Tag Archives: eating

Dans Le Noir – Eating in the dark

I recently had a genuinely new experience.

My partner and I had a meal in the dark – I’m not talking about eating a burger with the lights off, I’m talking about a full three course meal, with strangers in total darkness.

It’s rare enough to be in total darkness – to literally not be able to tell if you have your eyes open or closed. Then we had the added layer of being around people we had never met (or knew were there) and eating a mystery meal.

Let me explain.

There is an amazing restaurant in London (and at other locations around the world) called Dans Le Noir. When you arrive, you go into a fairly standard waiting area with a bar. It’s dimly lit, but everything is easily visible. The host then asks you to use one of the free lockers provided to stow away your bag, coat and any piece of jewelry, watch or electronic equipment that can emit light or glows in any way.

Next you are invited to choose from the menu. You have the choice of 2 or 3 courses and a choice of menu plan – vegetarian, seafood, meat or chef’s choice, which could be anything at all. Being in an adventurous frame of mind, we both opted for the Chef’s choice and waited to be seated.

At the alloted time we were asked to enter an even more dimly lit corridor where we were told what would happen. We just needed to push through the curtain in front of us where we would be met by our waiter for the evening. With some slight trepidation we stepped into total darkness. We moved in single file with one hand on the shoulder of the person in front of us, with the front person being led by our waiter. We couldn’t see him, but he gave us clear instructions as we all shuffled round the impossibly dark room to our seats.

One of the unique elements of this restaurant is that all the waiters are blind. In normal everyday life, it’s common to think of someone who is blind as being disabled or limited, but in this situation they had the upper hand over us. Without our waiter we would have been totally lost. He navigated the space with ease and we were utterly reliant on him.

When we were seated, we found our place settings, napkins (which we were advised to tuck into our collars) and water glasses. We were seated opposite our partners on a long trestle table – think the dining hall in Harry Potter but scaled down. I actually have no idea how long it was – I’m totally guessing!

After a few minutes of working out our space and checking in with each other we worked out that there was a couple seated to my right (who had recently got married) and initially empty seats to my left.

We were bought a bottle of water. Simple enough right? Try pouring yourself a glass of water from a bottle with your eyes closed – certainly not impossible, but it takes a bit of thinking about.

Conversation quickly started. As we had heard the couple to my right, we did the fairly natural thing of introducing ourselves. Under normal circumstances, that may have been the only conversation we had with those people as we became absorbed in our own experience, but that too was changed by the dark. When a question or statement was made, we had no way of knowing who it was aimed at, so the comfortable thing to do was to respond. At one point I mentioned (to my partner) that my eyes were playing tricks on me in the darkness and it was like I could see stars – but not like the sky at night, like I was going into warp drive on a spaceship from Star Wars or something – the next thing I knew we were having a 6 way conversation with people (some of whom I had no idea were even there) about Star Wars – so surreal!

Then came the food. I don’t want to tell you guys what we ate in case you try this experience for yourselves, but I do want to share what it was like for me.

The first challenge is finding your food on the plate – I’m not going to lie, fingers played an extensive role in my eating. You just don’t get enough feedback from cutlery to let you know what you’re dealing with. Then came the taste. When you recognise what you are eating, it all makes sense, but when you are unsure it can become very confusing. I thought one piece of meat was pork, then steak before I came to the conclusion it was venison. FYI I was wrong all three times!

We both quickly realised how easily things could be adapted to make it easier when you couldn’t see – for instance you could have dents or marks in the table so that you knew where your place setting started and finished and you could make the handle of the fork different textures on the front and the back so you knew which way round it was.

Part way through our main course some new people came in and were seated on my left. It was so interesting to hear them work through things in the way we had done and to notice how quickly we had become acclimated to the situation.

It was almost disappointing when the end came and we moved back to normality. Our waiter graciously helped us back to the lit world where we saw his face for the first time – I have to admit he looked nothing like I thought he would and at that moment I realised how much store I put in what someone looks like, despite my many and varied protestations that looks do not matter. The was a quote in the reception area that said one of the unique elements of this experience was it’s lack of Vanity, and that certainly held true for me.

