The Fourth ‘F’

Fight, Flight and Freeze.  The study of comparative psychology has long since identified three bulk-standard responses inherited from our forebears when under threat. These three responses have a lot in common including high emotional state, typically fear or rage, and physiological preparedness for a fight or to run away. From neurology we know that these responses are managed by the emotional brain, the old lizard brain that sits on top of the brain stem and keeps us alive with its quick and dirty responses. We also know during these responses, blood flow to the pre-frontal cortex changes, effectively shuts down our higher-learning areas, our ability to consider, to weigh choices, to deliberate. Indeed, it’s only when things calm down that our clients can explore choices and perspectives, judge long term consequences. Unfortunately,by this point it’s usually too late, they’ve already glassed their husband.

‘Strong emotions make us stupid’ – Joseph LeDoux.

‘Strong emotions make us stupid’, it’s a common refrain within Cognitive Hypnotherapy. And for many of our clients, strong emotions make them un-resourceful, leaving them with poor and, in most cases, habitual behaviours based upon ‘choices’ made as a child. It’s certainly my experience that a child that fights is an adult that fights. A child that freezes is an adult that freezes. And a child that flees, is an adult that flees.

FourthF-500I want to make the case for a fourth ‘F’ – another type of emotional hijacking. It’s a little more subtle than the others and doesn’t involved the strong behavioural change that you tend to notice with the other three. It’s also an entirely human response, one not available our distant lizard, bird or mammal cousins. The fourth ‘F’ is ‘Fantasy’.

I had a number of clients together exhibiting the same phenomenon over a short period of time, which made me curious about what was going on. And then I saw a TV drama which hit the nail square on the head. A husband was talking to his wife, telling her he’d had an affair and almost without a beat passing she returns with ‘I had a letter from Sheila, she’s having new windows put in. Do you think we should have new windows?’ The only difference was that the voice was just a little agitated and hurried, the glance was away and down. Maybe that nasty thing will go away if we don’t mention it. Now what was for dinner? This is an avoidance strategy, a type of defence to keep the pain away, a deflection, an evasion. You might also call it a type of mental ‘Fleeing’, one that only our type of hardware is capable of.

The way I found it turning up in client sessions is that clients would suddenly not answer important questions but instead start a new thread or find some other way of diverting the conversation. It’s the subconscious saying ‘oh god, not that, anything but that!’ and switching to a completely different track in the hope you’ll lose the scent. This is probably not just in response to questioning from a third party; it probably mimics their internal state every-time they should be evaluating problematic situations, behaviours and emotions. In terms of the hypnotic phenomenon, it marks out a solid ‘deletion’ of their experience, an amnesia, negative hallucination and a launching into some positive hallucination or age progression.

In most cases it’s our job to re-connect our clients to a richer map of the world, to identify the areas they previously marked out as ‘dangerous’, and safely reintegrating this information in a non-threatening way. We also need to consider their strategies too. If their reality is truly unbearable and their fantasy is allowing them to cope, we have to make a choice. Do we help them make better decisions in regards to the big choices in their lives: their partners, jobs, location? Or, say, in the case of terminal cancer, maybe improving or installing a coping strategy might be the best way to go. There’s always the tomato plants to consider! Either way, without identifying that the client has a big hole in their map, it will be difficult to help them since they’ll always be pulling in a different direction, without knowing why.

HIV Diagnosis and The Process of Adjustment

This incredible story of Luke Alexander, who’s been HIV positive for just a year, shows us all how brave and well adjusted a person can be when responding to such devastating news.

BBC Newsbeat: Luke has been HIV+ for a yearThere are so many layers and levels to deal with.  There’s the initial ‘oh shit’ to deal with, there’s the ‘am I going to die’ and there’s the ‘who do I tell?’.  There’s guilt, remorse, regret, anger towards the self and the other person involved, it goes on.  These are not simple points to deal with and require an emotional maturity that you don’t often see in an 19 year old.

