The weight loss stalemate

I’m sure that the majority of hypnotherapists see more people struggling with their weight than with any other one condition, and, unlike many smoking cessation clients, there are few overweight people who don’t genuinely want to bring about changes.

Recent reports have taken task with people who have, apparently, “not helped themselves” to lose weight and they are seen as a burden on the tax payer who will pick up the medical bill for their inevitable health problems. Amusingly, I recently saw the opposite view being given: that the healthy, fit, non-smoker is likely to become the greater economic burden on society, as they keep drawing their state pension throughout their lengthy retirement!

Increasingly, however, the media seems to vilify obesity, treating Type 2 diabetes, as a self-inflicted disease and preaches to the overweight how simple the equation is:

Weight loss = eat fewer calories + burn more calories

Whilst, in theory the equation is simple, it seems that unless people have a good grasp of where those calories come from, they often become stuck in steady progression of continued weight gain that may lead to obesity and Type 2 Diabetes. In fact, in the United States and UK, it’s estimated that by the time a person reaches the age of 55, 80% of them will be pre-diabetic or diabetic.

So, how has this come about? Can it just be that we are eating larger amounts and exercising less? Yes, in some cases that is what’s happened, but there is a hidden cycle that many people find themselves trapped in that makes them vulnerable to increasing weight gain despite the fact that they are eating no more calories than another person, and despite attempts at weight loss.

In our western diet, carbohydrates feature extremely highly in our regular meals and particularly in our snacks. We often build our savoury meals around potatoes, rice, pasta, bread and / or pastry; and, our desserts are packed with sugar. If you consider the snacks you consume, they rarely contain anything other than carbohydrate. Of course, carbohydrates are an essential part of our diet – in moderation, and in the correct form. It’s been the abuse of this quantity and quality rule that has led to the current epidemic.

If we look at what should happen when we eat carbohydrates, we can then see where it can go so wrong.



Sugars are the building blocks of carbohydrates so, when we eat them, they are digested in the small intestine and enter the blood stream in their smaller molecule form as glucose.

When we’ve just eaten a meal full of carbohydrates, our blood sugar increases above the necessary level that’s required for the everyday functioning of our brain and vital organs, and triggers the pancreas to produce insulin that stores the excess glucose in the cells of our body.

Once all the excess glucose has been stashed away, the pancreas stops producing insulin until we next eat a meal. In the meantime, our energy needs can be met through the release of the stored glucose and, when that’s used up, stored fat is burned. When our blood sugar drops and a source of energy isn’t easily found within our body, we start to feel unwell, feeling tired, irritable, with poor concentration, and we usually feel the need to eat. It’s a remarkable balance that, more often than not, works perfectly.

Type 1 Diabetes is caused when the pancreas is unable to produce insulin resulting in soaring blood sugar levels that the kidneys try to deal with by removal along with urine. The symptoms are profound: insatiable thirst, weight loss, frequent urinating, blurry vision, extreme tiredness, fungal infections and slowly healing cuts and grazes.


The pathway to Type 2 Diabetes is rather more complex, and has been made far worse by eating fads of the recent decades.

In the 1980s in the United States, there was a low fat health policy that soon found its way across the Atlantic and people were encouraged to eat meals low in fat and high in carbohydrates.

In many foods that were naturally high in fat, the fat portion was replaced with bulking agents, made out of carbohydrates – take a look at “low fat yoghurts”, and you’ll see this in the labelling. Many of the carbohydrates eaten on both sides of the Atlantic were, and still are, highly processed into rapidly digested, simple starches that hit our blood stream in one enormous hit immediately after eating, creating a peak of insulin release to deal with it. The lack of fat in our diets has meant that we have missed out on the benefits of the fat as well as increasing the quantity of carbohydrates; the benefits being, the slowing of the overall digestion of a meal, leading to a gradual release of glucose into the blood stream; and also, the satisfaction of hunger pangs.

