Part Five – The Nocebo Effect
Have you ever wondered why those last few kilograms are so stubborn and hard to shift?
If you’re anything like the majority of people, this phenomenon is not only frustrating but also disempowering. It can lead to negative beliefs such as:
- “There’s something wrong with me.”
- “I’ll never get to where I want to be.”
- “I have bad genetics.”
- “My body shape is hereditary.”
- “I have a slow metabolism.”
Ironically, these beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies, as they promote a ‘giving up’ mentality. Nothing great can ever be achieved if we give up before we get there. As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you believe you can or you can’t – you’re right!”
In Part One, we looked at the Nervous System and how it influences our body to stay the same and to resist change.
In Part Two, we looked at the Circulatory System and how the quality of our blood and where that blood is going to is more important than the quantity of our blood.
In Part Three, we discussed the Calorie Myth and how calories in vs calories out is not the be all and end all of weight loss.
In Part Four, we explained the Fight or Flight response and how it literally contributes to fat gain.
Now let’s look at more reasons why our body makes it so hard to remove stubborn fat.
5. The Nocebo Effect – Have you ever heard of the Placebo Effect? Chances are, you have. The Placebo Effect is a very important yet under-researched phenomenon. For those not totally clear about what it is, the Placebo Effect is when you take a drug expecting it to have a certain effect, and then you experience that effect even if it turns out the drug was not even a drug at all but was actually a ‘Placebo’ (often a sugar pill).
Most people overlook the symbolic importance of the Placebo Effect, including most medical doctors. In fact, the common perspective is that Placebo is annoying because it makes it harder to prove that a drug actually does anything. But this is a very shallow point of view.
It is well known that spontaneous remissions, placebo surgeries and incorrect diagnoses have contributed to healing in some people. The phenomenon is not entirely understood, but the purpose of this article is to draw some logical conclusions from the Placebo Effect that you may not have thought of, and the most important one of all is the Nocebo Effect and how it may be currently influencing your body.
Consider this – in order for a sugar pill (Placebo) to have the same effect as a drug on you, your internal biochemistry must change in response to something. If it were a real drug, then your biochemistry would be responding to the chemicals in the drug. This much is obvious. But with a sugar pill, then what is it that your body is reacting to? What has the power to influence and change your biochemistry spontaneously?
We live in a culture that places a great deal of importance on doctors, drugs and surgery. Some researchers have determined that for many, the healing process begins when one is in the car on the way to the doctor’s – such is their expectation that the doctor can heal them.
Allopathic medicine has evolved in leaps and bounds in the last 50 years and many of these advances have been fantastic. However, what is not so great is that we as a people have been disempowered to our own ability to heal ourselves – we now think that if we are ‘broken’ we can only be ‘fixed’ by a doctor, drugs or surgery. Those that promote anything to the contrary are viewed by some people as ‘New Age Quacks’ perpetrating ‘Pseudoscience,’ which supports the collective belief that these methods do not work and the people who teach them have no credibility.
While that may be true at times, it cannot be disputed that some seemingly miraculous events have happened from the Placebo Effect. Bung knees have been fixed when all the surgeon did was open and close the knee (placebo surgery) after years of pain and discomfort. People have reported more energy and better memory by simply taking floral essence drops, diluted 100 parts 1.
In extreme examples, tumours have healed completely when surgeons have opened a patient up, found it was inoperable, but the family told the patient it was just gallstones and they had been removed, so their loved one could have peace of mind until she passed away. The surgeons thought she only had weeks to live, but she was told differently and thus she was healed. Again, how is this possible?
In the 1800’s (and earlier in some cultures) a process called trephining was done. This is where a hole was cut in the top of a person’s skull in order to release whatever mental illness or negative energy they had. Nowadays, this process would be regarded as totally barbaric and devoid of any scientific reasoning, but what is interesting is that, despite the fact that trephining should have no therapeutic effect, an estimated 70% of people were ‘cured’ of their condition! Admittedly, some of the others died from the surgery, showing a glaring flaw in this particular technique, but what is important is that throughout human history, there are examples of seemingly insane methods having the desired therapeutic effect.
It would appear that the level of belief and expectation of a certain event taking place does actually have a biological effect. In the case of the Placebo Effect, this biological change is generally positive; whether it is the treatment of depression, weight loss, anxiety relief, or spontaneous remission of cancer.
However the biological change in response to expectation can also be destructive, and this is called the Nocebo Effect. If it is possible that the body can heal itself from disease or illness through Placebo, then one must agree that it is possible that one could become sick and experience illness or disease through Nocebo. If some supplement that is clinically proven to do nothing can accelerate a person’s weight loss through Placebo, then one must agree one can accelerate weight gain through Nocebo (do you know of anyone who believes “I can’t even look at a cupcake without putting on a kilo!” I do. You know what? Those people are right!).
