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Can’t face your New Year diet? This mother set out to lose weight by hypnosis – and the results were mesmerising
By Lydia Slater Mail Online
UPDATED: 11:43, 31 December 2009
Revelation: Lydia Slater had been struggling to lose weight for four years before trying hypnotherapy
Four years ago, after I had my second baby, a spare tyre settled comfortably around my waist and refused to budge.
Nothing I tried seemed able to puncture it.
I went to the gym three times a week, I gave up alcohol, I briefly tried the Atkins diet and went to WeightWatchers.
But the bathroom scales still told the same depressing story.
Obviously, my job as a food writer didn’t help – but I wasn’t going to give that up. So in the end, I shrugged and decided that, as I headed towards 40, my metabolism had slowed down and there wasn’t much I could do about it (apart from invest in a pair or two of Spanx control pants).
Even so, it was a nasty shock when I idly looked up my body mass index one day to find that at 121⁄2st, and 5ft 8in tall, I was officially overweight.
My BMI was 26.65, which meant I was at risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
But even that news wasn’t enough to make me take radical action. I didn’t really believe what my bathroom scales were telling me.
Throughout my 20s and early 30s, I’d been effortlessly slim. When I looked in the mirror, I still saw the athletic size 12 I’d always been, not the 14/16 I had become.
Besides, I despised people who worried obsessively about their looks. By eating what I wanted, I reasoned, I was blowing a huge raspberry in the face of the body fascists who want us all to look like Barbie.
I thought this was a highly original point of view, so it was with a weird feeling of recognition that I read Lily Allen’s comments on her weight, after she’d dropped two dress sizes through hypnotherapy.
‘I used to pride myself on being strong-minded and not being some stupid girl obsessed with the way I look. I felt like it didn’t matter if I was a bit chubby,’ she said.
But having gone down to a size eight, she said she couldn’t be happier.
So perhaps I was wrong. Was I really happy, I asked myself, being officially overweight and having to wear ironclad undies under any tight dress?
So as a last resort, I decided to try to lose some weight by hypnosis just like Lily.
After all, other famous fatties turned thinnies – like Sophie Dahl, Geri Halliwell and the Duchess of York – had all done it.
Without any expectations of success, I took myself off to the Harley Street Hypnotherapy Clinic to see Lulu Appleton, a hypnotherapist who treats all sorts of problems including weight loss through hypnosis.
As she’s also a psychotherapist, she aims to uncover the roots of the problem before trying to cure it.
Friendly and down to earth, she swiftly winkled out the eating habits that had been indoctrinated in me from childhood.
I’ve never liked chocs, sweets and junk food, which is why so many diet books don’t strike a chord. We ate very healthily in my family.
The trouble was, we also ate too much. My mother’s motto was, ‘one day, you’ll be licking the place where that lay!’ and the cleaner our plates were, the more we were praised.
By the time I was a skinny 12-year-old, I’d learned that the way to draw gasps of admiration was to attempt to eat more than my father. (My nickname, by the way, was Lydia Dustbin.)
But habits that may be beneficial when you’re growing taller by 10cm a year are less helpful once you’ve reached your full height.
Unfortunately, even today, I feel anxious and deprived unless I’ve got a giant portion of food on my plate.
I eat extremely fast (another hangover from childhood, when to leave anything on your plate was to risk having it snatched by a sibling) and find the sensation of being full to bursting positively comforting.
And, just like my mother, throwing food away is anathema to me.
My fridge is always full of little bowls of the kids’ leftovers that I’m going to make into something else.
Which means that at times, I find my job verges on mental torture – when, for instance, I have to taste test 10 lasagne against each other, I try to freeze and eat the remnants over weeks, because I can’t bear to bin all that food.
Finally, I unveiled my anti-Barbie life philosophy, but the therapist wasn’t impressed.
‘Well,’ she said, ‘let me ask you this. Would you be happier going to a party as a size 16 or as a size 12?’
I can’t deny the truth – being a size 12 would be a lot better.
‘There you are, then. You have to make compromises in life.’
Suddenly my defiant philosophy seemed juvenile and silly. I was rather nervous about the actual hypnosis, but there was no metronome, no swinging pendulum or ‘look into my eyes, you’re under’ riff.
Instead, I lay on a sofa while Lulu guided me through a relaxation routine, focusing on different parts of my body, and gradually, the little internal monologue that kept repeating ‘this isn’t working!’ quietened down and eventually shut up altogether.
When she asked me to give her a sign with my left hand that I was happy to take her suggestions, it felt like lifting a lead weight.
In a low, soothing voice, she told me that I would now only be attracted to healthy food; that when I was full, I would stop eating, and that I wouldn’t feel the need to clear my plate.
When she told me to open my eyes, I was astonished to see that 45 minutes had gone by, although I felt fully conscious all the time.
Feeling rather spaced-out, I left her consulting rooms and headed straight off to a dinner party, hosted by a friend who’s a professional cook.
He produced a wonderful beef and wild mushroom stew with mashed potatoes, followed by quince and frangipane tart.
Everyone else around the table had two helpings of stew, but I couldn’t even finish my first helping.
And while I had a slice of tart, mine was about half the size of the others’.
Strangest of all, the old feelings of panic and deprivation had gone. Instead, I was filled with a bubbling exhilaration from not eating.
A few days later, I went out with my family to a Chinese restaurant and couldn’t finish my bowl of soup.
