Ep 7 – Does hypnotherapy work for binge eating?

In this episode, I explain what hypnotherapy is and answer the question ‘does hypnotherapy work for binge eating recovery?’

READ MORE: BLOG – Can Hypnotherapy help with binge eating?, Rapid Transformational Therapy (RTT)

Episode 16 Transcript

Hi, and welcome to the Food Freedom Podcast with me, Claire Feldman. I’m a CBT therapist, hypnotherapist, and eating disorder practitioner. And having recovered from my own history of disordered eating, I wanted to create a podcast where I could bring bitesize episodes to help you with tools, techniques, and strategies to overcome your own food, weight, and body image issues. 

Hi everyone, and welcome to this episode in which I’m gonna be talking about hypnosis and whether it can be helpful in overcoming binge eating. So, I guess the first thing is to really look at what is the definition of hypnosis. So bear with me while I read from a script. Hypnosis is a trance-like mental state in which people experience increased attention, concentration, and suggestibility. While hypnosis is often described as a sleep like state, it is better expressed as a state of focused attention hiding suggestibility and vivid fantasies. People in a hypnotic state often seem sleepy and zoned out, but in reality, they are in a state of hyper awareness. So I think that is just a nice little description of what hypnosis is. And I think that thanks to many kind of TV hypno hypnotherapist like Derren Brown and Paul McKenna and people like that, that I think there can be a a bad perception of what happens in a hypnosis session. 

And I think there can be a great fear often that somebody coming for hypnosis is going to lose all control, or that they’re gonna be brainwashed in some way, or that they’re gonna be made to do something that they don’t want to do. And all of these are complete myths. And the reality is that it, when you’re in a hypnosis session, you’re fully in control. You cannot be made to do anything that you don’t want to do, and you’re also very aware of everything that is going on around you as well. So the, the idea behind hypnosis is that when you are in that sort of trance-like state, that your mind is more open, more receptive, and more suggestible. And often whenever we’re trying to overcome a difficulty, be that binge eating, emotional eating, or overwhelming food cravings, when we’re trying to overcome something like that, what we do is we put all our energy and all our attention into the negative. 

So we get caught up in how we want to stop it. We get caught up in how it’s affecting our life. We get caught up in the story of us having no willpower or that we are weak. We get caught up in everything that we don’t want. And with hypnosis and the suggestibility, what we’re actually trying to do is positive reinforcement. So all of the dialogue, all of the focus is actually on the transformation that you’re looking for. And we know that we learn through repetition. The brain learns through repetition, which is why often after a hypnotherapy for binge eating session, you might receive a personal recording that you take away and that you listen to every day. And this personal recording will have this positive reinforcement of the change that you are looking for. So when you’re listening to that audio at home and you’re in that relaxed hypnotic state, your mind is hearing this reinforced message day after day after day of what the positive is that you are stepping into. 

And that’s essentially how it is help helping with transformation and helping with overcoming difficulties. The type of hypnotherapy for binge eating that I practice is a relatively new kid on the block. It’s called rapid transformational therapy, and it is a bit of a hybrid of hypnotherapy and CBT and NLP. What attracted me to RTT is because it just seemed to take hypnosis for binge eating and therapy, I think just to another level in that it was really looking at really getting to the root cause of what is behind the difficulty in your relationship with food. What is the root cause of why you’re struggling with your eating? And you’ve maybe heard me say before that actually so many issues that we have around food have roots in childhood and experiences in childhood, and perhaps that food has from a very early age become a coping mechanism and some sort, or some sort of tool to help us get through an event early in childhood. 

And that because we’ve adapted this coping mechanism early in childhood, that it’s just become conditional. It’s become habitual. And what, because we’re creatures of habit, we just keep doing the same thing over and over and over again without being able to step back and say that actually the circumstances that made me turn to this food or start using food as a coping mechanism early in my life are actually circumstances that no longer apply to me today. So I can learn other ways of managing these emotions. I can learn other ways of coping with these difficulties. So where perhaps more traditional hypnotherapy is around positive reinforcement and suggestibility. RTT for me feels a little bit like hypnotherapy for binge eating, on steroids, where the sessions can be quite focused and quite intense, where we’re really going back and exploring childhood, looking at scenes and really understanding perhaps where these interpretations, childhood events created this habit of turning to food and using food as a coping mechanism. 

So maybe if I give you a couple of examples of what that might look like from, from recent client examples that I’ve had. So one client was presenting with emotional eating and just felt like she had no willpower, no control around chocolate, that she was always running to the cupboard, always looking for chocolate, and felt like she could never, ever stop, but just having a few pieces once she opened chocolate that she just carried on eating it. And when she was in session with me and we were in, she was in hypnosis when we were going back and looking at scenes and events from childhood there was a reoccurring thing around bullying and, and she was recalling incidents of feeling excluded in school or being teased or being bullied in childhood. And that after all of these events, that she would often go home and seek comfort with her mother. 