As the pattern of eating – digestion – excess blood sugar – insulin release – sugar storage, is repeated time and time again, the pancreas starts to anticipate the excess blood sugar, and produces higher and higher levels of insulin to try and deal with it. Eventually there is more insulin in the blood than is necessary, and less glucose in the blood than is required.

The stored sugar in the cells is prevented from being released by the still-present insulin and instead, we become aware of our low blood sugar through poor concentration and irritability and experience a craving for more sugars and carbohydrates. This continued low blood sugar caused by excess insulin is called “reactive hypoglycaemia”.

The presence of the insulin in the blood stream also prevents any fat being burned, and along with the accompanying tiredness and continued craving for carbohydrates, weight gain becomes almost inevitable.

Another factor starts to come into play: “adrenal fatigue”. One function of the adrenal glands on the kidneys is to sense and control the blood sugar levels in the blood. The continued attempt at balancing the levels leads to them getting tired and ceasing to function as they should. One symptom of adrenal fatigue is waking in the night craving food – it’s a life-saving mechanism that stops you from slipping into a coma due to low blood sugar when you’re asleep.

The next step in the pathway towards Type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance of the cells of the body as they are constantly bathed in insulin. As the blood sugar can’t be stored in the cells as normal, the body comes up with another mechanism of storage, converting the sugar to triglycerides in the blood and storage as fat.

So now, your high insulin level has caused you to start storing sugar as fats and is preventing you from burning any fats or stored sugar, increasing your weight gain further. Your low blood sugar makes you feel continually hungry as your blood sugar is only sufficient immediately after eating.

Another difficulty experienced at this stage can be metabolic syndrome that creates a hormonal imbalance. In women, this leads to high oestrogen and testosterone levels, seen as the development of facial hair, weight gain, and thinning hair in male-pattern baldness. In men, there is an increase of oestrogen and a drop in testosterone levels, again causing weight gain seen as a beer belly and increased breast tissue.

As the body struggles to convert the blood sugar load into fat, it reaches a point when the blood sugar starts to backup. Although the pancreas is trying to produce more insulin, it’s having little effect on reducing the blood sugar and it eventually “gets tired” resulting in Type 2 diabetes.

This progression is common but not inevitable. If it was recognised that, for most people in the western world, we have consumed a lifetime’s worth of carbohydrates by the time we’re 35, and that the remainder of our years of sugar consumption are going to start putting a strain on our system, then maybe we would manage our blood sugar more effectively. Avoiding highly-processed carbohydrates and reducing the amounts that we eat, will allow us to recover our sugar / insulin balance and to start reversing the process. Carbohydrates with a low “

What can we do as hypnotherapists? We can help people understand why they’re experiencing the apparent stalemate in weight loss that leaves them feeling stranded in their bodies. We can help people deal with the cravings that they may experience along the way, to break the habits of a lifetime, and to know that they can do this and help them see why it’s important that they do so. And, we can offer them support in this world that vilifies people who really want to change, but just don’t know how.

Posted in diabetes, obesity, weight loss


When I was a child I used to play a game called “Consequences” that required at least another player, a couple of sheets of paper and a pen each. The idea was to create a, (usually risqué – depending on our age!), scenario that would make us roar with laughter or fall out, depending on what was written. In case you’ve never heard of this game and, I’m not sure that it will have survived the emergence of the computer age, let me explain. Each person secretly writes the name of a girl, usually one of those present (unless we were trying to be mean to someone in particular!) at the top of their sheet of paper. They then fold down the paper so that no one else can see what’s written and pass it on to the next person. The second entry on the sheet was the name of a boy – again, maybe someone we all fancied, hated or … well … Donny Osmond was pretty popular then! Again the paper was folded down, passed on to the next person and, with each turn, entries listed: a place; what happened there; and, what the consequence was. Sometimes we added “he said”, and “she said” but not always. Needless to say, some of this fed our fantasies, or horrified us, but what it always did was make us consider the possibilities and think, “What if?…”

An example?



Well, it is my article!

On reflection, I think that this game was a pretty good lesson in life. There were elements that you had control over, most of it you didn’t, but the consequences came about anyway. The kinder you were to your fellow players, the nicer they were to you and you mutually brought about lovely outcomes for each other. If you decided to be mean, you were likely to suffer in the next game.

