Christmas is coming and it’s not just the geese that will be getting fatter. For Alan* it was a time of year that he was beginning to dread as much as look forward to. “It’s all the food” he told me “especially when there are buffets and there’s no-one limiting what I can eat.” Alan had asked me to hypnotise him into believing that he’d had a gastric band fitted. I explained that I didn’t offer that but to come and see me, without any obligation, and talk about what he wanted to achieve.
“My trouble is I’m an emotional eater – and that makes it impossible to lose weight” said Alan. There was a lot tied up in that statement and I started to unpick it with Alan by asking him what sort of emotions he responded to by eating. He would eat to cheer himself up when he was sad or upset; to treat himself when he was happy; to take his mind off things when he was worried; to help him calm down when he was angry; and for something to do when he was bored.
I explained to Alan that the constant was his over-eating – the emotions were a handy peg for him to hang the responsibility on. This was before we explored where Alan’s emotions came from – did they come from other people or from his reactions to them? As Alan agreed that they came from how he reacted to situations we talked about learning to think differently about them, and how that can put us in charge of our emotions.
Finally we discussed whether even if he was an emotional eater (which he now agreed he wasn’t), and even if he couldn’t control his emotions (which he agreed he could) then that still wouldn’t make it impossible to lose weight. Telling himself it was impossible made it impossible and only gave him permission not to even try.
Alan agreed to come and see me again and has learned techniques to control his eating and to actively enjoy his food more now than when he overate. This Christmas, he tells me, he won’t be making return trips to the buffet.
*Alan’s real identity has been protected, and he is happy to share his story.