“Stop hassling me!” – the voice of eating disorder

A bullets 9 mauve flowers on mauve aa-img027_cr“Stop hassling me! There’s nothing wrong!” – the voice of anorexia

Routinely, people suffering anorexia nervosa (and its milder variant, diet obsession) do not feel they have any problem. They like being thin, they like the feeling of being in control and in women a good many even like the cessation of their periods. Far from wanting to gain weight, they feel that if their thinness is taken away they will be losing their dearest (perhaps only) treasure and achievement.  Yet underneath all that, there are likely to be profound wounds, feelings of inadequacy, deep family dynamics, and a terror of change.

While I am clear that extreme underweight is medically unhealthy, I don’t assume that someone who comes to see me wants to put on weight. Provided their health is not acutely at risk, I am happy to offer a safe and un-pressured opportunity for someone in this situation to explore their feelings and work on whatever aspect of the situation seems important to them, and come to their own conclusions about what to do.

Paradoxically, often people can change more easily when there is no pressure from outside to change. The pressure to change is a kind of conditional love. It’s a message, “you are OK! – provided you eat.”  As long as health is not in danger, then it is much the most useful thing to make friends with all parts of the person, the part that doesn’t wants to eat as well as the part that does, the part that fears change as well as the part that wants change. From this truely radical self-acceptance arises the safety to change.  This is not being laissez-faire about people starving themselves to death. It’s just an honouring that the problem has a perceived validity and a respect that people can make their own best choices, given the opportunity,

That said, if however I were to feel that the person may be at serious medical risk, then I am in professional duty bound to not continue to work with that person unless their doctor is informed of the health danger. Treatment of eating disorders where there is medical danger and the person is unable to see their weight loss (or binge/purging) as a problem, requires specialised treatment and typically a multi-disciplinary team approach. In general, I work with people with mild to moderate anorexia or bulemia. When people have severe or life-threatening eating disorders they need to be part of the Bristol NHS “STEPS” programme. I hear good reports of this from my clients. I have worked with people post-STEPS whose weight has stabilised and who want to bring healing to deeper emotional aspects.

My approach with emotional eating is warm, human and sympathetic, with an emphasis on self-love and self-forgiveness. To take the first step to re-gaining control of your eating, please ring me directly. Leave a message and I’ll call you back. I’m happy to answer questions or arrange, in Bristol, a free, no-obligation half-hour introductory meeting. My approach is friendly, respectful, and very effective. Please click here for contact information.

Bingeing and emotional eating

B bullets 5 borage flowers on white aa-img026_crHelp for bingeing and emotional eating in Bristol

Bingeing, emotional eating, diet restriction and other mild to moderate eating disorders are very common. I use hypnotherapy and other advanced tools to find the root cause, and solution-oriented behavioural hypnosis to change eating behaviours. My approach is warm, human, and sympathetic. I emphasise self-love and self-forgiveness combined with behavioural steps.

What is emotional eating?

Disordered, emotional or just plain unhappy eating includes:

• food obsession • bingeing / binge eating disorder • food addiction • secret gorging • compulsive overeating • overeating due to depression • over-eating due to feeling worthless • intermittent binge-vomiting and binge / purging (ie mild to moderate symptoms of bulimia nervosa) • extremist dieting and obsession with being thin (in effect, mild to moderate aspects of anorexia nervosa, but where the person is still eating enough and, if a woman, still has periods) • unrealistic body image, and excessive concern with body image • exercise addiction / obsession • obsessional calorie counting • orthorexia (obsession with healthy foods) • spontaneous vomiting • “diet trauma syndrome” (my term for when someone has yo-yo dieted so often they become afraid of eating) • … and up a scale of severity to full-blown eating disorders.

It is entirely possible to heal these feelings and have a happy, relaxed relationship with food and with your body.

To make an appointment, or for more information, just give me a ring.  Leave a message and I’ll call you back. I’m happy to answer questions or arrange, in Bristol, a free, no-obligation half-hour initial meeting. My approach is friendly, respectful, and very effective. Please click here for contact information.

What causes emotional eating?

