binge eating

Binge Eating Therapy

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?"


David Mason

Therapist at Wellington Hypnosis
David Mason is an experienced and university qualified hypnotherapist with 15 years of clinical practice. He has a PhD and a Masters degree in psychology.
He is highly regarded in the hypnotherapy community. He is Vice President of the New Zealand Association of Professional Hypnotherapists (NZAPH).
He is regularly consulted for advice by other hypnotherapists around the world. He is known for the quality of his published scripts. He presents at international conferences and has published on hypnosis and advanced hypnotherapy.
He lives in Wellington New Zealand with his wife Trish and a cat called Parsnip.
David Mason
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