Today I thought I'd talk a bit about hypnosis and something called Selective Eating Disorder or SED. It's an odd subject and for the many people that suffer from it it's often easy to pretend that it's not a problem or even that it's a personal choice.
A Bad Habit
The reality is that it is neither of those things. What it is is a massive restriction on personal freedom and opportunities in life. It's also a bad habit and like most habits (like smoking), hypnotherapy can be a remarkably effective solution. Selective Eating Disorder also known as Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is basically being a picky eater.
It's different from other food disorders in that it stems from a fear of food itself rather than suffering from body dimorphism. Some people with Selective Eating Disorder just have very little interest in food. Some are afraid of various textures, temperatures, tastes and smells. Some are irrationally terrified of choking. allergic reactions or nausea.
ARFID can utterly restrict a person's social life, going to a restaurant with a potential date becomes a huge hurdle. With kids it is common that they miss out on vital nutrients, usually iron or vitamins A and C which are of vital importance to a growing body. With adults it commonly leads to low energy levels and stress at meal times.
Real Case Study: Two Daughters & A Husband
The reason I'm talking about it today though is that I recently had a mother approach me because her entire family. Two lovely little girls and her husband were all fussy eaters. She ended up making at least two, often three different meals every dinner time. Every day was a stressful chore, her fridge was packed with so many foods it was like a student shared flat. Her husband would regularly blow money that could go to more practical ends buying bland takeaway (invariably without vegetables). Hypnotherapy was a last resort for her.
A New Hope
A co-worker of hers had seen me for weightloss and suggested she get in touch with me. This isn't unusual, most of my clients come from referrals. What was unusual was that the mum was contacting me on behalf of a six and a five year old. I think she had decided that her husband was set in his ways but there was still hope for the kids.
What she had been doing prior to contacting me was reward based. If the kids ate one piece of fruit or veg she would give them what they wanted as well. On the face of things that seemed like a winning strategy. The problem was that by making the bland familiar food the reward she was making old habits seem more attractive.
Overworked, And Overstressed
They also saw dad's example and thought it was quite reasonable for mum to be making several meals a day. To be honest, she confessed to me that it was doing her head in. Pita bread, cheese and tomato sauce pizzas don't make a good diet and her littlest was suffering terrible flatulence as it clearly didn't agree with her. Drastic measures needed to be taken and that's why she came to see a hypnotherapist.
I don't normally help little kids, they tend to fidget, get distracted or clam up around strangers. The mum was at the end of her rope though. The solution was a questionnaire that the mum asked her kids about food and how they felt about it.
A Simple Bedtime Story
With the help of their answers and a chat with the mum I wrote a little bedtime story. Each evening as these two delightful little monsters went to bed Mum would read their story about the two little girls, let's call them Joanne and Samantha and the magical dinner table.
Needless to say, within a week the mother got back to me telling me how her little princesses were now clamouring to try some of the foods that the magical girls in the story ate.
Hunger and Habit
Habits are basic guidelines we learn and apply to our everyday life. The reasons are many and varied. They can stretch from celebrity endorsements to what mum used to make tell us when we were children. When it comes to food choices we are exactly the same. We can very easily get stuck in a rut.
Hypnotherapy and hypnosis is a particularly good at breaking habits. Especially bad habits. The ones that we know aren't good for us but we do anyway.
The People We Love
It can be distressing when we are looking after loved ones. Children or partners and they insist on being fed foods that we know aren't doing any good or food that we find to be bland. Occasionally even foods that we know are actively against their interests. The foods that are going to leave them with low energy, bad teeth or overweight.
Imagine for a moment that, with an hour or so of help the mechanisms that reinforce those habits could change. What might that mean to someone's life? To their whole family? Hypnotism can be the answer.
When Hypnotism Isn't the Answer
Here is the basic rule of hypnosis. Long term change only happens when people have buy in. When they agree that they would be better off if they made the change. I have turned away clients in the past when they have come to me because "The wife wants me to do it."
That said, if someone comes to me and genuinely is interested in making the change or they are willing to see if they enjoy a change in their life it can be a magical experience. It can be incredibly rewarding to watch the change as people decide to try fruit for pretty much the first time in their life. Or they go out to a restaurant for the first time and try something other than a plain pizza or steak.
For little kids they buy in comes early. Once they beat the self limiting beliefs of "But I don't like it!" that they learnt from their school friends or a family member. Once they get past that they start to enjoy food like the adventurous explorers that they were born to be.
Without a doubt these are self limiting beliefs... Family and culture teach people their tastes. Not to put too fine a point on it, I have a friend from Andhra Pradesh in India and their 4 year old child eats pickles and spices that make my eyes water to be even in the same room. They eat these foods happily and with great pleasure because that is what they are used to and what their family is used to. We are capable of being so much more. Of doing so much more once we realise that the biggest obstacle in our lives is us.
Hypnotism and Change
All it takes to make a change in our lives is for someone to recognise the value of that change and to share that value with us. When I use hypnosis, I don't change anyone's mind. All I do, the only thing I do, is allow them the opportunity to break past the barriers that they have set up in their own mind.
I help people to see a way forward to making a change for themselves. Whilst habits can be useful short cuts in making decisions, there is nothing more limiting than the belief that we are unable to change.
What Hypnotherapy Isn’t
And this brings us to a really good point to close off this post: when most people think of hypnosis, they think of stage hypnotists, and people being made to do silly and ridiculous things, or that it somehow involves some kind of mind control. That nonsense couldn’t be any further from the truth!
Real hypnotherapy is as simple as telling ourselves a good bedtime story, and training our minds to look forward to good rewards, and to avoid bad habits. That’s it.
If you’re not happy with the “bedtime” stories you keep telling yourself, get in touch and let’s talk. I’d love to see how I’d be able to help you.
For more information review this article on the effectiveness of hypnosis.
Wellington, New Zealand