Some chaotic eating, or exercise addiction, has no underlying emotional cause, but is a self-sustaining habit, feeding off the endorphins it produces. More often there is an emotional root and the key is to understand, using hypnotherapy (if needed, inner child regression), what that root is. Sometimes, accompanying changes of life and lifestyle may be needed.

  • “Diet trauma” is my term for what happens when someone yo-yo diets and fails, so often that they become almost terrified of food and frantic around losing weight. This can feel hopelessly out of control but typically there are no deep emotions underneath and with simple suggestion hypnosis they easily start to relax and can begin to eat happily again.
  • The good feelings released by exercise can set up a self-sustaining behaviour cycle with no emotion underneath – the more you exercise, the better you feel, until you over-exercise and can’t stop. Hypnosis is ideal for gently but firmly interrupting this stuck loop so you get your life back.
  • Orthorexia, an obsession with eating healthy food, is often a similar self-sustaining cycle.

In some situations, getting eating under control goes hand in hand with making accompanying life changes, for example discovering the willingness to say “No,” giving your own needs higher priority, or discovering self-respect, among many others. For example:

  • Not being “the real me.” A common cause of overeating. Changing the relationship with food must go hand in hand with expressing more the real you.
  • Overwhelm. Overwhelm is also commonly associated with overeating; eating can come to somehow seem the only area of life where the person has time and freedom to get pleasure free from the demands of work and family.
  • Depression can cause both weight loss and weight gain. Typically you need to start to lift the depression in order to end the emotional eating.
  • Binge / vomiting and binge / purging (intermittent or mild to moderate bulimia nervosa) are very common. Sometimes the actual binge-vomiting behaviour can be cured in very few sessions using simple methods, and there are many hypnosis websites advertising this. However there are almost always feeings of conflict, self-criticism and low-self esteem underneath the behaviour which such simple methods cannot possibly heal. (See following item.)
  • Diet obsession ie mild anorexia nervosa. This is when thinness becomes an overriding goal in a person’s life, thought they still eat adequate nourishment, and, if a woman, still have periods. The reasons are basically the same as for anorexia – for example, cultural pressures hammering on an inner feeling of inadequacy, self-fulfilling feelings of control and attainment, and hidden family emotions. As with anorexia, a person may not see obsessional dieting as in any way a problem, but may be very proud of how thin they are.
  • Need to control or triumph over eating and exercise may reflect a feeling of needing to control or triumph over inner feelings of vulnerability or weakness or needing love which are too painful to acknowledge.
  • Low self-esteem, and self-comfort to keep pain or distress buried, in particular feeling worthless.
  • Self-hatred directed towards the body.
  • Sexual abuse can have as a consequence both the previous types of feeling, and can be a powerful cause of emotional eating.
  • Sexual attractiveness. Some men and women overeat because if they are slim, they will have to compete for the attention of the opposite sex, and that scares them.
  • Childhood emotions around food, for example from being the child of parents who faced starvation or having a mother who tried to control through food.
  • For some children saying “No” to food is almost the only autonomy they are allowed. This can produce and conflict about losing weight: the person reacts to eating less by feeling they are being ordered not to eat, and unconsciously says “No!!!” to the very thing they most need.
  • …. and many others. Every person is unique.

Solutions for emotional eating

In my experience, people want to get direct control of their everyday eating, and they also want to heal the root causes. (If any – some problems are just entrenched habit). And they want both of these together, not an either / or approach. This is what my approach is based on: a flexible combination of hypnotherapy and direct behavioural change to help you feel both good in yourself and in charge of your eating.

My approach with emotional eating is warm, human, and sympathetic, with an emphasis on self-love and self-forgiveness. I combine true healing for the emotional roots with direct behavioural change to help you start to bring your everyday eating habits directly under control right from day one.

I use methods including hypnotherapy, hypno-psychotherapy, mindful eating, cognitive-behavioural hypnosis (which means empowering self-talk), discovering the power to choose, and behavioural interventions to dissolve unwanted habits. A key is always for people to take a very gentle, self-forgiving attitude to themselves and their eating.

It is entirely possible to heal distress around eating and have a happy relationship with food and with your body.

