WEIGHT LOSS HYPNOSIS CASES
Weight Loss Eating emotions Motivation
Weight Loss Hypnosis Cases
The Mountain of Food
Ilana came to Wellington Hypnosis because she was obsessed with food. She was actually quite trim, not overweight at all, but from the moment she opened her eyes until she went to bed she thought about food. She felt life was a constant struggle against wanting to eat. It hadn't been too bad when she was a teenager but lately it had begun to rule her life.
I explained to her that all our behaviour, no matter how odd, is designed to keep us safe.
Visualizing the problem behaviour
I also told her about other clients I had treated with the same problem. "The method is to change the mental image." Ilana insisted that she had no pictures associated with her compulsion to eat. She really didn't think there was anything there to explore.
Ilana was put into trance and asked to associate into that feeling of wanting to eat. She was then asked to allow her mind to be open and to become aware of how she represented that feeling.
She immediately said 'It's like I am on a road, and there is a mountain of food blocking the road'. It consisted of great piles of cakes and chocolate and all sorts of food. 'And I could never eat enough to get past that pile of food'.
Replacing the metaphor
The session then used metaphor therapy to suggest transformations to the metaphor.
'What would you like to have happen to that mountain of food?'
'Get rid of it!'
'And how would you get rid of it?'
'A bulldozer could push it off the road and over the cliff'.
'And what would happen after that bulldozer pushed the food over the cliff?'
'I could go on and do what I want'.
Further suggestions cleared the way ahead. Then the 'way ahead' was explored and Ilana was taken through instances of what she wanted to do that had been blocked, and she was reconnected to her own feelings of success.
The session finished with a visualisation of her walking through a sunny meadow seeing herself having achieved everything she wanted.
Food is not Love
In the final check to make sure that everything was cleared Ilana was asked to think about eating and see if there was anything left that needed to be dealt with. She said 'No, but I remember something'.
She came up with a memory of her and her older sister at the table and her sister being difficult and not wanting to eat her dinner. Her father said to her sister 'The reason I love Ilana is because she always eats her dinner'.
That little girl internalised the message 'if I eat, Daddy will love me', and that was what was behind her compulsion.
Weight Loss Hypnosis Cases: The Hungry Head
This case started with an email:
I have read your website and I like your approach. I am suffering from overeating and weight gain, and also general anxiety. Just thinking about contacting you is making me feel very anxious.
Could you please let me know some further details? What times of day are you available and how much do you charge? What is your waiting list like?
First Session: Anxiety
Marianne was somewhat overweight but not hugely so. What I first noticed was her anxiety. She was having panic attacks and sleeping badly. There was anxiety at work, anxiety at home and she felt very unnerved whenever food was about.
She worked in a large advertising agency where there were frequent client presentations with catering and weekly staff functions to celebrate some work achievement. They always included drinks, sandwiches and nibbles.
Marianne would find herself thinking about the food, almost obsessing about it, urging them to get on with the speeches so she she could get to the food. It was all she could think about. She would sometimes spend the session trying to work her way towards the food table without being noticed. And what bothered her was that she was not even hungry, didn't really want it, but could not prevent herself. Sometimes she would sneak into the preparation room to pilfer the party food before it started. It was as if something was driving her towards the food, something she could not prevent. It was bad enough being constantly heavy, but the feeling of being in the grip of some uncontrollable force was worse.
The session used Metaphor Replacement Therapy to expose how Marianne represented her relationship with food in her mind. The session allowed Marianne to 'go inside' and deal with the basic issue. Inside her mind, she was holding an image of a 'hungry head' that had to be fed. Transforming that image transformed her feelings about food.
A few weeks later I received the following message:
Thanks for your help, I feel I have made huge progress after our session a couple of weeks ago. We worked on my eating issues, but I have also had a big improvement in my mood and confidence in all areas. I have also bought the Learned Optimism book and I'm working my way through it, and finding it very helpful.
I have a new challenge coming up. Next month I am going to Germany on a work trip. I have travelled quite a lot before, but not by myself to a really foreign environment, and I've always been very anxious about travel details etc. My general anxiety levels are rising again, around work and the trip, and it is really bugging me.
