Health: Win the mind games battle over food

Shape the Future can help you tackle the reasons for your eating habits and control your weight for ever

IT takes brains to lose weight and keep it off. I’m not talking about intellect, but emotional intelligence. Getting to the heart of why you eat – all those emotional triggers causing biscuits to fly into your mouth – and then retraining yourself to deal with emotional cues without resorting to food, is the crucial factor missing from most diet programmes, with their focus on calories and carbohydrates.

Now health and coaching psychologist Dr Lindsey Burns, and personal trainer Marc Malone have combined their specialisms to offer a Shape Your Future wellbeing package, which tackles negative behaviour patterns while helping to reintroduce the fun into fitness.

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This is not a food plan, but a mind plan. It starts with a mini “life audit” that basically takes your emotional temperature, in order to discover how the different areas of your life impact on each other. This leads to an exploration of motivations and barriers that might be holding you back. Once they are identified, Burns deploys a range of tactics, including techniques from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), to effect changes not only in the way you think, but, crucially, to the way you act, as well. Other tools include keeping a food/mood diary, and a thought record journal, which asks you to offer concrete evidence to support your negative thoughts. You’d be surprised how hard it is to “prove” some of the horrible ideas we internalise about ourselves.

Not sure what I mean? Have you ever eaten a biscuit and thought, “That’s my diet blown, might as well finish the packet”? Do you feel as though you’re worthless because you’re overweight? Some of us discount even positive messages, or use the words “should”, “ought to” and “have to” as sticks for beating ourselves up. But all of this negativity can be challenged. Burns elaborates: “The goal is to build up confidence, regardless of what happens with your weight. It’s about triggering an underlying shift in how you feel.”

On the exercise side of things, Malone tells me he’s there to help clients set realistic, achievable targets for good health and maintenance. He helps draw up an action plan, and then offers motivation, in whatever form you prefer. He’ll train clients wherever they like, however they like, whether that’s Pilates, swimming, running, or circuit training. As he puts it, “Motivation always boils down to fear or love. We can use both to effect positive change.”

Ideally, clients will sign up for a combination of psychological and physiological training, which takes place on alternate weeks over a course of ten weeks.

• The Shape Your Future package consists of either five coaching sessions for £355; a health MOT and personal fitness programme, £80; or a health MOT, personal fitness programme and three private fitness sessions, £220, visit or