Pimagine a flickering candle flame,” the man across the room tells me. We are in a small office just off a busy street. The blinds are drawn and I’m relaxed in a therapist-style chair. My eyes are closed. I try desperately to imagine this flame. As hard as I try to see the flicker, it just doesn’t happen.
Hypnotherapy was never something I had considered for weight loss. I have been overweight most of my life and have tried time and time again to embrace body positivity. But with my wedding coming up later this year, I wanted to feel like the best version of myself that day — which for me would be a stone or two lighter than I am right now.
Calorie counting had worked up to a point. I was exercising more than ever before. But nothing seemed to move. Panicked, I was ready to try anything. Maybe a mindset change would help? I found a hypnotherapist on Google who had multiple five star reviews and promised results you could feel immediately. Some previous patients said he had “completely changed their lives”. Others said the pounds fell off after just one session. Could this be the magic cure I’ve been waiting for?
This is not my first rodeo with alternative practices. Last year, I spoke to a psychic right after my grandmother passed away, and the experience gave me and my family the closure we desperately needed. Hypnotherapy had also worked for my father. It got him off smoking for 20 years, so I thought, why not? Maybe it will work for me too. The price of several hundred pounds was the thing that kept me from booking it straight away. It was more than my monthly rent, and more than I could reasonably afford. Especially with marriage on the horizon. But desperate times call for desperate measures, so after re-reading the rave reviews, I went ahead and booked.
It’s a windy Monday afternoon in March when I arrive at the hypnotherapist’s office. He greets me with a megawatt smile that wouldn’t look out of place in a toothpaste commercial. As the session begins, my hopes are high. For the first hour, at least. We are talking about my childhood. My relationship with food. My relationship with myself. Barely superficial stuff. He promises that we will delve deeper into these topics when we get to the “core” of the session.
I explain to him that what I hope to get out of it is a change of mindset. I feel like something isn’t wired properly in my brain (a feeling supported by countless studies that have shown overweight or obese people have hormones that can rewire the part of their brain that regulates appetite). So maybe, I think, he can tinker with that in a metaphorical sense and sort that out for me.
My first red flag should be the way he talks to me. He has the tone of a car salesman. I feel like he’s selling me something instead of really caring about my reasons for being here. This feeling of uncertainty worsens when he learns that I am a journalist and that he wants to know if I would report on the session. Not exactly the best start for someone who’s supposed to be about to change my life.
Prior to the session, the only experience I had had with hypnotherapy was what I had seen on TV. I imagined him snapping his fingers and sinking me into a deep sleep. On a call with him before the in-person meeting, he told me that wasn’t going to happen. Instead, he said some people closed their eyes and “woke up” an hour and a half later feeling completely transformed. Others, he says, enter a deep state somewhere between conscious and unconscious.
The second red flag came at the start of the hypnotherapy session. While I didn’t expect to enter a dream state straight away, I also didn’t expect steel drum sounds to start emanating from the room. The therapist’s voice drops four octaves. I instantly feel both ridiculous and uncomfortable. It begins to make me imagine everything from flames to bright white light. I knew hypnotherapy would be a bit “woo-woo”, but maybe the word “clinical” made me think there would be some kind of certified method attached. Forty minutes later, I realize I’m just a woman in a dark room, listening to a man spout nonsense in my general direction.
So I do the only thing I think about. I open my eyes and ask if I can be excused to go to the bathroom. I have to get out of this room and take a minute. Looking at myself in the bathroom mirror, I have to laugh. did i just get scammed? Or, more precisely, am I in the middle of being ripped off? I think back to what just happened. It felt like nothing more than the end of a yoga class. You know the moment when you lay back and listen to the soothing music while your teacher sings along?
“I don’t think this works for me,” I said walking back into the room. I entertain the idea of doing a runner, but the ghost of my weight loss hypnotherapist is unfortunately not at the top of my list of life achievements. I explain to him that I don’t feel anything and that focusing on the flame or the white light won’t do anything to stop me from eating that extra piece of cake.
We are trying a different approach. It leads me to imagine myself as a child and to think about what I would say to her and what she would say to me. That’s nice, but again that’s not exactly what I signed up for.
Maybe I’m expecting too much, maybe even expecting a miracle. After trying to lose weight steadily for two decades — I was first taken to a dietitian when I was eight — I just wanted someone who could help ease the process. It’s a shortcut I was willing to bet on, but ultimately didn’t pay off. The session ends abruptly. He promises to send me follow-up notes (which I later find out to be more or less a scam of The secret). I try to avoid eye contact, lest daggers (or worse, tears) spring out.
“I think I just got scammed,” I texted my partner as I left the office, eager to tell him about the ridiculous afternoon I had just had. As I spout a voice note and walk to my train, I decide to grab a bar of M&S chocolate that I crave. As I eat it, guilt-free – hey, it’s delicious – I realize that I don’t need a miracle or a man in a dark office to tell me what to do. All I need is more self-confidence, and I was never going to find it there.
#thought #hypnosis #lose #weight #turned #disaster