“You're not a binge-eater, are you?” my colleague asked when I announced I was off to try hypnotherapy for binge-eating.
“Well, kind of, yeah,” I replied. “I find it hard to stop eating once I start and I think about food ALL the time!”
“Yeah, but so do I,” she said.
In fact, most of my friends would admit they constantly think about food, especially the female ones. But does that mean it's normal or healthy?
Given the fact that I am neither obese nor super thin, most people wouldn't suspect I have any issues with food.
Whilst I'd never want to be someone who only eats to stay alive and sees food as fuel, I have for years wished thoughts about the food I consume didn't so consume me too.
My weight fluctuates all the time - I'll probably be three different dress sizes over the course of a year - because I can't keep a stable relationship with food.
Once I start saying yes to chocolates as they go round the office, I'll fall into a downwards spiral and my weight will balloon until I reach a point where something snaps. Then I tend to go on a mission to lose the weight again, but it's not easy.
Having such an up and down relationship with food is not rare and there are various approaches for tackling it, one of which is hypnotherapy. I was keen to give it a try.
Sow Ay illustration's on mental health - In picutres
Many people have claimed hypnotherapy has mended their broken relationships with food and cured them of eating disorders, but I for one was sceptical.
I headed off to see Bonita Rayner-Jones of Harley Street Hypnotherapy Associates. On the company website, they say: “Binge Eating Hypnotherapy will work on increasing self-esteem, eliminate ‘trigger’ times so when you are in situations where you may have binged in the past you find you don’t.
“We will also work with the ‘unconscious’ mind to remove any positive connection it has with binge eating, breaking this connection to allow you to feel in control and move forward in life.”
It all sounded great but I hadn’t a clue what it meant.
After arriving at a grand building home to various medical organisations and spending a few minutes in a waiting room full of women and just one man, I make my way up to Rayner-Jones’ office.
I sit down in an armchair across from Rayner-Jones who, with her sing-song voice and long blonde hair, somehow wasn’t what I was expecting.
My hypnotherapy session lasts about an hour and a half. For the first hour, we simply talk about me, which feels rather self-indulgent but enjoyable.
It’s all about reaching ‘psychological well-being’, Rayner-Jones tells me, which is where we have a clear state of mind, no addictive habits and good mental health. For some people this takes multiple sessions, for others one is enough.
Six healthy breakfast recipes - in pictures
Six healthy breakfast recipes - in pictures
You will need: 1 onion, 1 red pepper, 1 stick of celery, 1 cup of mushrooms, 4 to 6 eggs, 1 habanero chilli (optional), 1 tablespoon of oil, 25g of grated low-fat cheese, 150 ml of skimmed milk, 50g of turkey breast. Add some spinach for an extra boost.
Method:1) Cook your turkey breast so that it’s ready to add to the mix later on. Best to grill it and then chop it up as it’s healthier than shallow frying. 2) Meanwhile, heat the oil and add your onion, pepper, chilli, mushrooms and celery to your pan. Cook these for around five minutes until your veg is nice and soft. 3) Whisk your eggs and milk together in a separate bowl, seasoning with salt and pepper. 4) Add the egg mixture, veg, cooked turkey and cheese to a high-sided baking pan or tin and cook in your oven for around 15 minutes at 170C.
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Be careful when you buy your porridge, as some brands will cram a lot of sugar in there. Porridge is a good breakfast option as it is renowned for releasing energy slowly, which means you can get to lunch without suffering from a lull. A great source of fibre, potassium and vitamins, bananas are always a good accompaniment to your morning oats.
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Ingredients: 2 full eggs, 3 egg whites, asparagus, peppers, 50g of smoked salmon
Method1) Boil your asparagus in water for around five minutes. 2) Meanwhile, mix your eggs and egg whites in a jug, and add a splash of skimmed milk. Chop some peppers up and throw them in too. 3) Once your asparagus is cooked, drain it and chop into smaller chunks. Add these to your egg mixture. 4) Whisk your mixture and season with salt and pepper. 5) Pour the mix into a hot pan with a small knob of butter or a teaspoon of quality olive oil. 6) Cook the omelette for around 90 seconds to two minutes. 7) Once the bottom is cooked, take the pan off the hob and place under the grill for another 30 seconds to a minute in order to cook the top. 8) Serve with your smoked salmon.
Greek yoghurt has vast nutritional benefits. Regardless of where you stand on the superfood debate, Greek yoghurt’s credentials speak for themselves. A good source of potassium, protein, calcium and essential vitamins, this food forms an ideal base for a healthy breakfast, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
Eggs Florentine is not only a tasty breakfast, it also carries a hefty nutritional punch, particularly when you throw some spinach into the equation.