There is a part of me that knows I don't have much to fear but I can't rationalise the worries away. Do you think we could have a session again before the end of October?
Second Session: Social Anxiety
This session also used Metaphor Modelling. This was a much easier session as much of the original anxiety had been removed, and this particular fear was a more generalised anxiety about meeting new people and maybe not coming up to their expectations.
The session identified her inner images of feeling as though she always has to put on a mask at these kind of functions and it was resolved by developing symbols of power and confidence to replace the feeling of anxiety. She left the session filled with confidence and looking forward to the trip, knowing that she had the resources to cope with it.
Shortly after the session I received the message:
Everything is going well. I had a middle of the night wake-up a few days after the session, I was thinking about a work problem that I felt I was not coping with, but the feeling of panic and fear was completely missing! So I was able to go back to sleep again easily. And in general, my stress levels are much lower, and my weight has dropped a bit again,
I'm off to Germany in 8 days time, and I feel perfectly confident about it!
I have had a grueling few days at work, with a performance review that did not go as well as I had hoped. No major problems really, but the focus was more negative than I could cope with. I admitted that I was not coping with one particular role, and my boss agreed with me! So he is going to reassign it, but it made me feel like a failure. I had a very bad patch yesterday and today, back to feeling sick and not sleeping. However, my husband helped me work through your ABCDE process and by the end of today I felt much better.
I don't feel concerned about Germany, and I think I can rebuild my confidence about work too.
Third Session: Emotional Eating
About two months later Marianne got back in touch again. She had lost most of her anxiety and felt on top of things at work. In fact all compulsions to eat at work had simply disappeared. She could not get in touch with those feelings at all, it was as if they had happened to somebody else.
However, she was not losing weight any more, and in fact over Christmas had put on a lot of weight and was now becoming anxious about food in the home environment. Again she had a compulsion to eat. She would open up the pantry 'just to count the cup cakes, to make sure they were all there'. And of course just had to try one, to see if it still tasted the same, and the next one.... Even as she was doing this she realised it was irrational, unnecessary, but still found herself unable to stop.
This session started by exploring how Marianne felt about food. She revealed that her mother had sometimes made the kids lovely meals and treats, they would all sit around the table laughing and happy, and be a family, but then at other times her mother would go off on some personal thing, and leave them all to fend for themselves. Then it was was fighting, shouting, tears and sulks. Marianne can to associate food with being loved, accepted, rewarded and included. To be without food meant being none of these things. And she felt bad when she didn't have food, so when she got hungry she got grumpy, started winding up other people, then they got angry with her and she ended up alone in her room, hungry, crying, being miserable. All her self esteem, who she was, what she was worth became mixed up with food.
The circle of despair
The metaphor replacement process began well but then began to show a circular pattern: I eat because I'm unhappy, I'm unhappy because I eat....
In order to break this pattern I switched to the Dragon Slaying technique. I got Marianne to imagine her problem was a dragon. I then got her to describe the dragon in ever increasing detail. When that was exhausted I then started her imagining the every aspect of the dragon being its opposite. Doing that forces the mind to envisage the image and the continual small changes eventually causes a Threshold Effect and the dragon is suddenly transformed. More changes and suggestions eventually got the dragon to fly away. This was the mind metaphorically letting Marianne know that the problem had been transformed.
Marianne felt immediately that something had changed, even though she could not say what that something was. But I knew that she had dealt with the core of her anxiety. It was all about a fear of not being loved.
About two weeks later I followed up and asked her how it was going:
I'm doing pretty well, thanks! I have lost about 2 kgs. And more than that, I feel that the burden of thinking about food all the time has gone. I have been eating as I feel like it, and choosing what I really want, even if it is a piece of chocolate, but the great thing is that I can have a couple of squares and then no more. I do have to stop and think, "shall I have some?" but it is not the same anxious argument I used to have. Sometimes I say yes and sometimes I say no.
Another cool thing is that when I say no to myself, I don't feel sad, or scared of getting hungry or grumpy. Sometimes I have even LET myself get hungry, and also I've thought - "I'm not hungry, I think I'll just have a snack for dinner" - unheard of before!!!