In some ways Luke is lucky to be young, there’s a big difference between Luke’s generation, my generation, and my parents’ generation – each of which has its own stereotypes about HIV and AIDS.  Luke lives at a time when HIV is a manageable disease akin to diabetes which can be managed by regular medication.  Nonetheless, it can be truly isolating for some.  Luke’s decision to be public and fearless about his condition means that the people he meets will ‘self-sort’ into those that can see past the disease and those that can’t.  There are enough HIV dating sites and social and support groups to ensure that he’ll be able to find loving, caring HIV+ people to surround himself with, even if he can’t find it in the general population.  His attitude is truly heroic.  His attitude is rare.  Even in gay circles, it’s rare for people to be so open about their HIV status.  There’s still a stigma attached.   There’s still fear about ‘people at work’ finding out, losing friends, or parents that might be devastated. And if you’re heterosexual or black the stigma can be much worse and much more isolating.

I don’t know how Luke managed in the period immediately following his diagnosis but, for most people, there is a lot of adjustments to make.  There is a process to go through.  It can be similar to what goes on when a person grieves: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally Acceptance.  There are similar processes for people who go through other traumas, such as assault.  There is no time limit for the brain to make these adjustments but in my experience most can do it within a year.  It depends on the person, it depends upon their belief system and resilience and there are other factors we don’t understand yet.  And, there are some people who can’t.

Some people get lost.  Actually, some people get stuck.  I don’t know if there is a technical name for a person that can’t get over a bad diagnosis but for regular trauma cases, the analogue is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), for grief, it’s ‘Prolonged Grief Disorder’!  Just to set the context, in the case of PTSD, it is not a disorder to have nightmares, insomnia, hyper-vigilance, anxiety, etc.  It only becomes a ‘disorder’ when we don’t return to normal after a reasonable time.  We are supposed to be impacted, shocked, stressed, vigilant, etc. we are supposed to learn lessons, and then we are supposed to move on, that’s how it works.  And, some people can’t because they don’t know how.

This is when it becomes an issue for therapy.  Thankfully chronic trauma, in its many forms, is a treatable condition.  The symptoms are many, isolation, anger, guilt, addiction, etc.  If this applies to you or somebody you care about then it may be time to talk.

Author: Simon Bates, Freedom Hypnosis
Cognitive Hypnotherapist working with London’s YMCA Positve Health Programme.


Suicide and Young Gay Men

There’s a disproportionate number of young gay men committing suicide. Very disproportionate. If the figures from Stonewall’s 2011 study of gay and bisexual men is to be believed 27% of gay and 38% of bisexual men said they had considered taking their own life in the previous year – this compares to just 4% of heterosexual men. And this was a big survey – 6,861 respondents from Britain. It gets worse.

Of the respondents, 3% of gay men and 5% of bisexual men had actually taken steps to take their own life in the previous year. Apparently the comparable rate is 0.4% of all men. It gets worse.

What if we look at just the young men? 10% of gay and bisexual men aged between 16 and 19 actually took steps to take their own life in the last year. 1 in 10. If you go to a gay bar with lots of young gay men, look over into one corner – proportionally – all the gay men in that corner took action to kill themselves last year. If that doesn’t shock you, there’s something wrong.

We could spend hours debating the real reason for this: coming out early, coming out late, permissive society, disapproving society, too many rules, not enough rules, too much drugs/alcohol, not enough, too much internet use, not enough, freedom to be gay, not enough freedom to be gay, too many gay role models, not enough,  too selfish, too selfless, being able to marry, not being able to marry, too much coddling, too little, too much religion, not enough. I hope that clears things up.  Certainly, I’ve heard arguments for all the above.

We could ask those young men what’s wrong but most people aren’t good at giving you reasons when they’re an emotional mess.  Frankly, it could be your phone running out of charge that can push a vulnerable person over the edge.

Here’s what I think.  Think about the changes that most of these men are going through in their teenage/early adult years (most of which only apply to young gay men):

  • they are coming out (to mixed reviews!)
  • they are going through the difficult years that follow from puberty
  • they will likely have their most emotionally charged relationships and break-ups in this period
  • they are becoming independent and usually separated from their usual unconditional emotional support
  • they are more likely to have moved from home (young gay men move to the cities, actually they run…)
  • they are experiencing drugs and alcohol for the first time.
  • HIV infection, or constant fear of infection

It’s a lot to deal with for people without enough life experience.  These young men haven’t learnt yet about how to be emotionally resilient. The people they are attached to emotionally and provide emotional support (friends, parents, teachers, lovers) can, and do, suddenly remove that emotional support and even reject them.

