Being aware of common mind traps is an important step to becoming more mindful. When you hear on the radio that obesity increases the risk of cancer, it can lead us to a mind trap of catastrophising. Creating enormous anxiety about possible future events and worse case scenarios; “ I am fat, I will get cancer”. This can trigger fear and a whole cascade of thoughts that start the body dissatisfaction and self-loathing again. Ultimately driving our desire to diet again to set the goal be thin; that thought will make us feel calmer. To get back in the diet cycle, even though we know that it has not helped us in any way in the past. The more you worry, the more these neural pathways become ingrained. Try to recognise this mind trap. Just being aware of this mind trap is being mindful. The moment you create awareness that you’ve been trapped by your thoughts, you are free to step out of the trap and chose not to go back to dieting.
5 ways to stop catastrophising about our weight it’s risk to our health.
1. Don’t exaggerate: Stay specific: try to stop the black and white thinking. The relationship between cancer and obesity is associated, not causal. Everyone has a baseline risk of getting cancer. Just think about how many thin people you know who have had cancer? It is not just obese people who are getting cancer. Weight is only one aspect of health, and one over which, long term we have the least control. We have many other risk factors over which we have much more control, like smoking, excessive alcohol drinking, exercise, healthy eating, sleep, stress and anxiety. These are things we can really have control over.
2. Understand that thoughts do not define you. We all believe that we are defined by our thoughts, so we believe that they either must be true, or that they say something fundamentally important about ourselves. We live in a world that constantly tells us that fat is something to be afraid of, that thinness is worthy and healthy. We can validate and accept our desire to lose weight. These thoughts are not going to go away any time soon. This has been really conditioned from when we are really young. So rather than seeing ourselves and our body as the problem, take time to understand where those thoughts and beliefs have come from.
4. Don’t mix the present (or the past) with the future; The constant yo-yo dieting and weight loss failures, has left us feeling hopeless . So we may find it much more difficult to imagine what it will feel like when things change, (similar to someone who’s been sick for so long they don’t believe they’ll ever get better). This is also seen in learned helplessness, when a person comes to believe that if they didn’t have control over something in the past, they will never have control over it again—and shouldn’t even bother to try. We have learned in the past that dieting does not work and do not help us manage our weight: we just need the courage to try something new, to see it out. We are all worthy and all capable of a new future.
4. Get enough sleep: lack of sleep can leave everything feeling overwhelming. It can make us irritable and less able to think clearly. It is much easier to make mountains out of molehills when we are sleep deprived. Most research points to 7+ hours per night of quality sleep on a regular basis as optimal
5. Get physical. Get up and do something, Fresh air. Chopping vegetables. Baking a cake, A walk at the beach. The feel of garden soil on your fingers. A deep breath. A particularly good round of stretching. A hot bath. Painting a picture, hammering a nail. The soothing repetition of knitting or embroidery. These physical motions have all been shown to help people reduce anxiety and distress in the moment.
Mindfulness. Be mindful. Live in the Moment. Gill Hasson 2013