In real life, however, the unknown factors are so much more powerful and random, and our own influence over the outcomes varies according to our individual feelings of empowerment at any particular time. Being “nice” doesn’t always help because life is not fair – we do not always get what we deserve no matter how hard we try.

I’ve had numerous conversations with people when I’ve challenged their idea that “Everything happens for a reason.” Personally, I have no sense of “a higher plan”, and can’t help believing that people are trying to impose a psychological order on a disorganised world using the benefit of hindsight to fill in the gaps of why they are where they are.

True! I wouldn’t have my three lovely children if I hadn’t met Pete at university having gone through University Clearing after messing up my A Levels. Was that “fate” or “consequences”? Just think of the lovely children I might have had, if I had done better in my exams and gone to Kingston on Thames – they might have been Michel Roux Junior’s and, I wouldn’t be missing Pete, because I wouldn’t have been aware of his existence. Sorry Pete!

Of course this is just an illustration of different ways of thinking and I’m not seriously regretting my life and saying “What if?” That’s only worthwhile doing before the event when you can have some influence over what will happen, and then you only have limited influence over which path you will end up on.

A contentious view? Maybe. But this psychological bias for people to apply an order on the world has been recognised in a recent study by psychologist, Nicholas Hune-Brown, who calls the phenomenon the “Just World Hypothesis”. In an unjust world where people are slaughtered because of their religion, because they express their opinions, because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time, through no fault of their own, it seems that people extend their belief in the order of things to blame the victims of somehow bringing about the atrocity. This has been seen repeatedly through recent world events: the commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz was followed by an increase in Anti-Semitism; the killings in Paris at Charlie Hebdo were followed by a backlash that the victims brought it upon themselves. In the cold light of day, it is obvious that the victims are victims: that the rape victim didn’t ask to be raped by wearing attractive clothes; or, that it wasn’t inevitable that the young driver would be killed when they hit black ice on the road in their inexperience. When looked at like this, it seems cruel that people would seek out ways of justifying disasters in life, but there is a tendency to do this, to give the impression that there is some order in the world. Maybe it allows for a belief that you only get what you deserve, and that the world is actually a safe place.

On the other hand, this way of blaming the victim only applies to other people. When it comes to ourselves, we buy ourselves self-esteem when we feel that what happens to us is out of our control; that there is a higher being that has a reason for leading us along a certain path. However, in my view, we can only really bring about changes in our lives if we feel a conviction that we are the only one that cares enough to create our own future. If we think that some more powerful force has plans for us, we surrender to chance and coincidence and get swept along with the currents wherever they may take us. And, then the danger is that once we see where we end up, we mentally backtrack along the route we came along and somehow label each turn as “having been meant to be”. It’s not a pre-planned path, it’s just where another random factor steered you.

So why do I think that it matters whether everyone believes that everything happens for a reason or not?

  1. Firstly, injustices in the world will continue unless we recognise that the people who suffer have not done anything to deserve their circumstances. There is no justification for being born into poverty or to die of ebola. Whilst there may be only a limited amount that we can do about it on an individual basis, dismissing the injustice as part of a higher plan should be seen as it is: a comfort to the believer, but ineffectual in the long run.
  2. Not only do many people suffer undeservedly, but many people prosper when there is equally as little justification. The world isn’t fair in either case, and an acceptance of this fact is incredibly liberating. Expecting “fairness” in life is unrealistic – some people will do well; some people won’t. Everyone has a random starting point of where and when they are born, who and how their parents are, and, if and how they are educated. That’s just for a starter. Expecting fairness from the world implies that you have a pre-ordained right to something that others don’t have – aah, of course, that’s because they don’t deserve it! Seriously though, the reason that people dwell on their past misfortunes so much, is because they feel it’s unjustified. Of course it is unjustified, but letting it go is essential, and the best way I know of doing this is, by recognising that shit happens! – hypnotherapy is very good at helping people see this of course.
  3. Thirdly, there’s a tendency to abandon control of the areas of our lives where we are in control. Drifting along believing that something “Wasn’t meant to be” stops us from finding ways to bring it into being. How many businesses have died a death because their owners have trusted in the Universe for guidance?