Drugs and alcohol are huge problems for young gay men.  They lead to risky behaviour that leads to guilt and regret.  But worse, they lead to huge ups and downs, often days later.  So a normal day might feel like an unbearable weight, for no apparent ‘reason’.

Generally, we all learn to be emotionally resilient over the years – at least to some extent.  The question is whether we manage to do this in time and without too much damage along the way.  Thankfully this emotional resilience can be learnt through CBT and/or Cognitive Hypnotherapy. These are also good ways of dealing with excessive drug or alcohol use, as can issues of identity and self-worth.

And sometimes, people just need somebody to talk to.

Better Sleep

Better Sleep Through HypnosisThere are few things that sabotage a day more than a poor night’s sleep and if it continues our mental and physical health can suffer.  

There are also a wide range of issues affecting the duration and quality of sleep.

Hypnosis has been used for many years to improve the quality of sleep for many. Our sleep is managed by a host of unconscious systems within the nervous system and hypnosis is one of the only impactful methods for addressing problems in these areas.

If you’re suffering from:

  • too little (insomnia) or too much (hypersomnia) sleep
  • nightmares
  • poor quality of sleep

it’s worth calling for an appointment and an assessment. Hypnosis can help with all of these issues. You may already have tried off-the-shelf hypnosis products for sleep with varying results. The advantage of booking a hypnotherapy session will be that the treatment will be tailored to your exact situation.

In most situations, in addition to the initial treatment, you will be able to benefit from a bespoke MP3 track to listen to at night that will help you get into a normal and natural healthy sleep routine.

I’m Scared of the Dentist – Dental Phobias & Hypnosis

I’ve asked around and I’m a bit shocked.  There’s a really big question that many really good therapists don’t ask when somebody comes to them with a fear of going to the dentist. The question they don’t ask is: ‘Well, is your dentist any good?’  They completely ignore the fact that you really should be very scared of some dentists.  There are some really bad ones out there and I think it would be negligent of me to send a client to one of these clinics with a smile on their face.  All dentists are not the same.  I’m all for getting rid of irrational fears but not the rational ones.

But this post is not about how to find the right dentist for you; this post is about phobias in general and dental phobias in particular.  As a therapist, I understand the structure of phobias, how they start, how they develop and what needs to happen to make them go away.  Phobias are great examples of ‘one trial learning’.  Something bad happens, it’s highly emotional, threatening and painful; our unconscious mind takes a snap-shot of what’s going so we can avoid this situation in the future.  It’s a useful mechanism, it helps to keep us alive, it keeps us away from edges and stops us playing with fire.  This mechanism is really old as well, part of the limbic system which we’ve had since we were birds.  Unfortunately there’s far more evolutionary pressure on things that don’t scare us enough as opposed to being scared more often than necessary. The result is that we’re stuck with this primitive, somewhat over-protective, yet extremely useful mechanism.

Because the limbic system is pre-conceptual and outside of our conscious awareness or control, we don’t get much say in how it operates. Phobias and the whole fight and flight mechanism actually kicks in before the information gets to higher level of consciousness where the danger can be assessed more objectively.  In fact, when this extreme fear is triggered, one of the first things to happen is the inhibition of the frontal lobe, the modern part of our brain, that helps us to deliberate and make decisions.   Evolution has decided that it’s unnecessary for us to deliberate over the best action when faced with a predator; in this instance our attention it riveted to these intense feelings of wanting to run away.  Control is ceded to our bird-brain.