Before the hypnosis, I would not only have finished it, and ordered something else on top, but I’d have been counting the dumplings in my bowl to make sure I hadn’t been short-changed.
Of course, it’s not just about altering your unconscious. You have to make conscious efforts as well. This therapist asks her clients to commit to two exercise sessions a week – no problem for me, as I was doing it anyway – and to follow a lower-fat diet.
Hypnotherapy: Lydia’s only regret is that it took her so long to start
Because this isn’t a quick fix but an eating plan for life, nothing is banned.
‘If you go out for dinner and you eat the most delicious chocolate mousse, enjoy it, don’t feel guilty!’ she told me.
‘Remember that it takes about three days for food to be converted into adipose fat, so as long as you cut back a bit the next day, nothing bad will happen.’
I obeyed her instructions religiously.
For the first time ever, I bought lower-fat butter and skimmed milk. I also got a saturated fat counter to check out exactly how much fat there was in what I was eating.
On the fourth day, in a rather premature celebration of my anticipated new physique, my husband came home from work with a new dress for me.
As I tried it on, I looked in the mirror and couldn’t see anything below my chin – everything else was a blur.
‘Brain haemorrhage!’ I panicked, ringing a doctor friend. He diagnosed a migraine and sent me off to bed.
When I rang the hypnotherapist the next day, she was surprised but confirmed that it might have been brought on by the hypnosis, which had forced me to relax when I normally live my life in a state of heightened tension.
‘The weekend migraine is a recognised symptom of stress,’ she said. I’d never had one like that before and wondered whether the weight loss was worth the agony.
At the end of the week, purely for form’s sake, I got onto my bathroom scales. To my astonishment, my weight appeared to have dropped by 2lb.
Migraine or no, I was going back.
This time, the hypnotherapist transported me mentally into a long corridor full of doors. Behind one of them, I had locked away all my negative beliefs about my weight and diet.
I was instructed to open the door a crack and walk away.
‘Don’t be surprised if you suddenly find memories to do with weight popping into your head,’ she told me, when we were chatting after the session.
‘The idea is to get them out of the unconscious into the conscious mind so they stop blocking you.’
Afterwards, despite my post-hypnotherapy wooziness, I headed off to hunt for a new pair of jeans.
I ended up in Selfridges, buying, to my own amazement, a pair of skintight jeggings. ‘You’ll need a size 12,’ the assistant said, taking away the 14s.
I was so thrilled, it was hard to stop myself singing on the way home.
A couple of days later, I was in the middle of bathing the children when out of the blue, I remembered after I split up with my first love, 15 years ago, he found a new, very thin girlfriend that I immediately nicknamed the ‘Stick Insect’.
Hypnotherapy helps 70 per cent of slimmers lose weight, according to celebrity hypnotherapist Paul McKenna
We were all invited to the same party, and I noticed his best friend nudging him and comparing my upper arms with hers.
I ignored him; but thinking about it, I realised I hadn’t worn a sleeveless top since. A nasty glance 15 years ago entirely altered my wardrobe.
This struck me as so silly that I started laughing, while the kids looked at me in amazement.
Generally, the effects of the hypnosis seemed to fade three or four days after the session, which is when I found myself gravitating towards the fridge or unconsciously finishing the children’s platefuls.
The habits of years are heard to break and even after four sessions, I still caught myself on the verge of eating when I didn’t want or need to.
But because my unconscious thoughts were now out in the open, I grew better at recognising these danger moments.
When I had an unhelpful thought (such as: ‘I can’t throw this away,’ or ‘it’s not fair, he’s had two chocolates and I haven’t had any’) I followed the hypnotherapists instructions and simply said: ‘No! Go away!’
She also emailed regular updates from the previous session, going over what we had covered, which helped to harden my resolve.
By week three, I’d lost 5lb. ‘Think of that as ten packets of butter from around your waist,’ she said.
I told her about the upper arm phobia and she said I lacked confidence. In this session, she transported me up to my own star, where I had to imagine myself wrapped in a bright, healing light.
I was also instructed to pinch my left ear whenever I find myself eating without thinking.
My homework was to write a list of what was good about me. I also had to gaze at myself in the mirror every morning, before I get dressed, and appreciate what I see.
The next morning, I did just that and was surprised to see that the ‘mummy tummy’ had visibly shrunk.
My thighs were slimmer, and I’d lost weight from my face, too. By now, other people were starting to notice – especially my mother, who was thrilled.
‘You look like yourself again,’ she told me.
I had a last top-up session just before Christmas to help me cope with the foodfest to come.
‘I want you to enjoy Christmas,’ said my hypnotherapist while I lay there with my eyes closed.
But on the day itself, I didn’t feel like more than one helping.
On my plate was just a single roast potato and one chipolata alongside the turkey, sprouts and carrots.
I had a glass of wine and a sliver of Christmas pud. And I didn’t feel virtuous or deprived.
I had exactly what I wanted, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
It’s just that these days, I seem to want a lot less.
When I got on the scales on Boxing Day – which is probably the worst day in the year for anybody on a diet to weigh themselves – I found that I’d lost 11lb.
There’s still some way to go, of course, but my BMI is back within the healthy range at 24.98.
And I feel completely confident that with the help of another session or two, I will get myself back down to the size 10/12 that I’ve always been in my head.
My only regret is that it took me so long to start.
Contact Linda Alexander to lose weight with hypnotherapy. 0141 632 1440 / 07875 493 358