And I feel like my enjoyment of the affection of my family is greater as well.
I haven't had much of a change in exercise patterns, but I think I'll see if I can motivate myself in that direction. I have noticed since I've lost that bit of weight that I feel stronger and more compact, and more inclined to exercise, but still struggle to prioritise it over other things. I certainly feel more optimistic about the chances of it being effective now!
So thanks a lot again - I'll let you know how it progresses.
And after another two weeks.....
I've lost another 1 kg - it still feels a bit odd, but I definitely have lost my overdeveloped interest in food.
It is quite possible that Marianne will be back to see me again sometime in the future, but her life will never go back to the way it was. The mind is complex and many layered, and no doubt there are other things that could be changed. But as each problem is dealt with, any remaining problems are much simpler. She may well learn to deal with them herself, or just decide to live with them. But that terrifying, overwhelming need is gone for ever.
Weight Loss Hypnosis Cases: Comfort eating
I had a client who came to me about weight loss. To start with, I really could not understand what was motivating her to overeat. Depression is the most common source of being overweight, but this client showed no signs of it. She seemed bright and cheerful, although she was clearly well overweight.
I asked her what she got from eating. Like most clients, she said she has no idea why she ate. "I eat when I'm bored". "I just like chocolate and snacks". "If there is a snack in my desk, I eat it". "So why do you buy the snacks?", I asked. "I don't know, I just love eating."
Sports career ruined
I asked her if she had always been overweight. "No", she said. "Up until about age 16 I was really skinny, really fit. And then I injured my knee. I loved playing softball, it was my life, and then it was all over. Soon after that I started putting weight on and have battled with it ever since".
I have heard this before from athletes. They put their whole heart and soul into becoming good at the sport. They become really good, and hope to make a living as a player. And then they get injured, and their sporting career is over. It is a devastating blow for young person, and many athletes go through a period of despair and resentment. After that the athlete feels they have nothing to lose, nothing to live for, so they get into smoking, drinking, drugs and whatever else they want to do. And then they find they can't stop it.
I suspected that might be the case for this client. "How did you feel when you could no longer play softball?" She said "Oh, it wasn't just the softball. I got a terrible attack of asthma immediately after that as well."
A perfect childhood
It has been my experience that asthma is usually associated with stress. Asthma in children is usually associated with stress with the parents, and at home. So I asked her how she got on with her parents. "I had a wonderful childhood. I really loved my parents. We got on really well". Usually when a client says they had a wonderful childhood, I suspect they're hiding something. So I probed a bit more.
It turned out that my client was the middle child. Her older sister bullied her, but no more than sisters normally do. For some reason her parents were very hard on her older sister, but really indulged my client. "I remember going away for six or eight weeks in the summer on holiday with my parents camping and having a wonderful time with them. On my birthday I always got cakes and presents and chocolate. Really, I could have anything I wanted."
And then it all went wrong
So, summarizing, I said "So you injured your knee and got asthma". "Yes" she said, "and then I went away to live with relatives in a different town." Because of her intense asthma she was advised to leave her home town and go to a much drier atmosphere. So she moved away from home and lived with some distant cousins. They were cold and distant, and not very happy getting a teenager forced on them. And thus started a period of intense unhappiness for her. And this was when she began to eat.
It was now clear why she was addicted to eating. At the time she was living in a cold, unhappy place. She had lost all her friends. The passion of her life, softball, was over. She was no longer the golden girl who was indulged by her parents. Her life was empty, and turned to comfort eating.
Part of her unconscious mind was trying to get back to those wonderful days of holidays and Christmas when she was given whatever she wanted. It was her sad attempt to get back some happiness. And that was what her eating behaviour was all about. And she had been eating ever since, for more than 20 years she had been overweight. Since then she had got married and her parents had died.
Choosing the therapy
It seemed to me that my client was stuck in the past. She was trying to get back to a golden time, and had to be helped to move on from there. Thinking about psychological resources, using her mother as a resource seemed like the most promising approach.
I decided to use a script called Bridge to Freedom. This includes leading the client in trance to a bridge. On the bridge there is a Figure of Power who helps the client to get rid of whatever it is that is holding them back. I took her through the script, adjusting it to her own particular circumstances. I fully expected that she would see the Figure of Power as her mother.
