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.
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.
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.