There are things that we are in control of, and things that we are not. Applying our understanding of each of those areas: reacting flexibly to uncontrolled aspects in our lives; and taking the reins of those we can influence; allows us to gain a sense of control. Acknowledging the fact that some people have few areas they can influence will also help us to understand how people’s lives can reach such dreadful depths.

The Serenity Prayer made famous through Alcoholics Anonymous expresses this perfectly … despite the irony that it’s addressed to god!:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference


(Originally published in NSPH Journal January 2015)

Posted in Uncategorized

Addictions and Compulsions: Why are we so susceptible?

It’s a peculiar thing, isn’t it? We are such incredibly well-designed creatures; animals that have resulted from a long line of evolution, and yet we are still so susceptible to self-destructive responses that result in addictions to toxins, compulsions to damage our bodies, and limit our lives through inappropriate behaviour. It would almost seem that Darwin’s hypotheses have fallen short when it comes to predicting an overall improvement in our behaviour that will benefit us in our survival. How does this susceptibility fit in?

I’m not writing this as an observer of damaging behaviour, but as an all too aware participant in it, so please don’t assume any superiority in this post. I used to smoke until I found myself unable to breathe, lying in a hospital bed suffering from pneumonia, and returned to it once I was able to drag on a cigarette without passing out! It was the embarrassment of admitting to this that made me give up. I drink more wine than my 7 units a week and can always think of a good reason to celebrate – the drawback of being optimistic in nature maybe, but I’m sure if I leaned towards pessimism I would use wine as something to compensate for “a bad day” instead! Our addictions steer our minds to come up with justifications for our actions, and they are very persuasive.

Whilst it’s understandable that it’s difficult to give up an “addictive substance” such as heroine that causes genuine, unpleasant, physiological reactions, we can experience equally strong withdrawal symptoms when trying to break away from behavioural compulsions that are interfering with our lives. People suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) often experience powerful physical discomfort when attempting to change their behaviour.

The truth is, that most addiction- or compulsion-driven people are constantly chasing a level of gratification from their habit that they never, or rarely, achieve. The reality of the “fix” just doesn’t live up to the expectation, forcing the push onto the next one, and then the next … Well, we all know how it goes!

On the other hand, the psychological discomfort experienced when trying to break the habit is intensely out of proportion. Every dieter will recognise how, in trying to avoid certain foods, they will become obsessed with that food to the point of being diverted from everything else. Yes, that’s another one I’ve been guilty of!

How have these responses ever had any benefit to us? What is going on in our brains? And, how can we overcome it?

It all comes down to pleasure and pleasure is a powerful emotion – I don’t think anyone would ever argue with that! If you think about when you have experienced the most extreme pleasure in your life, it will often be when you least expected it, when you were trying “something new”, and / or when you had met or overcome a challenge. It will normally be associated with the fulfilment of a basic need: consumption of food or drink; social interaction; learning a new skill; sex and procreation; providing a comfortable and safe home; to name but a few. In evolutionary terms it’s easy to see how this reward system is beneficial, for example: we build ourselves a shelter for our family unit; we try a new method for doing this and it’s an improvement on previous shelters – safer, more solid, or less draughty; we share the pleasure of our achievement with our family unit; we feel increased pleasure as our esteem builds … and so on.  Our payment for the initial investment of effort is the mounting pleasure that builds, encouraging us to repeat the act with little further conscious thought, and to continue rewarding our curiosity about seeking out new ways and new experiences. When our experiments have had a successful result we get a kick from it, on the other hand when it’s gone badly we shy away from repeating a mistake.

So, what is happening in your brain to produce this response of pleasure and subsequent drive to repeat the action? In simple terms, there are 4 areas of the brain that are involved: the hippocampus; the amygdala; the anterior cingulate; and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. To simplify it all further so that we can drop the technical terms, I’m going to assume that you are familiar with shopping online, and more specifically shopping from Amazon!