For an appointment or more information, please just ring. Leave a message and I’ll call you back. Andrew White 0845-3510604 / 0117-955-0490. I’m happy to answer questions or arrange, in Bristol, a free, no-obligation half-hour initial meeting. My approach is friendly, respectful, and effective.

Food, weight and eating

A bullets 4 blue rings on yellow aa-img028_crHypnotherapy and counselling in Bristol for weight and eating problems: “Brilliant at any weight”

If you want help with food and eating, you’ve come to the right place. I offer practical and insightful help with behaviours, with emotions, and with habits around all kinds of weight and eating issues. However, because my belief is that people are brilliant at any weight, I no longer work with clients who have the pure and simple goal of weight loss. Please read on to find out why.  If that is your goal, you may find I’m offering you something much more useful.

Brilliant at any weight

The first reason that they way I work is eating is not conventional weight-loss hypnotherapy is this. My experience is that far too many people want to lose weight because they hate their bodies at the weight they are, and desperately need to lose weight to feel good about themselves. And they think desperation is a really good motivation for losing weight. No, it’s not.

Obviously, there’s a common-sense level where we all want to look our best. This is normal and natural. But beyond that, body weight and body shape can develop into a spiral of self-loathing and low self worth. People desperately want to feel better – again, that’s natural – and think they can do so by making desperate efforts to lose weight. The trouble is, it never works to make outward appearance such a fundamental basis of our self-worth. To do so that makes our self-worth into the hostage of other people’s opinions. “If they approve, only then I’m OK, so I MUST have a body that others approve of.”

What is more, this kind of desperation creates an internal split inside a person’s being. There is a critical part saying “You MUST lose weight, you bad, out-of-control person” to a criticised part whose eating is out of control. And the criticised part feels just terrible, terrible, about being such a bad, wanton, out-of control eater. And do you know what that bad, out-of-control part does to feel better? Yes, the only thing that part knows how to do to feel good  … eats more.

The remedy is for behavioural change in eating actions to go hand in hand with the attitude “I’m brilliant at any weight”. Or, at least, with the beginning of that attitude. All that’s needed is a willingness to explore the attitude that “Maybe, just maybe, I can respect myself, even be proud of myself, at my present weight; and it would be useful, or healthier, or feel even better, to lose some weight.” [Or if very underweight, to explore gaining some.]

Eating behaviours, not weight

The second reason that I work with weight in a different way than most hypnotists is that I really want sustainable, relaxed, long-term change. My experience is that there are serious problems with weight loss as a goal. It is far more effective to have eating behaviours as the goal. Beyond a certain point, weight is not in general easy to have as a target. Some people never put weight on (I am one), many others lose weight to a certain point, but not beyond that. The few who feature in headlines like “I lost 10 stones” and who keep it off long term, are a minority. Chasing a weight-based goal can end up chasing the wind. In real life it is far wiser to aim for the achievable goal of simple, long-term-sustainable healthy eating habits. These will bring your weight down to a healthy range; then, give yourself the gift of accepting the weight you find yourself at even if it is not your dream ideal.

So I am delighted to work with people who are unhappy with their eating and who are
(a) at least open to the possibility of believing “I am brilliant at any weight”
(b) are willing to look at goals of long-term sustainable changes in eating behaviour, with weight loss or gain, while of course important, as a consequent result.
(c) are interested in a  flexible combination of direct solution-oriented behaviour change and emotional healing.
If this may be you, please click here to explore further with a no-charge, no-obligation half-hour initial meeting.

Behaviours and emotions

For both weight loss, weight gain, binge-vomiting and all other forms of unhappy eating, direct behavioural change is vital. That means finding  simple direct  actions that fit in with your lifestyle and can be sustained long term. A very simple example (maybe too simplistic for some) would be “Three square meals a day and no snacks.” And then you stick to these actions 80% of the time, again with clear exceptions and relaxations eg “except for parties and airport days.” This is different from what many people expect of a traditional hypnotist (magic spells that make everything easy!)  but, it is what works. Being extremely, though not entirely, solution-oriented, I don’t pull these arbitrarily from a list. I help you find behavioural changes of your own that really fit with your lifestyle.