Examples of this can be found in so-called ‘allergies.’ If I love strawberries as a child, but then as I get older I develop an allergy, then something must have changed in my internal biochemistry during that time, mustn’t it? Something must have re-conditioned my biological programming to regard strawberries as being an enemy threat, and thus a trigger of a massive biological stress response, otherwise known as an allergic reaction.
So the key questions are: What was the event that reprogrammed how my biology perceives strawberries? What turned them from being friendly and tasty to being a deathly terrorist threat? And now that I am aware I am ‘allergic to strawberries’, does this make me more sensitive to strawberries? Is my problem strictly biological, or is it emotional and Nocebo as well?
Answers to these provocative questions can be found in studies done on people with Multiple Personality Disorder. Interestingly, some people with MPD have an allergy with one personality that is not present in the other personalities.
Take Timmy, the child who was allergic to orange juice, as an example. Timmy was allergic to orange juice, but Tommy (his split personality) was not. Tommy could drink orange juice and be totally ok (and loved it!), but if Timmy regained control, he would have a severe allergic reaction. Conversely, if Timmy was having a reaction and Tommy took over, the reaction and symptoms would cease immediately. Does this not demonstrate that a level of belief and expectation can literally re-write biological programming and biochemical response?
Another example can be found in a lady in India who was severely allergic to the pollen in a place called Jammu. One evening, while on board a flight, the plane touched down after about an hour and her husband noticed the pain she was in. He saw the welts and rashes appearing on her arms and chest, as well as the effort it took her just to breathe with her inflamed airways. Noticing her suffering, a panicked flight attendant rushed over and asked what was wrong.
“There’s nothing you can do,” the husband said. “It’s the pollen in the Jammu air.”
“Jammu?” The flight attendant looked puzzled. “We haven’t landed there yet – this is Udhampur, our first stop. Didn’t they tell you?”
The husband was quite startled. When he looked at his wife, her wheezing had subsided and her sores were vanishing on the spot. For years afterward he would shake his head and mutter, “All you have to do is say the word Jammu and she breaks out.”
Doesn’t this show that there is a tremendously important connection between the mind and body? To these people, these allergies are so real, that they can create environments in their minds where the substance is not even present and create the same biological response!
So why do I tell you all this? What is the point?
Our previous 4 articles in this series have touched on the more physical, biological, concrete logic on health and weight loss. But here is where I’m going to get controversial. All of those subjects are very important, but NONE of them mean very much at all if your mind is overwriting your natural biological response using the Nocebo Effect.
And the reason is logical – because the environment to YOU, as a whole organism, as one human being, is what is outside of you. It is what is external from you. It is the air you breathe, the water you drink, your life situation, what you do and what you eat. It is the circumstances, environments and situations that you and I call your life.
But the environment to each of your trillions and trillions of cells that MAKE YOU UP as a whole organism is very different. The environment to each cell in your body is the biochemicals and neurotransmitters in your blood. And ALL OF THAT is regulated by your mind, through your hypothalamus, pituitary gland, nervous system and other anatomical structures.
You can create stress hormones by your imagination alone, and you can create happy endorphins by your imagination alone. You can create everything in between and they ALL have a biological effect.
Therefore, your OWN MIND is both the best healer, and the most destructive force you will ever find.
So what is it going to be for you?
Are you going to Survive? Or are you going to Thrive?
Are you going to Stress? Or are you going to be Grateful?
Are you going to believe in Your Self? Or are you going to believe in Others?
You are more powerful than you think you are. Your body is your temple. It is always responding to your level of mind – it cannot be any other way. While you may not be able change your biology in an instant – you can certainly influence it – as you are influencing it all the time; as you are influencing it right now.
You may have just been unaware you are doing so.
So now that you know, observe your thoughts. Observe your emotions. Don’t blame yourself, but take responsibility. Empower yourself to a new level of mind. Treat your body like you OWN IT, not like you are a victim to it.
If you would like any more information on any of the topics in this series, please Contact Us or come in for a Free Consultation and Session with us. We would love to assist you in creating your body, the way you want it.
If you have learned anything from this 5 part series, let it be this:
If you get your Nutrition right, your Exercise right and your Mindset right, then your body MUST respond. It can be no other way.
You are not a victim to yourself. You are empowered.
We wish you all the very best in your Journey.
About the Author: Dale Ingram is the Business Development Manager of Revival and General Manager of Papilio System. He is the co-creator of the Papilio System. He speaks publicly and is passionate about raising awareness of the Power we have within ourselves to make positive Change in our lives.