On Amazon there is an area “My Account” which holds all your personal details including your address, payment details and delivery options that obviously needs completing the first time you use the site. Once you’ve set up your account, and you are browsing products, there is an option to press a “One Click” button that instantly buys a product without the need to complete forms or even move to another page and assumes that you will use all the information as you did previously. In the background of the My Account, there is a section called “Your orders” that lists the details of everything that you have ever bought from Amazon. Then there’s a slightly perturbing part called “Recommendations” that appears on the home page of Amazon and suggests items to you, based on your previous buying and browsing history. So what’s what if your brain was Amazon’s site?

This is how I see it:

  Amazon Brain Function


“My Account”  Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex Conscious operating centre
“Your Orders” Hippocampus Conscious memory


“One click” Anterior cingulate An automatic system that bypasses the need to consciously employ the operating system
“Recommendations” Amygdala The unconscious and emotional memory

Okay, so you smoke your first cigarette aged 16 or so and feel pretty good about yourself having made this “adult” move and you feel it helps you fit in socially, gives you something to do with your hands when you’re feeling socially awkward and generally has a fair number of positive and pleasurable feelings associated with it. The first time or so you are making a decision to smoke and “My Account” has to be completed each time – that is you have to involve your conscious operating system – it’s a bit of an effort and you’re still weighing up the nausea and health warnings against these apparent benefits. Of course the nausea gets less each time, and you know that your uncle was ancient (at least 50!) when he found he’d got lung cancer, and all you can see are the benefits. You find that smoking happens automatically after a while when you find yourself needing a boost, especially in socially demanding situations. This automatic response involves the amygdala, the “Recommendations” section of Amazon, and the “One-click” shortcut.

Evidently there’s limited intelligence concerning the amygdala – it recognises the pattern of your social awkwardness and alerts you to light up because your previous discomfort was relieved in this way. It sends a message in the form of dopamine along with the emotional charge (possibly embarrassment and / or anxiety in this case) to the “One-click” automatic response. The amygdala, having done its job on this occasion, can then allow the negative emotions to die away and be replaced with feelings of pleasure – further reinforcing the pattern matching that smoking makes everything better. The more powerful the emotional charge, the more urgently the compulsion is felt. It is the equivalent of “Recommendations” displaying all the items on your wish list at the price that you can afford! In the Amazon analogy the account holder becomes the emotional charge that impulsively drives things forward to press the “One-click” button in their enthusiasm and, hey presto, before you know it, the deed is done!

So you are now a regular smoker, and find yourself smoking increasingly more cigarettes each day because not smoking leaves you feeling anxious. It nags at you whether you’re in company or alone. The amygdala has gone a stage further – not only is it seeing that anxiety and awkwardness can be resolved, and pleasure produced by lighting a cigarette in social situations, it has now resorted to producing those negative emotions whenever you’re not smoking! Imagine if Amazon started behaving like old-style book clubs, and sent you their “Recommendations” whether you had requested them or not on the assumption that you ought to like them. Smoking-wise it means that you are constantly craving the next cigarette and always feeling dissatisfied that it has no lasting effect. Amazon-wise – well, my analogy has broken down here, but we can still use it to explain why the habits are so difficult to break!