Then I used the shortened version of another script called Cathedral of Parts. In this script the client is taken into something that represents their own inner mind. Then all the parts that make up the person's personality are brought out. One of them that is not doing what it should is singled out and changed. Normally the client says that they saw all different parts of themselves in various forms.
Coming out of trance
When I brought the client out of trance, we talked for a while about what she had experienced. She said "I feel completely different about eating now". I asked who the figure on the bridge was. She said "I think it was me". This meant that she had been using her own resources on the bridge. Using your own resources is much more powerful than getting resources from somewhere else.
I asked what the parts look like. And to my great surprise, she said "they were all foods". It seems that, in this particular case, it was actually particular foods that were her problem. It really was chocolate and snacks that were the culprits. So in her mind, she has changed her relationship with them.
And that should be the end of her comfort eating problem.
Weight Loss Hypnosis Cases: Binge Eating
Today I had a repeat client. She came for smoking about two years ago. She told me she was able to give up smoking 30 a day, and hasn't smoked since. But her problem is that she is binge eating. It is not cravings. She got much heavier and then lost a lot but is still overweight.
The issue is binge eating after work. Not every day, but several times a week. Something in her head tells her that she should not be eating, but she just keep doing it anyway. When I hear a client say "I know I should't but I do it anyway", then I assume that this would be a psychological problem associated with childhood.
Childhood roots of Bingeing
Her father was the High Commissioner for Germany. She was brought up there until she was 12. Then she came to New Zealand. At first they lived in the capital, but then they moved to a tiny town in a remote coastal area. She didn't mind that place, it was on the beach although there was nothing to do. Her parents divorced age 14. She moved schools every two years. She hated her stepfather so she left home at age 16, got married early and had kids early.
Her mother was a life long weight watcher member and seemed to be obsessed about her weight. My client said that her mother had never actually told her not to eat or directed her in any way about it. But I felt it was completely unlikely that growing up in that household she would not have picked up something about an emotional connection to eating.
It was notable that she didn't think there was anything strange about the multiple interruptions in her young life, and she didn't think it had any effect on her emotional state at all. Just a normal childhood. "Oh, and daddy had lots of affairs".
After some questioning she said that she was a bit worried that if she became little she would get noticed, and would be somehow 'out there'. Then she said that she realised it was a bit more than that. If she became little she would feel awesome, but then would be worrying about whether she was going to fail or not. And she feared the humiliation and criticism.
Metaphor Therapy for Binge Eating
There was so much going on in her life that I could not identify which bit to focus on. So I decided to do Regression and see what came up.
But even as I was talking, something in me changed. I was going to do regression, but chose to do metaphor replacement therapy instead.
After a Relaxation induction, I focused on getting her to think about the feeling of failure. Feeling isolated and embarrassed and being noticed. I asked, "What thing is that feeling like?" She said "It's a little box". It was blue, same all the way round, hollow, no lid, cold and smooth, with sharp edges and it was light. I asked what she want to have happen to it. "I want it to go away. "
But I couldn't get it to say what that would mean for her, or what she would be able to do if it went away. I went back to trying to get her to change this box. She could make it bigger and bigger, but she could not then make it smaller from that size. When it got bigger it changed colour to white. I encouraged her to explore every aspect of it. But it stayed solid, huge, hard, strong, white. She really didn't want to change it. I tried getting her to imagine all sorts of tools she could use. I asked her to hit it with a hammer. No effect. She was able to make it bigger and bigger and bigger. But it remained unchanging, solid and enduring, and she really just couldn't get rid of it.
Eventually I suggested that everything gets old, and that started a process of change. Eventually, she could imagine the thing crumbling.
Secondary Binge Eating metaphor
Then it turned into a grey rock. I tried to suggest that she could find tools with which she could hammer it, or scratch it, or break it up, or do whatever she wanted to it. But couldn't find anything. After much prodding, eventually the rock turned into a flat stone and she was able to break up the flat stone and throw it into a rubbish bin.