And the first thing her mother would always do would be to make a cup of tea and to get out chocolate biscuits and things like that. And what she was able to recognise through our session is actually that pattern of the tea and the biscuits of tea and the chocolate was really rooted very early in those experiences of feeling like she was different, somehow high from her peers, that she was not liked, that she was not good enough, that all of these beliefs were developing early in childhood, and that this is where this association of turning to food in order to try and soothe herself had came from. So she was able to, to understand right where this pattern developed, and it developed very early in her life, but she was also able to then recognise through some of the techniques, the NLP and CBT techniques that we used, that actually, well, that doesn’t serve me anymore because all of those beliefs that I had in childhood around being different and or about being weird about not fitting in, actually I don’t have those belief now. 

I quite like the fact that I’m a bit unique and, and I like my uniqueness. So she was able to really have this moment of saying actually all those things that I used to believe and made me turn to food, I don’t believe anymore. So I don’t need these coping mechanisms in my life anymore. For another client that when we were going back and exploring her scenes connected to food, what we were able to really unpack is that there was a lot of trauma that she was a child in a home that wasn’t a happy home, that there was a lot of fights, a lot of stress, and a lot of anxiety at time. And when you’re a young child and you’re in a home where there is perhaps fights, tensions, maybe alcoholism, that it’s not a comfortable and a safe environment for you, and you have no other outlets for support, you have nobody that you can talk to about how you are failing that as a young child, we are really limited in the resources that we have to help us. 

And so for her, in this case, actually food became her self-soothing because there was so much tension and so much anxiety going on. And again, the recognition of actually, but I’m an adult now and I’m not, I’m not in these unsafe situations anymore. That was incredibly helpful for her to recognise that actually I don’t need this any longer because my life is unbelievably different from what it was at that time. I could go on with many, many examples, but I guess the, the point I’m making is that food will have served some sort of purpose often that our associations with food and the purpose that the food has served us can either be perhaps to protect us or perhaps even to punish us. So what do I mean by that? Well, protection is that the food was offering perhaps comfort. The food was offering safety in some way. 

So for individuals perhaps that have experienced physical or even sexual abuse in childhood, that food can provide not only comfort, but it can also provide safety. In that, if I, if I eat a lot of, if I eat a lot of this food, not only am I stuffing down my emotions, but actually I’m gaining weight. And if I gain more weight that’s gonna help me feel bigger, that’s gonna help me feel stronger or that’s gonna help protect me in some way. The punishment is if for some reason I feel for example, that I am bad, that I am unlovable, that I am not good enough, that I have interpreted from my experiences in childhood that for in some way I am not worthy or not deserving, that stuffing down those feelings with food is is a way of punishing or actually just abusing your body by overeating is a way of punishing if you don’t feel good enough. 

So that just having a little think about that, you know, does that resonate with you at all? That might you use food either to protect yourself, to comfort yourself, to protect yourself from something, or might you use it to punish yourself? And with clients, whenever they come in to see me and we do these sessions, we’re really trying to get to this deeper, deep, much deeper understanding of what purpose is this serving? Is this punishing me? Is this protecting me? And does this serve me now? Does this belief serve me now? And if the answer is no, what new belief am I creating? What new story am I creating around this food? And, and what other resources do I have to deal with these situations now that I know that actually I do not need this food any longer? That, that was an old coping mechanism, but not something that I do now. 

So I hope that that has given you a little bit of a a taste or a little bit of an insight into hypnotherapy for binge eating, in terms of what happens in a session. Sessions usually last about 90 minutes to two hours. I do a lot of pre-work with clients where I’ll send them a little recording that they listen to. And that’s just to get them used to the process of hypnosis and what the experience of going into guided hypnosis and guided relaxation is like. And then in the session we spend some time really exploring scenes from childhood, getting a good understanding of where this issue has come from, and then using NLP and CBT techniques, we help to reframe and to change those unhelpful beliefs into more supportive beliefs that are gonna help the client to overcome this difficulty. 

And then after the session the client will go away and they will have a personalised recording, which has been created specifically out of whatever came up in the session for them that it will be very much personalised, tailored to their needs. And like I said, that it in it includes positive reinforcing messages throughout that the client listens to every day so that they’re embedding these new more helpful thoughts, more helpful beliefs to help them overcome binge eating. My personal opinion is that for clients, particularly if their difficulties with food have been very, very long term, very deeply ingrained that I don’t necessarily think hypnosis is a be all and end all cure for everything, which is why I usually do offer packages of sessions, not individual sessions. And I also offer coaching sessions in between. I think that hypnotherapy for binge eating is a wonderful compliment to therapy, but I wouldn’t necessarily use it as a complete alternative. 

I think it’s something that I really love to weave in with my psychotherapy work as well. So if you have any questions at all about anything in this podcast, don’t hesitate to get in contact. Send me a little message. I will put a little link under this where I have access to a free quiz that you can take just to get a little bit more insight into your own relationship with food. And if you access that quiz, you’ll also get a free download of a hypnotherapy audio that is specifically tailored to helping you overcome your food issues. Alright. But that’s it for me today. Thanks so much. 

So guys, that’s it for today’s episode. I hope you enjoyed it. And ’cause this is a new podcast, I would love to get your feedback on how you have found it and hear any suggestions you have either for improving the podcast or even topics that you would like to be discussed in the future. I really would love and appreciate to hear from you. So feel free to drop me a DM on Instagram or send me an email. And also if you would like to find out more about my services and ways that you can work with me, check out my website, which is www.eatology.co.uk

Otherwise that is it for now. Goodbye I hope you tune in again soon. Take care.

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