You recognise that you’re spending too much money on cigarettes, you have a nasty hacking cough and run out of breath as you climb the stairs. You’re closer to 50 than you were but even when you get hospitalised with pneumonia you continue smoking for as long as you can stand! Using your conscious memory and operating system you “decide” that you are not going to smoke again when you get out of hospital, and lack of lung capacity and opportunity makes it easy to stick with that “decision”. On Amazon you look at your Order History and realise you’ve been too impulsive so in “My Account” you change your delivery settings and disable your own address, but leave your sister’s address because it’s her birthday soon and you can get it sent directly. On leaving hospital you feel so much better, you can breathe normally and you start back into your old routine. Your routine has a pattern to it that is recognised by your amygdala, but there is something missing within that routine. The amygdala flags up a memory that anxiety and awkwardness is created without this element in your routine and these negative feelings can only be removed and replaced by lighting up a cigarette. You haven’t even looked at Amazon because you know you’ve disabled your address, but your sister’s birthday’s coming up and you want to get some ideas for her and make sure her present arrives on time. Logging on you’re suddenly confronted with everything you ever wanted to own but never thought you would. In a frenzy of excitement you look at each item and several times come close to pressing the “One-click” button, but resist. Your sister’s forgotten in this frenzy, particularly when you realise that there is a cheese-making kit at 10% of normal cost!!! And you’ll need a recipe book and cheese press to go with it and they’re on offer at 95% of normal price! Well, of course, you need these items! So you merrily click away until you realise that they’ll all be delivered to your sister, so you have to go in and re-enable your address in “Your Account”! And then Amazon knows that you are interested in cheese-making and suddenly “Recommendations” is populated with everything vaguely cheese-related! And, if that wasn’t bad enough, there are adverts at the side of Facebook that are offering Cheese-making courses and artisan holidays. Fanciful stuff? Mmm, maybe!

The amygdala has been sending increasingly urgent messages in the form of strong negative emotions. You feel rubbish. You’re so highly strung, bad tempered with everyone, and you’re sure that the irritating, tickly cough you’ve been left with would be so much better if you were smoking. The anxiety, stress and misery are stacking up, until you’re certain you are going to go stark raving mad. Your partner admits that you’re impossible to live with! You know that one cigarette will relieve this madness and you reason with yourself that surely smoking is better than going mad and losing your partner. So you consciously light up and – the joy – your amygdala rewards you with feelings of pleasure and relief from that misery, and then records and reinforces its resolve to keep you in this state! This reinforcement cycle scuppers you every time you try to resist.

However, one evening, you’ve been invited to a friend’s house. You haven’t seen them since you were in hospital – they saw you at your worst and heard your emphatic declaration that you weren’t going to smoke again because you “like being able to breathe properly”! You’ve had a lovely meal and you’re relaxing and socialising with them, and you reach for your packet of fags, ready to stand outside and enjoy your post-meal smoke. Before you reach the door, your dear friend comments in surprise that you’re smoking again. She’s genuinely concerned and astounded that, despite how ill you were, that despite everything you said, you are still smoking. Sulkily you still head for the door – this confrontation has started to make you socially anxious and awkward, and you know what makes that better!

When you come back inside, with embarrassment you realise that everyone’s still talking about you, your illness and your smoking. You lie to everyone and tell them that you only have 2 a day and your partner tactfully stays quiet despite knowing better, but a glance shows you that it’s not gone by unnoticed. Your friends remind you about your children and how it would be nice for you to witness them growing up, and hopefully their children too. Your discomfort grows intensely – this is an emotional subject that you avoid considering and you’re angry and defensive that they’ve insisted on bringing it up. Then the bombshell! They mention that this is self-inflicted and they can’t believe you’re so selfish and stupid. Having always prided yourself on generosity of spirit and intelligence, this hurts! You insist on changing the subject, but you feel extremely uncomfortable, selfish and stupid and it doesn’t go away.

You don’t have another cigarette that night, but next morning a stubborn part of you still lights up that first cigarette of the day with your morning coffee, even though its appeal isn’t really there. You’re still cringing about the conversation last night, and smoking the cigarette brings back the embarrassment and battered self-esteem. You stub it out half way through and drink your coffee whilst clearing things away instead. The impulse to smoke at points within your routine is still there, but sometimes you find you don’t respond and when you do there’s no pleasure in it. In fact when you smoke you have increasing cringing feelings and avoid anyone else witnessing you doing so. You change your routine because there’s still a vague nagging to do “something” at your usual cigarette moments. Before long you realise that you don’t have any inclination to smoke and can’t remember why you did.