At the same time, emotions matter too. People give themselves a really hard time around eating and weight. Whether over- or under-weight,  they feel some or all of shame, failure, secrecy, ugliness, powerless to change, and indeed sometimes pure self-hatred.  Whether bingeing, purging, dieting or yo-yoing, almost always they feel desperate and out of control That’s obviously so at the extreme end of the scale with an eating disorder needing psychotherapy. At the other end of the scale there is habit overeating caused by high-calorie food advertising and needing only simple weight-loss hypnosis. Even then, people still feel out of control and often give themselves a very hard time. (See below, “I’m great at any weight.”)

It may seem strange to speak of such different things as losing weight and eating disorders in the same breath. But I deal with a wide spectrum of unhappiness around food and eating. (If you have serious or health-threatening anorexia, you need to be getting treatment in the Bristol NHS STEPS program. Clients give me good reports of this.)

“I’m brilliant at any weight” – some more examples

Self-criticism and self-dislike never, ever help life to change. It’s essential to make friends with your over- or under-eating self in a safe, warm, understanding way. My starting point is respecting and liking yourself even though you are overeating and even though you are overweight (or under-eating and underweight, or bulemic, or whatever else.) Then the unhelpful eating behaviours can be dealt with very much more easily. People who are, for example, overweight often think “I can’t love myself, or have anyone else love me, until I lose weight.” So they are desperate to lose weight, and seek therapy out of desperation. But what actually works, is to be open to the radical self-love and radical self-respect that “I love myself whatever my weight. I respect myself whatever my weight. I’m great at any weight. And, I’d prefer to be several stones lighter.” That’s the opposite to how people mostly think. But with emotional eating, it’s what works.

There are numerous websites offering weigh loss hypnosis in Bristol and eating disorders counselling in Bristol. Therapy research shows that what matters is your relationship with the therapist, and you can’t judge that from a website. So I am happy to arrange a no-charge half-hour initial consultation so you can meet me and ask your questions.

I use various methods in my sessions. Solution-oriented brief therapy (SOBT)hypnosis and meditative awareness (“mindful eating”) are an excellent combination for everyday weight loss. We try those first and if they work, no more is needed. If there are unconscious factors, for example using food as an attempted solution to stress, unhappiness or, sometimes, serious issues like abuse, then I use a wide range of emotional healing techniques.

If you would like to find out more about the kind of weight loss therapies in Bristol and eating disorders counselling in Bristol which I offer, just give me a ring.

 I am delighted to work with people who are unhappy with their eating and who are
(a) at least open to the possibility of believing “I am brilliant at any weight”
(b) are willing to look at goals of long-term sustainable changes in eating behaviour, with weight loss or gain, while of course important, as a consequent result
(c) are interested in a  flexible combination of direct solution-oriented behaviour change and emotional healing.
If this may be you, please click here to explore further with a no-charge, no-obligation half-hour initial meeting.

  • Adele’s River Lea: Finding love, but not letting love in - Finding love but not letting love in: Adele’s River Lea Adele’s River Lea  is one of the rare songs where the protagonist talks about herself. It’s not, as most pop songs are,  just about her emotions.  It’s about her internal choices and what she’s learning about herself. From the point of view of real relationships, […]
  • Bingeing and emotional eating - Bingeing, emotional eating and other mild to moderate eating disorders are very common. In my experience, what works is a mixture of self-love and self-forgiveness, looking at the underlying causes, and direct hands-on change of everyday eating behaviours.
  • Adele’s River Lea: Finding love, but not letting love in - Finding love but not letting love in: Adele’s River Lea Adele’s River Lea  is one of the rare songs where the protagonist talks about herself. It’s not, as most pop songs are,  just about her emotions.  It’s about her internal choices and what she’s learning about herself. From the point of view of real relationships, […]
  • Do I have an eating disorder …? - Take this well-know medical eating disorders self-test for anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa and discover if your eating habits may amount to an eating disorder.
  • Adele’s River Lea: Finding love, but not letting love in - Finding love but not letting love in: Adele’s River Lea Adele’s River Lea  is one of the rare songs where the protagonist talks about herself. It’s not, as most pop songs are,  just about her emotions.  It’s about her internal choices and what she’s learning about herself. From the point of view of real relationships, […]
  • “Stop hassling me!” – the voice of eating disorder - Routinely, people suffering anorexia (and its milder form, diet obsession) do not feel they have any problem. They like being thin and feeling in control and in women a good many like the cessation of their periods.