So we have this mechanism and once triggered it’s in total control.  As to what events the mechanism responds to – these are learnt.  We’re not born with a fear of dentists, lifts, planes, etc.  So what typically happens is the young child, who will be more sensitive to discomfort than an adult, is taken out of his usual routine and dragged to the dentists.  This is an unfamiliar and scary environment for most children.  A good dentist takes time to ensure the child is calm and comfortable before beginning.  The other dentist, with his eye on the clock, exudes frustration and irritation toward the child that won’t sit still and this sets-up a sensitivity to be scared and hurt.  If the dentist is clumsy and doesn’t use modern pain control methods, the pain or discomfort triggers the child’s fight or flight mechanism. A mental snap-shot is taken and stored in the child’s memory.  Typically, the child will store ‘this dentist is a danger to me’, ‘dentists are a danger to me’ or ‘whirring, grinding noises are a danger to me’.  Any part of the memory can be a stimulus for the phobic response.  The adult and rational response would be, ‘I’m never going back to this dentist again.’   But in the future, the primitive brain is in control any time the stimulus from this snap-shot is triggered; the fear response closes down any rational response until the person is away from the stimulus.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has many ways of dealing with phobias, such as gradual desensitisation where the client is encouraged to face their fear a little bit more each session – sitting outside the dentist’s clinic one week, inside the clinic the next week, in the chair the next if they are able.  They might learn breathing exercises to help control the fear as it starts to get out of control but that doesn’t sound like a lot of fun to me.  This approach can easily take several months and often only leaves the person coping and (less) afraid.

Cognitive Hypnotherapy, on the other hand, takes a different approach to phobias.  By understanding how these early, traumatic, memories are encoded, we can recode these early memories in a way that no longer trips the fight or flight mechanism in the brain.  Many simple phobias (those having a single stimulus) can be treated with as little as a single session.

Some dentists and doctors are actually trained in hypnosis so as to ensure their clients remain stress-free through treatments.  In fact, shortly before modern anaesthesia was developed it was quite common for both dentists and doctors to train in hypnosis for the purpose of pain control.  The introduction of cheap, safe and effective anaesthetics effectively ended this development for decades.  I’m delighted that trainee doctors in the UK now have an option to learn about hypnosis in their early training.  Many dentists are also beginning to re-discover the benefits.

If you suffer from a dental phobia or know somebody that does, I highly recommend getting this treated.  It’s not necessary to be scared of your dentist.  The second step is to seek out a dentist that will offer an un-hurried service, one that understand your needs and that can incorporate relaxation techniques into any clinic visit.  (Unfortunately, the NHS does not offer un-hurried treatments. You get what you pay for.)  I would also recommend that you choose a dentist that uses modern pain control methods, such as topical numbing treatments prior to injections, or the use of modern equipment that can numb individual teeth.  Treatments might still be uncomfortable but there’s no reason you should experience pain from a modern dental exam or procedure.

And if you’re London-based, I highly recommend my own dentist, Covent Garden Dental Practice (  I’ve been sending people to these wonderful dentists for well over a decade and you’ll be in very good hands.

Stop Smoking

Successful Smoking Cessation Through HypnosisSmoking cessation should be a simple and painless process, yet the perception and experience for many is anything but.

At the bottom of the market are the ‘off the shelf’ stop smoking CD and downloads.  These do work for some people but the results tend to be poor overall.  The main reason for this is that no two smokers are the same and the triggers, reasons, and emotional connections for every client is different.  Hypnosis works best when it’s specifically tailored to the client.

Even if you go to see a hypnotist, it may be the case that their standard treatment is already written out before you arrive.  The outcome for this is likely to be no better than purchasing a hypnosis CD.

I offer a premium bespoke smoking cessation treatment based upon the Simmons method.  This system is the new industry standard for all those who are serious in smoking cessation.  This system offers a comprehensive, bespoke service to ensure you have everything you need to become a non-smoker.  This programme includes a thorough assessment and treatment.  Hypnosis makes it easy to stop smoking but it doesn’t make it impossible.  A small number of people will relapse which is why follow-up sessions are included for free for the first year.

If you’re serious about smoking cessation please contact me to see if this service is right for you.

The Simmons method is excellent, I highly recommend it.


Ending Addiction / Less Excess

The cycle of addiction is one of the main causes of people waking up after decades and realising their life has passed them by.  Whether it’s taking a toll on your wallet, your relationships, your job or your life, a short set of sessions at Freedom Hypnosis can help.

