Mind tricks: new ways to win weight battle

The key to losing weight is simple, right? Consume fewer calories - or burn more calories than you consume.

Sounds easy on paper but, as anyone who's ever struggled with their weight will agree, in reality it's not quite that straightforward! Especially when things like cravings, force of habit and emotional eating come into play.

This is the thinking behind Gastric Mind Band (GMB), a weight-loss approach that has been gaining popularity over the past couple of years.

Rather than a real gastric band around your stomach, GMB is a therapy that aims to help people re-establish normal eating patterns, through techniques including self-hypnosis and cognitive behaviour therapy.

Devised by husband-and-wife hypnotherapist team Martin and Marion Shirran, who've also written a Gastric Mind Band book, it eschews calorie-counting and food deprivation in favour of tactics such as a mental "pause button", self-hypnosis and visualisation.

"The idea is to help people address their relationship with food and make positive changes," Marion, 45, says.

"It's about being in control of what you're eating, and making sure you're eating for the right reasons, rather than when you're bored, stressed or emotional."

The Shirrans haven't just devised a therapy without trying it themselves - Martin, 60, weighed 113kg before starting GMB, and now weighs 84kg.

Here's an outline of the key principles to GMB.

MENTAL PAUSE BUTTONS

An important part of GMB therapy, mental "pause buttons" are used to freeze time before people put "dodgy food" in their mouths.

"It's to get people to stop and think about the consequences," says Marion.

"They stop for a few seconds and visualise themselves going ahead and eating the bar of chocolate or whatever, and then they fast-forward to a few minutes later and remind themselves how they'll feel if they give in to that craving."

SELF-HYPNOSIS

The Shirrans stress that self-hypnosis, involving deep relaxation, visualisation and reinforcement of the positive changes you're trying to make, is key. It involves choosing up to three "positive thoughts", like reminding yourself how bad you feel about overeating.

Then, self-hypnosis is achieved by slowly counting down, deep-breathing and picturing yourself in a place, like a beach.

LOW FRUSTRATION TOLERANCE

The Shirrans say they want to encourage people to identify the "dodgy food choices" they make, pointing out that people who have "Low Frustration Tolerance" (LFT) to a particular item, be that food, cigarettes, alcohol or gambling, will experience cravings that they respond to immediately.

People need to recognise their personal LFT triggers, and understand that stress and boredom can play a part.

Gastric Mind Band by Martin and Marion Shirran is published by Hay House, rrp $24.99 AAP

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