Change your eating habits: doing what works for you

A bullets 4 blue rings on yellow aa-img028_crWhat works to lose weight?

Our national obesity epidemic has a simple cause. Big portions of calorie-rich food on top of inactive lifestyle pile on the weight.

It doesn’t have to be like that. Polish visitors are shocked to see how overweight we are in the UK. In Poland they eat more vegetables, more home cooking, little convenience food, and they are happy, well-fed and slim. They don’t feel hungry, starved or deprived. Eating happily in a healthy way is simple and achievable – for the French, for the Poles, and for you.

And as we all know, diets – short-term restrictive eating programmes – don’t work. What does?

The answer is simple and undramatic. In fact so simple and undramatic that people think “That’s it? A gazillion research papers in food and eating and weight and that’s it?” It’s this: you need to make a long-term-sustainable change in your relationship to eating (and maybe physical activity.)

You may or may not then attain your “ideal” weight. But there is an excellent chance that you will attain a healthy, life-length-maximising weight that you can feel really good about yourself at – and stay that way.

And the key to a long-term-sustainable change is to do what works for you: not what websites advise, not what books propose, what works for you. By all means read the books and the websites. They give you good ideas and educate your thinking. But don’t adopt something because it works for the author, adopt it because it works for you, because it feels natural, or because it tastes good to you.

One mainstay of the methods I use is Solution-Oriented Brief Therapy (SOBT). SOBT is a lesser-know cousin of CBT (cognitive-behavioural therapy) that is demonstrated by research to get the same results as CBT in half the time. I like SOBT because it trusts that you are OK; that no matter how painful or out of control your eating is, you can find solutions that work for you. Indeed are probably already doing them, even if on rare occasions (and hypnosis is excellent for fanning the flames of rare occasions into everyday events.)

The things that work for you are the things that will prove long-term-sustainable. And that is different for everyone. So my aim is to help you trust your hunger, trust your feelings of “satisfied, enough”, trust your own body that it knows what and how to eat. These are yours and work for you. I’m of course not abandoning you to work everything out of your own; I have a well-stocked repertoire of very useful things you can do differently around eating. However I propose these rather than impose them: less often “do this”, more often “try this, and see if it clicks with you.”

Solution-oriented therapy is future-oriented not past-looking, is positive and looks at what works. It helps you to find your own solutions that work for you and so are long-term-sustainable. Hypnosis is proven by research to make change of eating habits for more effective and sustainable. Mindfulness helps you to be in charge of your choices from moment to moment rather than being swept along by force of habit. And when there are emotional factors, I use emotional healing techniques which are gentle, safe, respectful but very powerful for healing emotional hurts. I weave these together in a flexible combination according to whether your eating pattern is simply habit eating, or emotional and comfort eating, chaotic binge/starving or (mild to moderate) eating disorder.

With the right approach it is very possible to have a happy, successful relationship with food and eating which lasts long-term. For an appointment or more information, just ring. Leave a message and I’ll call you back.
Andrew White 0845-3510604 / 0117-955-0490. I’m happy to answer questions or arrange, in Bristol, a free, no-obligation half-hour initial meeting. My approach is friendly, respectful, and very effective.

Do I have an eating disorder …?

A bullets 5 yellow flowers on yellow aa-img028_crThe EAT-26 Eating Attitudes Test for Anorexia and Bulimia

This well-established medical eating disorders self-test for anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa was developed by D. Gardner and is reproduced here with his kind permission*. It will help you decide if you have an eating disorder. You can only make a definitive diagnosis of eating disorder through your doctor, but this scale will give a reliable indication. There are four easy steps, below.

Eating problems have a spectrum from mere behavioural habit though serious behaviour addiction with sometimes complex roots, up to live-threatening conditions.  Health-threatening bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa require specialist medical and other treatment; in Bristol, you need to be part of the NHS STEPS programme. For less severe forms of disordered eating, the solution-oriented therapy, hypno-psychotherapy and emotional healing methods which I use have the potential to bring radical change. You will find websites which claim to “cure bulema” in a couple of sessions. They are referring to the some simpler situations only.