Hypnotherapy has been used for decades as an effective and lasting treatment for all kinds of addictive behavior.  Now, the development of ‘Cognitive Hypnotherapy’ allows for a more tailored, faster and more effective treatment for you.

Because most addictions share a common structure, hypnotherapy is effective no matter what the subject of the addiction.  Cigarettes, alcohol, mephedrone, GBL, crystal meth, speed, MDMA, shopping, food, sex, porn, the internet, etc. all respond to hypnosis.  In some cases you might need to stop completely and in other cases reducing the compulsion is what’s needed.   There’s no judgment at Freedom Hypnosis, my purpose is to help return freedom to all areas of your life so you can lead the life you choose, free of negative compulsions.

The treatment will involve a detailed session to understand the habits and triggers that underlie your particular addiction and as well as getting clear on what you want in your life instead.  Both aspects are essential in treatment.  A smoker, for instance, might smoke to reduce stress and to be social.  By only addressing the smoking, you leave two reasons for the addiction to return.  A permanent solution involves treating all the pillars that support a problem not just the obvious ones and for that we need to identify exactly how your addiction affects your whole life.

In addition to the initial consultation, addiction usually requires a couple of sessions of actual treatment to break-down the parts of the problem, then further assessments and treatments as necessary.  Whilst some issues can be treated in one single session, you should expect a handful of treatments in most cases for addiction issues. If the addiction is used to hide from a painful chronic past, there is likely to be more work to cover before the reason for the addiction is lifted.

In most cases the addictive behaviour is usually chosen to reduce a low mood, or by the person trying to regain or restore a certain level of prior happiness.  Unfortunately as we all learn, using external stimulants to change internal emotions is a poor long-term solution and usually ends-up making things much worse (the ‘Therapeutic Paradox’).  The intention is pure, but the behaviour is poorly chosen.  Successful treatments need to address these issues, so come with an open enquiring mind.  Your full participation in these sessions is essential.  Some people choose hypnosis because they believe they can just turn up, be put ‘under’ and have the hypnotist do all the work. They expect to leave the clinic completely different but without any effort or insight.  This is somewhat unrealistic.  Our sessions will involve plenty of discussion, exercises, hypnosis and maybe even homework!

Whether you’re desperate or just feel you’re beginning to lose your balance in this area of your life, hypnosis can help.  This brief structured treatment is designed to enable you to put your addiction in your past and so return you to a normal healthy emotional balance.  Free to be you again.

Cognitive Hypnotherapy

Cognitive Hypnotherapy is a fast, effective and permanent way of dealing with emotional problems, habits and performance issues. It is the go-to treatment for anybody suffering from stress or trauma related issues, addictions, temper, phobias, health issues and a whole host of related conditions. Cognitive Hypnotherapy recognises that many mental functions are unconscious processes which can be difficult to address directly through logic and will-power.  These functions include habits, emotional responses, immune functions, strategies, focus and attention, memory access and attitude. Hypnosis has a long history of effectively managing these issues.

Cognitive Hypnotherapy is a modern style of hypnosis, developed by Trevor Silvester of the Quest Institute which takes the guess-work out of a lot of hypnosis work. All Cognitive Hypnotherapy treatments are entirely bespoke, built around the very specific needs of the client, taking into account the way the problem is manifested within them. The hallmark of this therapy tends to be much longer initial interviews spent gathering very specific information. The treatment is typically of a shorter duration often using very light trance work. Some clients who don’t like the thought of ‘losing control’ to the therapists, prefer this style of working. Inductions are shorter allowing the therapist to conduct several interventions in a session, test the work, and move to the next stage of the process. Typically a client will be given a relatively short hypnotic session (MP3) to take away with them which they can listen to in-between sessions, helping to ensure the improvement is permanent. The improvement within each session tends to be quite profound. Clients should never be left wondering if the session has been effective.

Rather than relying on an open-ended weekly session that might span many years (e.g. like some counselling and psycho-dynamic models) we would rather rely on a steady stream of new clients needing just a handful of sessions, who then go on recommend their friends. We think that’s better business in the long run.