The final part of the experience was to have the menu shown to you. I was genuinely surprised at how wrong I had got some of it. I like to think of myself as a bit of a foodie, and whilst some of the dishes were a bit unusual, I had got some really simple stuff wrong. Like – really wrong.

I would strongly recommend this to anyone, especially someone who enjoys a great meal, but even if you’re not a gastronomic explorer, do something that changes your experience. You learn more in a couple of hours of immersion than you ever will thinking about what it would be like.

There is so much more I could write about this – it was (if you will excuse the pun) an eye opening experience, but I’ll finish with a couple of my favourite quotes from the evening.

“Just pop your finger in and you can’t go wrong”

“The tentacles got the better of me”

“Are you still there?”

and last but not least

“That’s not my hand”

 

 

 

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How do I help a fussy eater?

Hello beautiful people!

It’s May already. A third of the way through the year? How’s it going? Are you getting closer to your goals? Have you given up on them? Maybe they’ve just changed as your priorities have.

In January I decided that May would be a good month to talk about food. So, here goes.

Food – I love food. That’s not quite right – I LOVE food. I’m one of those people who wake up in the morning thinking about what they are going to eat today. I enjoy eating it, I enjoy cooking it, I enjoy shopping for it, I enjoy trying new things and revisiting old familiar things.

I like exploring food – if there is a new taste, a new texture, a new sensation to be had – I want it. My partner recently tried miracle berries. They were on my bucket list to try, so I was very excited to give them a go.

Miracle berries have a strange property. They stop you from tasting sour. So we lined up a load of foods which you normally think of as sour or sharp. We cut up lemons, limes, grapefruit and cooking apples. We got sharp tasting liquids like lemon juice, and vinegar. We got pickled things like onions and cabbage. We even got some guinness – not a classically sharp taste, but suggested as part of our little experiment. We got them all lined up and sucked on our miracle berries.

You have to keep them in your mouth for about 5 minutes. They don’t have a particular taste and there was no real sensation so I was a little doubtful that they would work. We were both a little nervous going for our first sharp flavour, but figured in for a penny, in for a pound, so grabbed a wedge of lemon and bit in….

….and it was delicious! It had the sweetest, loveliest flavour ever! We were so thrilled with the effect we blatted through the rest of the foods, amazed with their varying flavours. It was a really good fun half an hour. The effect started to wear off towards the end, but it was a gradual fade, so the sharpness just crept in slowly, and was kind of great too.

As part of my practice I’ve worked with a few people with food phobias. Generally these are adults, as for some reason, people think it’s perfectly OK for their kids to be fussy eaters. They let their kids get away with a restricted diet which then leads to issues for them as adults. As well as obvious problems like malnutrition, poor skin, poor eyesight and generally poor health, being a fussy eater can make it more difficult for people to socialise, to be around others, to train and to manage their weight. For me, eating new things is such a joy, I love helping people discover that joy for themselves.

A couple of quick tricks you can try if you are trying to eat new things.

First – don’t force it! All you are doing is building resistance if you try to force yourself to eat something. Try getting yourself in a position where you can be relaxed and comfortable before you try a new food.

Secondly – make it a really small amount. What ever food you are trying, cut a really small amount of it up. I mean really small. Then put that tiny piece in your mouth. Notice what it feels like, what tasted you notice, what thoughts it makes you think of. Do this every day for a month. Always try a small piece, but if you feel more confident, you can make it a bit bigger each time.

Finally – cook it in a different way. Don’t like boiled carrots? Try roasting them…or poaching them in sugar water with star anise, or grating them on a salad, or grating them into a bolognaise sauce, or just try them raw! Just because you don’t like them the way that you’ve tried them before, doesn’t mean you won’t like them a different way.

 

 

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How do I help someone with addiction?

One of the most frustrating things on earth is watching someone you love throw their life away on an addiction.

It seems like nothing you say or do gets through to them. In fact the more you try to help them, the deeper they seem to sink into their addiction.

Sometimes that’s just annoying. Other times it’s a life and death situation.

