Katya was a 19 year old college student who came to see me because she was 25 pounds overweight and couldn’t stop eating. She didn’t want to be like her mother who was obese. My goal was to motivate her to change her eating habits using NLP strategies of which we will discuss a few. When I asked what the positive intent of the overeating might be, Katya admitted she ate to relieve stress and to be social.
One of my first steps was to assess how she motivated herself. Based on her presenting problem, I determined that she was moving away from stress and being lonely.
Furthermore, according to Steve and Connierae Andreas, Katya was a:
Negative motivator – She imagined the horrible consequences of not doing something about her weight gain before it was totally out of control.
The Dictator – She gave herself orders to stop overeating. She said to herself “I should stop,” and “I can’t gain any more weight.”
Overwhelmer – Her goal was to lose 25 pounds, which seemed unsurmountable.
The first step was to break the goal down into several smaller ones – like losing a couple of pounds a month or whatever was reasonable for her.
Another strategy I used was the Swish Pattern. The Swish Pattern allows the person to replace a negative image with a more positive, motivating one. The steps are as follows:
1. Identify the unwanted behavior or habit.
2. Define and recognize a cue image, or reminder that can be used when the unwanted behavior occurs.
3. Recall a desired self-image that is more compelling than the image triggering the unwanted behavior.
4. Check ecology to see if any part of the mind objects to adopting the new image.
5. Do a “swish” by remembering the problem behavior cue image and locating a small dark picture of the desired compelling self-image in the corner of the mind.
6. Make the Swish by rapidly decreasing and darkening the cue image and simultaneously making the desired self-image larger and brighter.
7. Test by thinking of the cue image for the problem state and noticing what happens. If the swish is effective, the desired self-image will immediately replace the old one, resulting in a change of state and loss of desire for going to casinos.
Katya’s “unwanted behavior” was overeating. The cue image was her eating a piece of chocolate cake. The desired self-image she chose was standing on a scale and seeing her desired weight of 120 lbs. In doing the ecology check, there were no objections, and the swish was made. It took several attempts until she immediately accessed the new image, but it did happen and she was excited about the image of her new weight. The real test will be the next time she wants to eat a piece of cake and whether or not the image of her new weight will elicit a different choice. If it doesn’t we will work on alternative images or strengthening the one she chose.
Lastly, I asked Katya to future pace. She identified situations where she might overeat such as
• Studying with classmates.
• A friend offering her a piece of pie.
• Walking by a bakery.
She pictured each situation and swished it with the image of her weight on the scale. Katya felt fairly confident that she could say no in each situation.
This gave her a couple of strategies to begin with, but more in-depth and/or additional work may be required.