Cognitive Hypnotherapy is particularly useful for addressing emotional issues involving trauma where the client is averse to ‘opening-up’ about and discussing the cause of their problem in graphic detail. We understand that this can be distressing and in many case, positively harmful. We can operate in an entirely ‘content-free’ style without needing to open-up painful secrets or relive traumatic events. We don’t pry.

Cognitive Hypnotherapy rarely features long inductions, rather by understanding the problem more precisely and by crafting a targeted treatment (called Word WeavingTM). Treatments are delivered using very light trances. You won’t lose control. You won’t be asleep or ‘under’ – consider it more like relaxing daydream. Specific ‘hypnotic’ treatments don’t last long and will include information gathering before and after the main treatment, then a little more information gathering, etc. and then perhaps some exercises for you to take home. In many cases a bespoke recording is made for you to listen to in-between sessions to embed the work more powerfully. The next session will asses progress and treat remaining issues until a successful outcome is achieved – at which point we usually give you something extra to take away to start accelerating your health and growth in other areas, perhaps something to help you refocus and refresh your life.

Some people have one issue they need addressing. For others there may be a number of layers that need work which might lead to small batches of sessions over an agreed period.

Flying, The Trance State and Power of a New Perspective

Yesterday, I was flying to Dublin from London’s City Airport and I thought the experience is worth recording. Now, I deliberately mention City Airport since, had I been travelling from Gatwick or Heathrow, I’d undoubtedly be in a bad mood and irritable and any trance state I encountered would not have been of the sharing variety. But this was City Airport, so I was from taxi to my seat in about 20 minutes, the security were friendly and efficient, everything on time and in place – I love <a href=””>City Airport</a>.

So, I was already relaxed, sitting comfortably, gazing out from my window seat and looking forward to a short hop across the water. The few minutes at take-off from City Airport are incomparable; London is amazing from a few thousand feet and climbing. The canals and rivers, the parks and forests, the stadiums and complex industry. There’s a totally different architecture when you’ve looking down at it all from such above. You don’t feel like an ant from 5,000 feet, you feel like a god. And as you go higher and higher, on a summer’s day, the light is enticing. I was taken in by the beautiful blues and bright whites….

It was at this point I noticed I had been in a wonderfully enjoyable trance state. The noise of the engines, churning air conditioner, the duty free salesman, all gone; in fact, the whole plane the seats, fuselage, wings and fellow passengers entirely deleted out of existence. Just sensations of the clean fresh air and the touch against my skin of the clouds as I rose through them.

In technical terms, for the hypnotists reading, I was experiencing both positive and negative hallucinations, sensory distortion, dissociation and probably a little time distortion; to everybody else, I was daydreaming. All a world away from the true experience of being in a cramped, dark, smelly airless, noisy, aluminium tube, precariously accelerating though London’s crowded skies. There’s a lot to be said for being present but this was an ideal time not to be and I’d like to take this opportunity for thanking my unconscious for a rather creative and rich use of those 20 minutes.

Whilst thinking about this accidental state, looking down on London, it reminded me just how powerful it is to deliberately take a different <em>perceptual position</em> when faced with an obstacle. My first experience of this was an exhilarating training with Paul McKenna ten years ago. We learnt how trance can be used to deliberately set up a new perspective for our clients to help them get unstuck. Seeing a problem up front and close tends to leave people few options – it tends to be the default position for people with problems. Deliberately having the client see things from altered perspectives, other perceptual angles and distances generates completely new thinking. ‘<em>Distance</em>’ tends to encourage objectivity, a logical and a calm approach to problems, where all the facts can be considered, accounted for and manipulated (moved by hand). ‘<em>Different angles</em>’ tends to encourage different approaches because you see the problem differently. Yes, it’s all metaphorical but powerfully so, engaging the creative right brain and calming the emotional response that cuts off new ideas and behaviours. It enriches the client’s ‘map of the world’ when previously they only have one, unresourceful, response of their problem.

Freedom Hypnosis is all about helping clients that are stuck to find that useful perspective, so that the problems fall way and they find attractive new directions for their future. It’s the difference between a stressed client at 10:00am and a motivated and happy client 10:50. No passport needed.