So fast and easy to make, yet so effective. Wholemeal toast can be a good breakfast choice, as long as you are sensible with your toppings. Peanut butter is perfect. A good source of “healthy fats”, as well as protein and Vitamin E among other nutrients, a liberal spreading of peanut butter can set you up for the day.
80 per cent of clients that come to Rayner-Jones for binge-eating in particular are women, she tells me. I’m not surprised.
We talk about why I want to stop binge-eating, she asks questions that make me think and are hard to answer, and she leaves me to talk. There are silences that make me feel uncomfortable, which I then fill.
Rayner-Jones tells me she’s not a “positivity guru” but people do tend to leave feeling more positive. “It’s got to be a motivation for the self,” she says.
“When we’re grounded and our heads aren’t so clogged with the self, our minds become clearer and we feel more free in what we can do. That’s confidence.
“When we’re more settled in ourselves, we get a better feeling of what we actually fancy eating. Having a quiet, clear mind is what hypnosis originally came from. That’s where people make sense of life.”
And when we have a clear mind, we’re more susceptible to being guided to a goal, she explains.
I realise I definitely do not have a clear mind. My head feels cluttered, busy and constantly whirring at a million miles an hour. Could this be affecting my eating habits?
Rayner-Jones tells me we need to think about eating like we do about going to the toilet - we only go when we feel we need to, and sometimes that urge comes but actually it’s not convenient, so we don’t act on it.
And apparently that’s how we should eat too. But for me - and many people - the trouble is that eating is so damn enjoyable, unlike going to the loo.
We talk about my upbringing, my relationship with my mother (classic) and how my attitude to my body has changed over my life.
I tell Rayner-Jones that I consider myself to be a generally very happy person so don’t think I’m comfort-eating to cheer myself up.
She seems to imply this constant happiness isn’t real and that I should allow myself to feel grumpy, sad and angry. “Don’t worry about having to be positive all the time. LIfe isn’t always positive. It’s more about what’s real,” she says.
I explain how I don’t feel good when I try on clothes in shops because I don’t like how they look, and Rayner-Jones tells me that this is getting real with myself.
“You only ever live in the feeling of what flows through your mind - don’t be afraid of any experience you have,” she says. “Don’t be afraid of looking at a scale and seeing what the number says.
“Getting more real will be really helpful for you. It’s OK to see things as they are and not through rose-tinted spectacles. Healthy individuals function when they’re not afraid of any experience.”
She explains that I need to change my relationship to my thoughts. If I have negative thoughts, I need to stop worrying about them.
“Somebody’s going to feel good being slim if they have thoughts that being slim is good. Somebody’s going to feel good being a medium-weight if they have thoughts that being a medium-weight is good. And the same goes for being bigger.
“It’s a subjective thing. It’s not reality. It’s just a body that has more fat than another. Generally, people have fewer health problems around a medium-weight. The rest is just crap we’ve made up from culture and our upbringings.”
I agree with this perhaps more than anything Rayner-Jones has said so far.
William Doan's art tackling mental health
“It’s about getting happy with looking like you. Dissatisfaction kicked in at some point for you and it’s become a permanent state.”
Brutal, but probably true.
And this is where we move on to the hypnosis part of my session.
Rayner-Jones passes me a foot-rest and a blanket to put over my lap. I put on some headphones, and close my eyes.
A soundtrack of calming music plays that both reminded me of being in a spa and of a sci-fi film. Over the top of that, Rayner-Jones speaks to me.
She’d told me that some people go into a deep trance, others just a light one. To be honest I don’t think I went into a trance at all. I felt weird and very conscious the whole time.
I definitely felt relaxed and a little woozy, but I was always aware - of the sound of the cars outside, of how I was sitting, of whether I should be perfectly still or move a bit. I wanted to open my eyes but I didn’t.
The hypnosis started with Rayner-Jones instructing me to make every part of my body - starting from the top and working down - feel heavy and relaxed. I was then told to imagine being somewhere relaxing, like I was floating, before a situation was created that saw me finding a stone inscripted with the word ‘confidence’.
Rayner-Jones then went on to talk about how I’d soon find I just didn’t want to overeat because it was almost too much effort.
Extreme Diets: The Eating Habits of the The A-list
Extreme Diets: The Eating Habits of the The A-list
1/14 The Grapefruit Diet
This golden oldie has been around since the 1930s and was a favourite among classic Hollywood stars, like Marilyn Monroe. It involves eating half a grapefruit before every meal and is based on the idea that grapefruits contain a fat-burning enzyme that boosts the metabolism.
