mindful decisions overall.

I'm not perfect—I've had my share of burritos and nights where I regretted not taking a yoga class because I also didn't want to pay a babysitter. But the word "reset" has become like a magic spell for me. Instead of letting bad decisions send me spiraling out of control and into a dark abyss of missed workouts, never-ending binges, and depression from the guilt, the word "reset" gives me permission to own my misstep, forgive myself, and instantly start fresh. Before, it could take me weeks, months, sometimes years, to find my motivation again. But now I know to say "reset" out loud and proud (sometimes even when I'm walking the aisles of a crowded grocery store) and I'm ready to do what I want—for my health and happiness.

 

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