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NHS Guide to Healthy Living 2008

War on Waists

We are getting bigger and bigger. In 40 years experts say most of us will be obese with only 15 per cent of women and 10 per cent of men being the correct weight for their height.

The British Government says its ambition is to be the first nation to reverse the rising tide of obesity although it admits that, having been at least 30 years in the making, the trend will not be halted overnight.

The rapid increase in the use of drugs to combat obesity, which doctors usually prescribe in severe cases, is clear evidence of the worsening problem. More than one million prescriptions for weight-loss drugs were written last year, an eightfold rise in seven years.

Patients usually receive either orlistat (Xenical) which prevents excess fat being absorbed by the body or sibutramine (Reductil) which acts on the brain to suppress appetite. They both have side effects and work only in conjunction with dieting.

The Government has tried every approach to coerce the nation to slim but we keep piling on the pounds. It has tried frightening us. It has tried threatening us. Now it plans to offer bribes.

In its recent obesity strategy, Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives, it says financial incentives, such as payments, vouchers and other rewards will be considered to encourage people to lose weight and sustain weight loss, to eat more healthily or to be consistently more physically active.

But Dr David Haslam of the National Obesity Forum says the scheme smacks of "desperation" and there is little evidence payments would work. A recent review of nine studies that used financial incentives found no effect on weight after 12 months. Aberdeen University researchers said eating more fruit and vegetables was more effective than paying for weight loss.

The King's Fund, the healthcare think-tank, also warns that such bribes might not prove effective in changing people's behaviour. It says financial incentives are less effective when the behaviour change required is complex, as is the case with obesity.

This is because 75 per cent of overeating, say experts, is caused by emotions, where comfort or junk food is eaten in response to feelings instead of hunger. Emotional eating is triggered by boredom, anxiety, fatigue, depression, anger or loneliness as a way to fill the void. Overeating may also be triggered by thoughts of low self-esteem, such as scolding oneself for being unattractive or for lack of willpower in sticking to a diet.

Hypnotherapists are specialists in enabling individuals to change the way they think, feel and behave. They work with people to improve their mindset and the way they view themselves.

This is achieved by hypnosis, a state of relaxation and concentration, where the conscious mind is subdued. We all experience hypnosis everyday - when we're lost in thought or daydreaming, absorbed in reading or driving and then not recalling the route taken.

Hypnosis allows the practitioner easier access to the non-critical unconscious mind which is more receptive to suggestion. This is achieved by first relaxing the body, then shifting attention away from the external environment towards a range of ideas suggested by the therapist.

It is at this deeper level of consciousness that hypnotherapists work with individuals to bring about change in the way they feel, think and behave by replacing negative thoughts and habits with positive ones - small, permanent dietary changes, regular physical activity, realistic goals and removal of negative emotional thoughts which can cause overeating.

Through hypnotherapy people can gain self-control over their behaviour and emotions and with this comes the opportunity to make the changes to their lives that are needed to lose weight for good.

John, 55, suffers with Type 2 Diabetes because of being severely overweight at 22 stone. His blood sugar level was poorly controlled with medication because of his lifestyle including 'bad boy' days where he drank lager with his mates during eight-hour drinking sessions. Doctors warned he would be dead within six months if didn't follow a healthy diet and take regular exercise. With hypnotherapy, John has discovered the right mental attitude to help him to live healthily. His new positive outlook has enabled him to bring his high blood sugar level under control. He now exercises, follows a low fat, low-sugar diet and happily drinks bottled water when he's out with his mates. The icing on the cake for John is that in just two months he's also lost over a stone in weight.
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