2/14 The Air Diet
Based on the French concept of breatharianism, the idea that air alone can keep our bodies active, the air diet involves sitting in front of food, placing a piece onto a fork, holding it up to your mouth… But not eating it. Instead, you are to subsist on water and salt soup only. Madonna is apparently a fan of pretend eating.
3/14 The ‘Liquids Only’ Master Cleanse Diet
She did look good in Dream Girls, didn’t she? But the lengths Beyoncé went to to achieve her svelte frame were a tad extreme. Instead of solid foods, she survived on liquids – famously a mixture of lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water – for 14 days. Apparently, this helps to detoxify the body (a process it actually does every day, naturally and unaided by weird diets) and stimulates tissue growth. The dieter is also encouraged to drink laxative tea twice a day. Glamorously.
4/14 The Ice Diet
Renee Zellweger apparently fills up on ice to stop her piling on the pounds from non-water based foods. Which is, of course, totally ridiculous.
5/14 The Watercress Soup Diet
Liz Hurley once revealed that she regularly subsists on a six-cup-a-day diet of watercress soup when she wants to lose weight for a role. The low-calorie leafy green is also a diuretic, helping to combat water retention. It’s also a completely mental thing to do.
6/14 Placenta Pill Diet
When January Jones gave birth to her son Xander, she had her placenta dried and crushed and stuffed into pills, that she then took as a supplement to lose weight. No idea if it worked or not, but it successfully made us feel queasy reading about it.
7/14 The Victoria’s Secret Angel Diet
If you’re crazy – and, you know, called Adriana Lima or something – then this diet, usually undertaken nine days before a runway show, is for you. It involves omitting all solid foods entirely and subsisting only on protein shakes, supplements and vitamins. You also have to work out twice a day, consult a nutritionist, and, 12 hours before a show, stop drinking liquids entirely to drain the excess fluids from your body and dehydrate as much as possible.
8/14 The Baby Food Diet
Yep. No real food. Just baby food. And 14 jars of the pap a day at that. Jennifer Aniston loves it. Allegedly. As (also allegedly) does Reese Witherspoon.
9/14 The Drunk Diet
This was invented by Lady Gaga, who once eschewed her evening meals for a swig of whiskey – but adhered to a strict exercise plan, even when hung over.
10/14 The Apple Cider Vinegar Diet
Drinking apple cider before every meal seems like a terrible idea. But Megan Fox does it as a metabolism booster, which helps to rid the body of excess water weight and burn calories faster. Apparently.
11/14 The Seven-Day Colour Diet
This diet, apparently beloved by Christina Aguilera, at least has some nutritional merit. In order to get the correct balance of nutrients, eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables across the colour spectrum is a wise idea. But the Seven-Day Colour Diet says you should only eat one colour of food per day of the week. Monday = white food. Tuesday = red food. Wednesday = green food and so forth. Bonkers.
12/14 The Cabbage Soup Diet
Does what it says on the tin. You can apparently consume unlimited supplies of cabbage soup (lucky you), as well as some low calorie fruit and vegetables. Sarah Michelle Gellar is apparently an advocate.
13/14 The Grapefruit Oil Diet
Not to be confused with The Grapefruit Diet, this involves sniffing grapefruit oil in the vain hope that the aroma alone might trigger liver enzymes into calorie-burning, detoxifying gear. Jennifer Lopez is rumoured to partake in this lunacy.
14/14 The Macrobiotic Diet
Gwyneth Paltrow’s love of all things Macrobiotic is well documented. It involves a strict, mostly vegetarian plan with grains as the staple food, avoiding highly processed or refined foods and most animal products. She also has a 21-day GOOP cleanse, that involves eating just one meal a day and chewing each mouthful at least 13 times.
But my mind drifted and I found myself thinking about what I wanted for lunch afterwards.
I’m not sure if it was obvious that I hadn’t fully relaxed and gone into a trance, but Rayner-Jones gave me a recording of the hypnosis and instructed me to listen to it every day for a week.
For the rest of the day and a few days afterwards, I did make better food choices. But before long I’d slipped back into my old ways.
This may be partially because I didn’t actually find time to listen to the recording every day for a week and it was harder to relax at home - on one occasion my flatmate started building shelves in the room next to mine, which really was not conducive to being hypnotised.
So unfortunately my eating habits haven’t really changed as a result of my hypnotherapy, but I certainly came out of my session with a briefly improved mindset.
I imagine that for someone as wrapped up in her own head as I am, it would take rather a lot of hypnotherapy to make a real difference, but if someone was really open to the prospect, it might just work.
Until that day, don’t pass the biscuits. (But really do.Reuse content