Inner Wisdom vs. the Nutrition Nazis

I’ll admit that this is more of a rant than a blog post about hypnosis but sometimes I just get so mad with government experts, it makes me want to give Michael Fabricant a list.

I hate hypocrisy, I really do. I especially hate having to pay for it via my taxes; it really burns. I’ll also go on record as a ‘fussy eater’ i.e. a child that was victimised and bullied by an endless stream of adults who clearly knew what was good for me in terms of what I should be putting in my body. As a matter of principle, it is always wrong to bully people on this point – no exceptions. The stress this induces, I am sure, is responsible for a huge proportion of the neurotic eating disorders we see today coming through the clinic doors. Let me be clear, government advisors posing as health experts are no different than the catholic priests being the moral authority on sex. The more I hear these media reports, the more I’m convinced Nutrition is a pseudo-science.  I thought I was the only one until I did a Google search….

The more I hear these media reports, the more I’m convinced Nutrition is a pseudo-science.

Now, the reason for my rant was seeing our Government’s ‘Obesity Advisor’, Professor (no less) Susan Jebb on Breakfast Television calling out parents for the sin of allowing anything other than water on the dining table. Bread and water was the message. Heaven forbid they should ever develop a fondness for turkey twizzlers  or have a soda when they wanted one. What a joy her household must be.

Firstly, we are not a nation of obese people. Stand outside any McDonalds and count the obese people vs non-obese people. (If you can’t do this by eye, then clearly, the term obese, as used by government, has lost any connection to reality.)  If you get 5% obese in McDonalds I’d be surprised, yet governments blame fast food for a creating a nation where they claim 1 in 4 adults are obese. Now, if these islands of corporate greed were creating such a problem, clearly far more than 25% of their adult customers would have to be obese, it’s just simple maths.  If they are right, McDonalds should be the epicentre of obesity! Frankly, it’s a lie; it’s what researches tell governments when they want more funding. What really worries me is how, in this information age, people can be so deceived, replacing the evidence of their eyes by media reports from authority figures. As a hypnotist, telling the nation that “we’re are a nation of obese people – getting fatter by the day….” is a shocking suggestion. I wish experts would watch their language and stop lying for financial gain and prestige.

Certainly, there are many people that have problems with their weight but the answer is not listening to an external prescription of recycled mantras. This can only lead to a growing separation of mind and body. Listening to one’s internal wisdom and dealing with the cause of emotional eating is the only real way we will ever learn to eat more appropriately. Forcing children to eat anything against their will will only lead to neurotic behaviour. I’m not alone in believing this, a 2002 study found that:

“What is most interesting is the internal conflict the forcees experienced — 31% experienced strong conflict, 41% moderate conflict and 29% slight conflict. Forty-nine percent said they cried, 55% experienced nausea, and 20% vomited. Most of the responses to the experience were negative with feelings of anger, fear, disgust, confusion and humiliation. The forcees also experienced feelings such as lack of control and helplessness.”

Batcell et al (2002).

Is forcing Jimmy to eat his greens really such a success when the cost can be instilling the above emotions around food? Despite very little evidence for the necessity of a ‘balanced diet’ – the government still says yes – and parents listen.  We should be more used to lies from authority figures by now.  Let’s not forget, the whole ‘make sure your children drink milk everyday’ has nothing to do with milk being necessary (it certainly isn’t) it was just a way to begin reducing the huge european milk mountain created by milk subsidies.

I’m a huge fan of ‘listening to what your body needs’ following your inner wisdom. And if that’s ice cream – so be it.

Hominids have evolved over millions of years to be able to live off whatever is in the environment by synthesising almost all the nutrients we need for a healthy life from whatever’s available. In fact with the exception of vitamin C and vitamin D (from sunshine) we are almost entirely self-sufficient as long as we eat something. Don’t believe me? Take an extreme example; for thousands of years Chinese farmers lived to a ripe old age with little more than a paucity of rice each day and an occasional chicken. True, they weren’t giants due to calorie restriction but they were healthy enough. Imagine giving them the dire warning of eating a ‘balance diet’ and ensuring on pain of bowel cancer, they get their ‘five a day’? Imagine a authority figure preaching that to the farmer. Eat our way or you’ll die from disease – the science says so! False and certainly likely to induce neurosis. Please explain to me how our government policy is any different from this?

