Becoming aware of your ego states will help keep you focused and on track during your weight-loss journey.
We’re all familiar with the word ‘ego’, but you might not know as much about your ego states, and how they can affect your behaviour, including your eating.
An ego state is simply a group of related thoughts, feelings and behaviours which influence how you interact with other people and with your own internal dialogue – the conversations you have with yourself. In LighterLife’s group sessions, our Counsellors help you understand these internal voices and the ego states they come from so you can start getting to grips with what is driving you to overeat. This then helps you create a healthier relationship with food – which is the key to successful weight management. See here to find out what else you can expect from our unique group sessions.
There are three basic ego states – Parent, Adult and Child – and everyone has access to all three…
Parent ego state
This is where you get all those ‘ought’, ‘should’ and ‘must’ messages that you picked up as a child from the grown-ups in your life, like your parents. The Parent ego state has two sides: the Nurturing Parent, which behaves in a caring way, and Critical/Controlling Parent, which is – as you’d expect – more controlling and critical. However, it’s worth remembering that:
- Some Critical/Controlling Parent messages can be constructive, such as ‘Don’t eat junk food – it’s not good for you’, or ‘Stick to your LighterLife plan.’
- While the Nurturing Parent ego state can give you useful messages about how to look after yourself, some ‘nurturing’ behaviour can be unhelpful – beware the Nurturing Parent message that equates love and affection with cakes and biscuits.
Child ego state
When people get a Parent message, they tend to respond from their Child ego state. This stems from childhood behaviour, when you would generally aim to please the people these types of messages came from. There are three parts to your Child ego state:
- Adapted Child, where you tend to do what other people want, for example, ‘I’ll clear my plate even if I’m already full (I don’t want mummy to be upset).’
- Rebellious Child, where you defy a Parent message, without caring about the consequences. In this ego state you’re more likely to say ‘I’m sick of dieting; I’m having a pizza and you can’t stop me!’ Sometimes moving from Adapted Child to Rebellious Child can be a positive move, as it’s shifting you from a ‘powerless’ state where you do everything you’re told to a place where you can take back some power for yourself.
- Free Child, where you instinctively know when you’re physically hungry, rather than believing you’re hungry because you’re bored or upset or because it’s ‘dinner time’.
Adult ego state
In your Adult ego state, you’re making your own choice of how to be and what to do, based on today’s reality, not reacting to old messages.
The choice is yours
You have a choice to not listen to the unhelpful thoughts (messages) in your head but instead to look after yourself and your weight.
Engage your Adult
In a situation which has the potential to disrupt your weight goals, being aware of these different messages and the ego states they are coming from can be very helpful. Here are some useful tips to help you switch into your Adult ego state, so you can make healthier choices in your life.
- Take a gentle, deep breath and let your body relax as you breathe out.
- Wait a second before answering or acting, so you have time to assess what’s going on. Don’t just react (because that automatic response is likely to be coming from your Child ego state, rather than your Adult).
- Recognise that those unhelpful voices belong in the past, or that they are just unhelpfully critical. Either way, they’re not your here-and-now, rational, Adult reality.
- Now take a moment to think about what you really want to do. Ask yourself if you’re thinking clearly and calmly. It can help to imagine someone you admire, and think about how they’d be responding right now.
- Now act upon your Adult decision.
Are you intrigued about what really goes on inside your mind? Learn more about food psychology and discover a different approach to weight loss today.
Interested in finding the cause to your weight loss problems? LighterLife will help you understand why you eat the way you do, giving you new ways to make better choices now and in the future. Find out how you can reshape your future by visiting LighterLife.com/getting-started.