What’s happened? What’s changed? You’ve changed your settings! The pattern matching has changed and your amygdala has started associating negative emotions with smoking. There’s a level of uncertainty to start with where the amygdala recognises the usual routine and urges you to do “something”, but the urgency to actually smoke has gone. Doing so is not just disappointing, but your primitive unconscious memory associates lighting up with some pretty horrible feelings. It starts to send alarm messages to prevent the “One-click” system until you become averse to continuing with that behaviour. As far as Amazon goes, it’s just overdone it in its cheese-related “Recommendations”! There’s only a certain amount you need and what you bought ended up being over-priced (what you saved on buying price, you paid in shipping), and, when you checked out the reviews after you purchased, you discovered it’s pretty poor quality! You go into “My Account” and discover that you can actually reset your “Recommendations” AND disable the “One-click” so that there’s another line of defence!

Often, however, changing the background settings doesn’t happen spontaneously in life and alternative routes need to be found. Many of us hide our destructive behaviours such as bulimia or alcoholism, see them as socially acceptable and the urge to continue with the behaviour is too overwhelmingly powerful. So what is to be done?

  • A first step towards recovery is recognising that your unconscious memory is playing tricks on you and that you’re chasing a moving target.
  • The second, that the discomfort it’s inflicting on you is way out of proportion to the reality. Much of the distress you feel is a mounting anxiety, so discovering relaxation techniques will inevitably help you to resist.
  • Thirdly, change your routine where you can. Recognise those times in the day when you struggle the most, and avoid your normal habits. This will avoid the “pattern matching” response.
  • The fourth is the trickiest – re-programme your unconscious mind. There are some pretty unhealthy ways of doing this and some very healthy ones. The unhealthy ones include replacing one bad habit with another; for instance smoking with overeating; overeating with starvation. This is pretty commonplace! If you were to replace smoking or overeating with exercise, however, it’s obviously beneficial. Aversion therapy where you are “punished” for your bad behaviour can be very effective, BUT self-flagellation isn’t to be recommended literally or figuratively! However, it can be done in a supportive setting, with the intervention from friends or professionals.

Inevitably, of course, I would recommend the intervention of a brilliant hypnotherapist. I know a few if you need a referral! They will be able to access that pesky unconscious so much more easily than you can alone. They will teach you to relax and give you strategies to counteract stressful moments. They will support you through aversion therapy and help you recognise how good you will feel when you’ve conquered your habit. They will help you build new routines where your habit isn’t missed. Best of all, if needed, they will go back to the source of your problem and help you to see that you are no longer 16 with social anxiety, so you no longer need to light up!

That’s enough! It’s 6.00 pm on Friday night – time for a glass of wine in celebration of finishing this blog!


Kahneman, D., 2011. Thinking fast and slow. London: Penguin Books Ltd.

Griffin, J. and Tyrrell, I., 2005. Freedom from addiction: the secret behind successful addiction busting. Great Britain: HG Publishing.

Amazon UK Ltd., 2014., [Accessed 14 February 2014].

Posted in Addiction, Clinical Hypnotherapy, Compulsion, Hypnosis, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hypnotherapy – NOT the Tinkerbell Effect

TinkerbellRecently I’ve had several people ask me whether hypnotherapy only works because of the Tinkerbell Effect – that is, something that is only brought about because we believe in it. If you recall in Peter Pan, Tinkerbell dies when Peter refuses to believe in her but is brought back to life by the belief of the audience.

Although I would be surprised if someone parted with their well-earned cash for something that they had absolutely no faith in, I’ve found that the most sceptical of people have actually been pretty good subjects and have had excellent results. It really makes no difference whether the client “believes” it will work or not as long as they’re prepared to cooperate to a certain extent – i.e. sit back and listen!

The biggest success is brought about when the client just goes with the process without trying to make anything happen – taking the departure from the Peter Pan analogy further, you don’t need to “think of a happy thought” in order to fly! Maybe that’s why a sceptical client does have good results – they have no preconceived expectations.

What I have discovered though, is that the more sceptical client claims that they lost weight after seeing me because they upped their exercise regime and ate less because they wanted to. That’s fine. It’s all within their control and that’s what it’s all about!

Posted in Clinical Hypnotherapy, Hypnosis

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