If someone is addicted to coffee, you may not approve, but the chance are they’ll be ok. If they’re addicted to smoking, it may well be killing them, but it’s happening slowly and it may or may not affect them. If they’re addicted to alcohol, illegal or legal drugs they could be in more imminent danger. If they’re addicted to starving themselves, you may be watching them die.

Yet, despite this they don’t seem to be able to get their heads around the damage that they are doing to themselves. It’s as though the connections between what they ‘know’ is happening and the consequences to them are entirely gone.

I know this from personal experience.

I was a smoker for 17 years. I started when I was 21 (entirely old enough to know better) and quit 5 years ago. I can remember people saying to me “you know it’s bad for you right?” as though I was a moron or lived under a rock or something. People on the street would come up to me and say things like “It’ll stunt your growth you know”. I think they thought that was funny as I’m 6ft tall and a grown ass woman. My mum (an ex smoker) hated the fact I smoked and would ask me repeatedly to quit.

None of that made any difference.

It wasn’t about education either. As I said, I started smoking when I was 21. I was working as a microbiologist in Liverpool having been to University studying Biochemistry. I knew what smoking did to a body. I knew what it ‘could’ do to me. The thing was, it didn’t really do anything nasty at first. It was just a laugh with mates when we were out drinking. By the time I’d developed a smokers cough, I was already well into the addicted part.

So what made me try to quit? For me it was my best friend. I was complaining to her about people moaning at me about smoking and she said “So, are you just going to smoke until you die?” That was it. No attitude, no lecture, just a question. A question I had to think about. As I thought about it over the next couple of weeks I realised I didn’t want to die a smoker. I could visualise what my old woman self would look like smoking and coughing, wheezing along, maybe with an oxygen tank….and it horrified me. So then I had to think, well if I don’t want to die smoking, I’m going to have to quit at some point. Why not now? I mean it’s not like it’s going to get any easier?

Here’s my advice.

Don’t

  1. Don’t Nag – it’s annoying and it just makes people dig their heals in.
  2. Don’t lecture – it just makes the person being lectured at think up opposite arguments, which then helps to persuade them that what they’re doing is OK
  3. Don’t promise rewards for abstinence – study after study has shown that offering rewards convinces the psyche that it must mean that thing they are being asked to do is difficult.

Do

  1. Model the behaviour you want them to adopt. If you have someone in your life who is drinking too much, don’t drink around them. Don’t make a thing of it, just don’t do it. If you do what you are asking them not to, it just normalizes it for them and they think you’re an idiot.
  2. Spend time with them. Show them they are loved and worth loving. One of the main reasons people self harm (and addiction IS a form of self harm) is because they don’t like themselves very much
  3. Do fun stuff that distracts from their addiction. The more good stuff they have going on in their lives, the less room there is for bad stuff.
  4. Ask questions. Get them to think about what they are doing, in their own time, in their own way
  5. Be prepared for the fact that you may never get through to them. Ultimately you have to accept that it’s their life to live.

One final note – don’t forget to look after yourself. Don’t get obsessed with their addiction. It won’t help you or them. Take care of yourself and model healthy, social behaviour. It’s more powerful than you know.


If you or someone you know has an issue with addiction, get help. You do not have to deal with this on your own. There are plenty of support groups online and in person. There are also thousands of professionals out there who can help you.

Good luck on your journey

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Eat more to lose weight

Recently I seem to have a lot of people telling me they can’t lose weight because they aren’t eating enough.

I don’t buy it.

There is a very simple equation when it comes to losing weight. If you put more in than you are using, you put on weight. If you put the same amount in as you are using, you stay the same. If you put less in than you are using, you lose weight.

OK, I accept that if you are doing a lot of training and building muscle, then that can go a little awry as muscle weighs more than fat, but in that case you will still be losing fat, even if you are not losing weight.

So what’s going on? Are people just in denial? Are they lying to me? Are they lying to themselves? My guess is the answer is yes to at least one of those if not all.

Let’s start by thinking about them lying to themselves. Did you know that when people are asked to keep a food diary, they normally under report the calories they are eating by about a third – yes 33% less than what they are actually consuming. They don’t do it deliberately, but it happens all the same. This comes from a number of things.