That got rid of whatever feeling the blue represented. I brought her out of trance. She said 'I feel much lighter now'. We talked some about how she feels when she is over weight. She said people regard you differently when you are big.
She said "I won't let people treat me as the funny little fat girl. I won't let people put me in that box" And I asked "Would that be a little blue box?"
Weight Loss Hypnosis Cases: Eating and motivation
It's hard to create eating motivation. I had a consultation this morning with a woman who I had last seen in September. She she came to be hypnotized to stop smoking. She was back, not because she had started smoking again: she hadn't, but because she was suffering from cravings for fatty food.
Her background was that she and her husband had broken up a few years ago. Then her mother died about one year ago. Her daughters had left to start their own lives. The economic downturn meant that her job was safe but slow. Basically she felt she nothing to live for. She had no one to look after, an empty house and a boring job. Her focus was just to get through the day.
The consequence was that she no stimulus, got bored, and started thinking about eating. In the absence of any other calls on her time she fantasized about what to eat. With nothing else to think about, food became a consuming obsession. She thought about it and thought about it until she just had to get up and go buy something 'nice'. She ate that and then then boredom set in again and the whole cycle repeated.
The result was massive weight gain. Previously she had smoked instead, and whenever she was bored she would go out and have a cigarette. So snacking was now filling the the gap she used to fill with smoking.
What causes overeating?
The root cause was the same: a lack of purpose in life. She was drifting from day to day and filled in the void with whatever activity gave her a little pleasure, smoking or eating.
It was only after a long session of question and answer that she came to realize what was happening to her. She learned to consider her way of life from an outsider's perspective. She needed to become aware of her own eating motivation. She was overeating because she was just living by default, drifting, with no plans, no goals, just one day after another.
So I encouraged her to think about what she could do and she came up with a plan. She was going to use the spare time at work to do online courses on her computer to challenge herself to get more skilled at her job. In the evening she would go to evening classes to learn Cordon Bleu cooking. That would to gradually build up her confidence and her social life by getting family and friends round to share meals she would be proud of.
Hypnosis and Eating Motivation
I therefore devised a hypnosis script to make her dissatisfied with her current life. It focused on her weight and her aimlessness in order to motivate her to seek change. Then I added a visualization of a happy future to give her a goal to go for. Then I included direct suggestions to emphasize how she has succeeded in the past and how she can succeed now. Then I finished with a kinaesthetic feedback technique using hand movements to convince her that her subconscious had agreed to make it all happen.
I cannot decide to change people's lives to what I think they should do. But this was a way to use hypnotherapy to motive her to find her own resources to move forward in the way that was best for her.
Emotional eating is at the heart of every eating problem. Eating issues are always connected to the past. Overeating is just a symptom of a deeper unhappiness.
My client today was grossly obese. She wheezed into the office and collapsed into my chair. She said she had lost 15 kilos in recent weeks but then put it all back on again, plus more. "It is like there is a block that stops me getting down further, and then I start eating again and I am happy".
I immediately identified the 'block' as a target for metaphor therapy. I asked her to visualize the 'block' but she could not get any feeling around it. I tried to get her to tell me about feelings associated with eating and I got nowhere. She could not tell me why she overate. There were no feelings around eating. I asked if her mother used food as a reward when she was a child but nothing useful emerged. I knew there had to be a deeper issue.
Eating and past abuse
So I asked her if she liked herself. She immediately said "No, I am not going there" and started to weep. Over the course of the session she revealed a horrific history of sexual abuse from the age of eight to her late teens. She described her hatred and revulsion of the man and what he did to her. Every time she heard his footsteps in the night, something died inside her.
Like most victims of sexual abuse she felt trapped. She felt she could not stop it, could not resist, could not tell anyone. Over years feelings of despair and helplessness turned into self hate, self blame and worthlessness. Children abused this way tend to take on guilt about it and come to believe that is it their fault, that they don't deserve to be happy, to be respected, to be normal.
And that is what is at the core of her emotional eating. Getting back to a normal weight means going against her own inner beliefs, so even when she does lose weight, at some point her own mind sabotages her and makes her eat again. That way she stays ugly and unloved and unwanted.
This is an ongoing tragedy that I hope I can help bring to an end.
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