My approach is sympathetic and human. I emphasise self-love, self-forgiveness and true emotional healing while at the same time helping you take direct control of your eating habits, using cognitive-behavioural methods, right from day one.

Step 1: Complete the following questionnaire

For questions 1-25, score:
Always=3, Usually=2, Often=1, Sometimes=0, Rarely=0, Never=0
For question 26, marked (#), score:
Always=0, Usually=0, Often=0, Sometimes=1, Rarely=2, Never=3

  • I am terrified about being overweight.
  • I avoid eating when I am hungry.
  • I find myself preoccupied with food.
  • I have gone on eating binges where I feel that I may not be able to stop.
  • I cut my food into small pieces.
  • I am aware of the calorie content of foods that I eat.
  • I particularly avoid food with a high carbohydrate content (i.e. bread, rice, potatoes, etc.)
  • I feel that others would prefer if I ate more.
  • I vomit after I have eaten.
  • I feel extremely guilty after eating.
  • I am preoccupied with a desire to be thinner.
  • I think about burning up calories when I exercise.
  • Other people think that I am too thin.
  • I am preoccupied with the thought of having fat on my body.
  • I take longer than others to eat my meals.
  • I avoid foods with sugar in them.
  • I eat diet foods.
  • I feel that food controls my life.
  • I display self-control around food.
  • I feel that others pressure me to eat.
  • I give too much time and thought to food.
  • I feel uncomfortable after eating sweets.
  • I engage in dieting behavior.
  • I like my stomach to be empty.
  • I have the impulse to vomit after meals.
  • (#) I enjoy trying rich new foods.

*EAT-26 Garner, D.M., Olmsted, M.P., Bohr, Y., and Garfinkel, P.E. (1982). The Eating Attitudes Test: Psychometric features and clinical correlates. Psychological Medicine, 12, 871-878. Copyright (c) D Garner (http://www.river-centre.org) and used here with permission.

Step 2: Answer the following questions Yes or No:

(A) In the past 6 months, have you gone on eating binges where you feel that you may not be able to stop?
(Eating much more than most people would eat under the same circumstances.)

(B) In the past 6 months, have you ever made yourself sick (vomited) to control your weight or shape?

(C) In the past 6 months, have you ever used laxatives, diet pills or diuretics (water pills) to control your weight or shape?

(D) Have you ever been treated for an eating disorder?

Step 3: Check if you are significantly underweight for your height

Check if your body mass index is below the preferred weight for your height using the NHS BMI calculator:

http://www.nhs.uk/tools/pages/healthyweightcalculator.aspx?WT.mc_id=101007

Step 4: Combine your results

If your score in Step 1 is 20 or higher;
OR you answered Yes to any question in Step 2;
OR your weight is below the approximate rule-of-thumb minimum for your height in Step 3,

then you may well have an eating disorder. Only your doctor can provide a definitive diagnosis.

If the intensity or frequency of vomiting or purging, or the degree of weight loss, is severe, then I strongly recommend that you go to your doctor. Full-blown bulimia can be permanently damaging to long-term health; full-blown anorexia has the potential be fatal. Equally, if anyone around you has expressed concerns for your health, then I strongly recommend that you visit your doctor. Such severe eating disorders need specialist help. In such health-threatening circumstances I can only assist as a component part of a person’s medical team.

If your score is less than 20, but higher than you’d like, then you may well have emotional eating or less serious eating disorder.

If your symptoms do not to threaten your health, then give me a ring and find how I can help you to explore how to your eating, to feel good about your body and have a happy relationship with food and with your body.

My approach with eating disorders is warm and human, with an emphasis on self-love and self-forgiveness. I use depth hypnotherapy methods (eg inner child regression) to uncover and help heal the hidden emotional roots, and hypnosis and cognitive-behavioural self-help so everyday life changes in the way you want.

Just give me a ring: 0845-3510604 / 0117-955-0490. Leave a message and I’ll call you back. I’m happy to answer questions or arrange, in Bristol, a free, no-obligation half-hour introductory meeting.