It’s not just food.  The government’s war on salt again causes us to embrace tasteless unsatisfying food and ignore our appetite. They’ve demonised salt despite its health benefits. This war on salt is despite meta studies indicating no risk between higher salt intake and cardio vascular disease. Where was the government retraction when this report came out? There was just tumble weed because that would mean they got it wrong yet again and all the millions wasted ‘educating’ people and harassing the food industry into making bland food was all for nothing. But let’s face it, governments are nothing if they have nothing to do – so let’s scare the chickens and create more jobs for the boys. (The good news is also that finally some experts seem to be back-peddling against the ‘eat low-fat foods’ craziness. For a decade the advice has been to reduce the fats, thus making people eat less filling, less tasty, sugar enriched foods, which only leads to spikes in glucose levels. Madness!)

Does this woman look well nourished to you?But back to Professor Jebb.  If you’re going to put out an expert on TV to tell us about nutrition, wouldn’t you find somebody that looked vital and healthy? Professor Jebb looked pasty and ill – probably enduring being covered up by layers of factor 50 inspired by another government expert; that and a diet of mungbeans and water. In this sense only, it appears that she follows here own advice.

This brief clip was just one of the many over the years trying to feed our nation another toxic version of philosophic Asceticism. Essentially their advice is no different than wearing a religious cilice, the war against authentic sex, and that old favourite ‘medicine and food must taste bad for it to be good for you’. Clockwork Orange has got nothing on Professor Jebb. Some academic fields are really messed-up.  They pretend correlation is causation and have no respect for context or rigorous scientific method. Nonetheless, they then write a scary report which finishes with ‘these findings are conclusive, yet more work needs to be done’ – in order to ensure they get the next round of finance.  And how did dietary advice get to be a proper function of government? That’s insane!

We are the only thinking animal. The only animal that can really be programmed to act against our self-interest and inherent wisdom. There are no anorexics aardvarks or bulimic beavers. It takes people of Profeessor Jebb’s expertise to create this stress based neurosis by launching an attack against our endogenous signals for appetite and hunger.

For most overweight people (and anorexics) it’s this inner signal we want to encourage as the guiding wisdom – not the obliteration of it altogether. Obesity is a problem for some but Professor Jebb is stuck in effect not cause. As a hypnotist my job is to find out why my client suddenly put on 10 stone when they hit 15 years of age. Once the ‘why’ of their obesity is resolved – the ‘how’ flows naturally. Significant over-eating is an indication of addiction – an emotional disorder. But as any decent addiction specialist will tell you, the object of the addiction (food) is not the problem, it’s the addict’s attempt at a solution to their problem.

Obesity is a problem for some but Professor Jebb is stuck in effect not cause.

Let’s be honest here, when an obese person goes to a nutritionist – they prescribe a food diet, a psychiatrist prescribes SSNRI’s, a surgeon makes holes in their chest and cuts out 90% of their stomach. Experts fight for control of the waterfront. As a hypnotist, I’m doing the same. But before the leaches make a comeback, can’t we at least admit chronic over-eating (comfort eating) is an emotional problem not a dietary one or surgical issue?  People don’t eat themselves to death because they don’t know about wholemeal bread.

But before the leaches make a comeback, can’t we at least admit chronic over-eating (comfort eating) is an emotional problem not a dietary one or surgical issue?

Beware of experts – they want your soul – and if you understand what I mean about listening to that inner wisdom, you’ll see that I mean that quite literally.



p.s. I received several critical posts against my comments of Professor Jebb (some may be by her paid colleagues) pointing out her rigour and integrity would always trump my personal remarks against her. So without wanting to create a new twitter storm (5 tweets against me is a personal best) I’ll just say nothing apart from pointing out another report which lists Professor Jebb having previously having worked for CocaCola and the slimming industry. So I could end this post on explaining what integrity means but some people are just too far gone. As judge Judy often says, ‘Byrd, you’ve always got to follow the money.’