When we are calm then we are in control, and when we are in control it becomes so much easier to make wise decisions about what, when and how much to eat

It is a common opinion that food intake and metabolism are the prevailing factors in determining someone’s weight. However, contrary to popular belief research has shown that stress adversely affects our eating habits and the production of cortisol which is responsible for providing our body with energy so we can perform adequately during times of increased tension.

Impact of sleep on eating

According to sleep experts, we need 7-8 hours of sleep a day.  When we are sleep deprived or we sleep less than needed, we notice very low energy levels and consequently, reach out for carbohydrates which are considered a form of nutritional self-medication.

In his book entitled “Food, eating and obesity”, David J. Mela identifies what he describes as the “significant influences of mood on eating and of eating on mood”.

When we are tired, apart from needing more energy, we also feel more vulnerable when dealing with day-to-day activities so that sometimes even minor unpleasantries may cause us to get angry, anxious or even depressed. So, how can it be that lack of sleep can influence our mood so much that if affects our physiology and food choices?

We know that in life, threatening situations can occur almost daily, but often it is all down to our perception. During times of stress, animals naturally reject food as they avoid any distractions from potential danger. Humans, on the other hand, tend to increase food intake and the main reason for this is self-medication.

Effect of stress on hormone levels

When we are overwhelmed by a situation and feel threatened, then our body releases adrenaline and cortisol, also known as “the belly fat hormone”. The right amount of cortisol is good as it also helps us to think and react quickly and sharply, especially if we are in a danger or our work environment demands it. Still, if the stress levels are high over a prolonged period of time and we are creating a backlog then these may cause us to lose intellectual control over more and more areas of our life.

Additionally, during times of stress our body reduces the production of dopamine and serotonin, “the happy hormones”, so consequently we start seeking substitutes, and one of these is food. Unfortunately, we can derive pleasure from food only up to a certain extent as our dopamine receptors become desensitised.

How to get on top of things

We’ve all had moments in life when we were upset and someone would tell us: “Sleep it over.  Tomorrow you will think of it differently.” They were right. We would wake up the next day and could just didn’t feel as overwhelming. We can see now that sleep, or more specifically REM sleep, is actually our coping mechanism.

Importance of rapid eye movement (REM)

REM constitutes 20% of our sleep pattern and allows us to process the events of the day in both a literal and a symbolic way and removes the emotional charge that is attached to these events so they become just a narrative memory. By doing so, it enables us to wake up the next day feeling refreshed and able to cope with things easily and effectively, and interestingly, it also encourages the production of satiety hormone – leptin.

You can see now that nature has already given us all the tools for coping successfully in this world and hypnotherapy is also one of them.

Hypnotherapy activates the same REM sleep responsible for processing unresolved emotions. Consequently, it reduces the backlog of accumulated stress and alleviates the physiological processes that were prompting us to medicate ourselves with food. By regaining intellectual control one becomes empowered to identify undesirable habits and triggers and direct attention to building positive expectations about ourselves looking great and establishing a healthy relationship with food.

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