Most of the people I see as a Hypnotherapist come to me for something to do with food.
For the vast majority of those people it’s that they would like to not eat so much of it. They want to change their relationship with food so that they are in charge and so that they can easily say no to junk food and eat in a more healthy way.
For some people it’s that they would like to eat more. They either have some obsessive compulsive behaviour around food (separating foods out, liquidising food, not allowing foods to touch, feeling sick at the thought of eating certain foods etc. etc.) Anorexic and bulimic behaviours also fall into this category but are often more complicated and have underlying emotional issues that need to be resolved alongside them.
A lot of people that fall into the ‘eat more’ group have had a negative experience when eating food. Quite often that was a choking incident and it has left them with a fear of eating. Almost all phobias are learned responses. We can learn them from the people around us (you tend to find that kids who have parents who are scared of spiders will continue that phobia themselves), or we can learn them through experience (something scared us, hurt us or upset us in some way). The initial scary event is often referred to as the sensitizing event of the phobia. Normally this is followed up some time later by a confirming event. Let’s say for instance you choked on a piece of steak. That initial choking is the sensitizing event. The next time you go to eat steak, you remember that you choked last time and are a little apprehensive. This causes your mouth to dry up, your throat to tighten slightly and your heart rate to increase. You notice this and it causes increased anxiety which in turn causes the anxiety to kick up a notch. The increase in adrenaline in your system makes you feel a bit queasy – like that sick feeling you get before you go on stage – but you link that churning stomach to the steak. Now you have a phobia.
One of the common mistakes parents make when they have a child who is a fussy eater is to accept this behaviour. They can start to accommodate the child’s preference for this or that or their dislike of certain foods. By changing the foods that they give the child, they are confirming that they had a reason to refuse it in the first place. This in effect becomes confirming behaviour and leads to food issues. The other common mistake is to fight with the child and attempt to make them eat it. Now the confirming event is that every time the food that they don’t like is put in front of them, there will be stress and confrontation.
So what do you do?
Current thinking is that the best way to deal with a child who is a fussy eater is to continue to give them the foods they dislike if you are having them as part of a family meal. If they choose to leave them, don’t make a big deal of it. They just get less food. If they see their parents and siblings enjoying that food they are much more likely to give it a try and they have no negative associations with it.
If you are an adult who has developed food phobias in the past – get help! The world of food is an enjoyable one. As with any other phobia Hypnotherapy offers great success in getting rid of it for ever – what are you waiting for?