  1. They don’t notice that they’ve eaten a slightly larger portion than they should have had. Or that they’ve had seconds!
  2. They forgot about that sweet, cookie, crisp or snack that they had.
  3. They forget that what they drink also contains calories (unless you are drinking, pure unadulterated water) 140 calories in a can of coke, 210 calories in a pint of cider, 600 calories in a bottle of wine.
  4. They add little extras to their food like a drizzle of olive oil or a splash of dressing (both of which are likely to be over 100 calories)
  5. They read the calories wrong – for instance if you buy a pre-prepared meal it may have a calorie amount printed on the packaging – but look carefully as this often applies to 1/2 or 1/4 or the amount of food in there as this is what they consider to be a serving size.

Then comes the lying to me. As well as the fact that they may think they are telling the truth, but are in fact actually lying (see above!) there is also the fact that a lot of people are ashamed of their eating habits. They are secret eaters and don’t like to think that other people will know about it. Quite often this type of over eater is a binger. That is to say, they maintain a normal looking diet to the world, but secretly they will binge on snacks. I understand this, but lying is a very self destructive path to take when it comes to food. What you are saying to yourself is ‘my true self is not good enough’ ‘I have to hide it or others will not like me’ ‘my true self is not likeable’. This is, of course, not true. Your eating habits may be out of control, but that doesn’t make you unlikable.

The best way to get control of your eating, is to start by being honest. It’s the bedrock that everything else builds from. So this week, my challenge to you, is to really pay attention to what you are putting in your mouth! Notice what you eat. Notice what you drink. Notice when you are secretly eating. That way if you decide you want to change things, you have a good, solid place to start from.


Being overweight put additional strain on your body and leads to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cancer, stroke and heart attack – 4 major killers in the western world. If you struggle to get control of your weight on your own, think about getting some help. It really doesn’t have to be hard.

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Food Phobia – Fussy Eating and it’s causes

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?

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Emotional eating – what that really means.

How we feel affects our appetites – for some more than others.

One of the ways people say that they can tell if there in love is that they go off their food.

For other people, being in a relationship (hopefully a happy one) will make them eat more.

An experiment was done recently where a group of people were sent on a mock driving test. No matter how good a driver you are, being tested is never nice and the tester in this case was trying to make them feel anxious. They were asked to do difficult manoeuvres and notes were taken without any comments. When they came back they were introduced to another group who had had a relaxing couple of hours. They had been chatting and listening to music – in general, they were just calm. They were then invited to an all you can eat buffet. When the amount eaten by each group was analysed it was found that the ‘stressed’ group ate many more calories than the ‘relaxed group’ – over 30% more. Although both groups had access to the same foods and had eaten the same thing earlier in the day, their experiences made them eat differently.

On the other hand some people lose a lot of weight, because their appetite dries up if they are stressed or upset. A phenomenon known as the ‘break up diet’ or ‘divorce diet’ is well documented. When we go through the trauma of a break up it can upset us so much that we go into a kind of grieving process and stop eating. This isn’t a deliberate act, the person concerned just has no hunger and food tastes unpleasant if they try to eat.

So all this can seem contradictory – when we are in love we can lose our appetite or eat more – the same goes for when we are stressed.

The truth seems to be much more about how we feel about ourselves during these processes and about how we want to feel. Food is often used to change the way we feel, but if we feel like we need to be in that emotional state, we tend to eat less.

The truth about all emotional eating is that when we eat we tend to go for comfort foods – foods that are high in fat/sugar/salt or all three. This is because these tend to set off the reward centres in our brains that make us feel better.

If you are trying to lose weight and think you are an emotional eater – before you eat something ask yourself – am I hungry. If the answer is yes, then ask yourself, am I hungry enough to eat an apple? If the answer to that is no, then your not actually hungry at all! Try doing something else to get your pleasure centres working – go for a walk, have a bath or play a game. When you’re hungry enough to eat something good for you, then eat that and be proud of yourself!

If you struggle with this or any other bad eating habit it may be worth seeking some help from a Hypnotherapist – they can help you to change your eating habit easily and permanently.

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