Everyone has a relationship with food and for many, that relationship is unhealthy. While eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia are well known, binge eating disorder can often go unnoticed by individuals and their loved ones.
In the third session, hypnotherapist Grace Smith and clinical psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula discuss the role of the subconscious with food and explore ways to improve this relationship.
Watch the first two sessions on hypnotherapy and the subconscious using these links:
Understanding Your Relationship with Food
In her experience, Smith says the feeling of shame is prevalent for those who struggle with binge eating. Her focus as a hypnotherapist is to help her clients discover where that shame stems from and how to address that shame in a healthy way.
Dr. Ramani, author of the book “You Are Why You Eat,” addresses her patient’s relationship from food from many angles. Often, she will start by asking a series of questions such as;
How is food rewarding?
How is food punitive?
What are your thoughts about food?
Ramani will ask the client to reflect on how food was used and discussed during childhood – the goal being to figure out the meaning of food for that individual.
Additionally, Dr. Ramani will look at the who, what, when, where, and why of food.
For example, when you poorly eat or overeat…
Who is that typically with? (Alone is acceptable answer.)
When during the day or night does this occur?
What type of foods are being consumed?
Where does this eating occur?
Why? What are the emotional drivers for this behavior?
FLABS: Answering the “Why”
Dr. Ramani explains that for most, the reason why overeating occurs is typically due to one of the following emotional states.
Remembering FLABS can help identify these states that lead to poor behavior. Dr. Ramani suggests creating a list with alternative activities to turn to whenever you’re feeling one or more of these emotions. To make it more enjoyable, consider writing down twenty activities to do when bored – each on a separate slip of paper – placing them in a jar. When you feel bored, randomly select a slip of paper and participate in the selected activity. Of course, these activities cannot include consuming food.
The Apple Test
It can be difficult to determine whether they are eating because they are hungry or for another reason. Dr. Ramani suggests applying “The Apple Test” to ensure you are only eating when you are hungry.
Identify some healthy food that you enjoy. For many, fruit is a great choice. Let’s assume you like apples.
If you think you are hungry and the apple does not sound appetizing, it’s likely that you want to eat for a reason other than being hungry. If you were truly hungry, an apple, one of your favorite fruits, would be appealing. If you would eat a cookie, but not your favorite fruit – perhaps hunger is not driving you to eat.
Hypnotherapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Binge Eating
Both Smith and Dr. Ramani say that overnight results should not be expected when it comes to the treatment of binge eating. Smith says it typically takes a minimum of six hypnotherapy sessions while Dr. Ramani says it takes a few months of traditional therapy for significant results to occur.
One evidence-based treatment for binge eating is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This therapy will often include the patient keeping food diaries and can last from 6-12 weeks. During or after CBT, individuals may also find value in seeking out support groups or 12 step programs.
In addition to evidence-based therapy, it is important for individuals struggling with food to also get proper blood work completed to rule out possible health issues as well as working with a nutritionist to learn about healthy eating habits.
Perfect Eating Habits Are Impossible
Those who are working to change their eating habits may unintentionally focus on their failures rather than their successes.
If during the week an individual followed healthy eating habits except for a pizza on Tuesday night – they may feel guilt and shame for the one “slip-up.” This can be detrimental to long-term success, according to Dr. Ramani. Looking at the big picture and focusing on overall improvement is key to reaching your food and health goals.
Support Systems for Success
Having supportive friends and family can often mean the difference between long-term success and failure. However, many people do not have the luxury of these supportive circles and even some may be surrounded by those who fight against healthy changes.
Accept that other people cannot change simply because you desire them to change. Because of this, focusing on yourself and learning how to either be okay with their lack of support or how to cut ties with those who do not support you are important to understand. Through CBT and/or hypnotherapy, you can discover your best, next step.
The Four Steps to Mental Freedom
Smith explains that our actions are tied to our subconscious beliefs. She encourages her clients to follow these four steps to find mental freedom.
- Take responsibility for your actions.
If you do something, own it. This is how you take your power. Blaming your behavior on someone or something else is only hurting your long-term success.
02. Take responsibility for your thoughts.
This is far more challenging than taking responsibility for your actions as mental chatter is constantly occurring. Furthermore, we’re only consciously aware of a portion of our thoughts. Nevertheless, being aware of how you think of others, yourself, and your life, in general, is key in addressing other challenges. Reprogramming your thoughts to be more positive rather than a series of cognitive distortions, for example, can have drastic positive effects on your life.
03. Reprogramming the subconscious mind.
Smith explains that this reprogramming can be accomplished through hypnotherapy sessions and is the core of what she provides for her clients.
04. Give back.
When you help others, you are focused on others. When you’re focused on others, you can’t be focused on yourself. This allows space for gratitude, appreciation, and the good feelings that come when you help those in need.