December 11

7 Tips for Working with Emotional Eaters

Preliminary Techniques


I love your explanations and I’m wondering about the clients with just, say 10-15 kilos ( 20 – 30 pounds ) to lose, where there really is no emotional reason.  They just have a habit of eating or drinking a little too much.  This is added to a slowing older metabolic rate, sedentary employment and a really easy lifestyle where “Life is Good.” These seem to be harder than the people with emotional eating problems that are labeled obese.  Would you recommend Direct Suggestion work for these people ?    I am at a loss because it seems to be one area where I struggle to get results.

The following are four tips to help put an end to the frustrating of working with hypnotherapy weight loss clients who don’t want to give up “the good life”.

Tip #1. Qualify your client.

Face it.  You can’t help everyone.  So, you really need to qualify your clients. Clients needs to have reasonable expectations about what's possible with hypnosis.  

You can’t do it for them. Hypnosis can make it easier for them to make the necessary changes to achieve their desired outcome.  What it can’t do is make them change.  That’s the critical point.  The client has to be willing to consciously make those behavioural changes.

To qualify your clients you need to find out how motivated are they to lose the extra weight.  This is important because, if the benefits of continuing the behaviours that created the problem in the first place outweigh the benefits of change, you’re going to have a wrestle on your hands.

How motivated are they?  If you're not sure just how motivated a person might be to make the change they're after - ask.  On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is it that they lose the weight NOW?  If it’s less than 8 they’re not in enough pain. That’s the problem with the “life is good” mindset. Losing the excess bulk would be “nice” BUT there’s no real inner drive to accomplish it.

Your strategy then needs to be to find a way to increase their motivation.  Here, I would ask the person to imagine themselves 6 months or a year down the road having made no change.  Give them a couple of seconds to let that suggestion sink in. Then ask, "What’s that look like?" 

If they do nothing where does the path they’re on lead to? The idea is to get them connecting with the pain of the consequences of continuing in this way so that they can realize that living with a “Life is Good” attitude  may be easy NOW . . . but it’s taking them someplace they’d rather not get to.  

You can help them avoid that outcome.  See how it has become an emotional issue? It’s the emotional pain they’re trying to avoid.  Think about the PAIN of being FAT.  The pain of being out-of-control to food, the struggle with cravings,  the health concerns they’re facing. (I had one client who was on the threshold of a diabetes diagnosis that had her terrified.  People in her family had died from diabetes.)

Bottom line, you need to find out what it’s going to take for them to want to do what’s necessary to create that change.  

Ask them how overeating is impacting them in their life. For example, how’s their sleep? Overweight can contribute to breathing issues that disrupt sleep, which then contributes to overweight.

Does the excess weight affect their relationships with others?  I had a client who avoided being with her skinny sisters because she was the FAT one in the family.  It was humiliating for her.  She felt depressed just thinking about it.

  • How do they feel when they look in the mirror?  
  • Do they love and accept the person looking back at them? 
  • How do they think other people see them?  How does that make them feel?
  • How do they feel after pigging out on a binge?  Do they have a closet full of clothes that don’t fit?
  • Are there activities they can’t participate in anymore? 
  • Are there places or people that they avoid?

Poke around a little and you'll find an open wound filled with pain, remorse, and self-hatred.

Tip #2. Apply Tough Love

When a person calls you for help losing the weight they think it's a behaviour problem.  And most of the time they're expecting you to wave your magic wand and make them change.  You can't.

Hypnosis isn't magic. They may have convinced themselves that it’s not an emotional problem but that's just their conscious, thinking mind coming up with all the reasons why they do what they know they shouldn’t be doing. 

Like having that second portion.  

Or binging on the Hagen Das.  

Or polishing off the second bottle of Chardonnay.  

But they do it anyway.  And it's because what they think is the reason isn’t the real reason. The real reason is an underlying Subconscious need that is being satisfied by those unhealthy behaviours. 

If exacerbating the underlying PAIN doesn’t bring their motivation up to 8 or more, I’d fire them as a client.  You can lead a horse away from the watering hole but you can’t make it stop drinking. So be honest.  Tell them, “I’m not convinced that you’re sufficiently motivated to be successful using hypnosis at this time.”

Then, explain to them that hypnosis isn’t magic.  A person has to be highly motivated to be successful with hypnosis.   And you only work with people you’re confident you can be successful with. They want to be successful, right?

Then give them an out.  Ask them, “Just out of curiosity . . . what might it take to get your motivation up to a 10?”  

Sometimes they’ll give you the information you need to be able to proceed. But if there’s nothing they can think of, or it’s something unrealistic (like you doing all the work while they take a nap), I’d suggest that NOW is not the best time to deal with this issue.  In this case, I’d invite them to come back when they’re up to a 10.

Tough love, I know.  But you need clients you can be successful with.  And you can save yourself a heap of frustration and struggle simply by qualifying your clients.

Now, if their motivation level is 8 or more, you’re good to go!  There’s plenty of emotion there to work with.  And what you’ll find is, as you focus on releasing those feelings, your suggestions to replace the old behaviours with healthier choices will become acceptable.  As a result, the client will start to act on them.

Tip #3. Focus on Baby steps

One of the things that can sabotage a person’s best intentions is trying to change too much at once.  Baby steps are easier.

Nothing breeds success like success.  Work on one small successful change.  If necessary, reduce it to the ridiculous.  That will open the door to the next one, and then the next, until the subconscious mind takes over.  That's when the generalizing effect takes over.

The client already knows all the things they should be doing.  If they don’t, they need to go educate themselves.  And unless you have credentials in nutritional counseling you’re not qualified to instruct them on their food choices.   But if the client has a plan that they need help implementing, you can help!

With regards to metabolism, the best way to address metabolic rate is through dietary changes plus daily exercise.  Most people think they have to go buy a gym membership, or start sweating to the oldies, and that just brings up resistance.  But all it takes is 30 minutes of walking to shift things.

 Tip #4. Find an activity they love.

Remind the client of when they were a child.  That's when “exercise” was called “PLAY.”   Get them enthused with the prospect of moving forward into the vision of being the slim, trim, healthy person they want to be, having fun, feeling proud, and feeling surprised at how easy it was to make the healthy choice for themselves.

Just as you do with smoking cessation clients, be sure to instill a sense of pity for others who haven’t yet made these changes for themselves.  Build the recognition of how they are depriving themselves of the joyful experience of knowing (and feeling it, too) that “life is good” in a slim, trim, healthy body.  That’s the benefit they want.

Women are usually motivated by fashion choices, e.g., skinny jeans. Men fancy being checked out by the women in the skinny jeans! (Rent a clue from Madison Avenue!  When you see a pretty girl in a bikini on the beach, women want to be her and men want to be with her.  This is also why car shows use sexy models to sell cars.)

Tip #5.  Follow up.

Hypnosis is viewed as a “brief therapy” so we tend to expect to change a lifetime of bad habits in a handful of sessions.  That’s not realistic. And the statistics are clear – the long-term success rate of most Weight Loss programs, including hypnosis, is around 5%.  I believe with a little common sense we can do much better than that.

As I understand it, it takes 21 days to change a habit.  But it takes about a year to make that habit permanent.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to do the “brief therapy” to release the emotional blocks, get the client on track, and then have a follow-up program to ensure their success over the long-haul?

Is Direct Suggestion right for these clients?  Yes.  After they start making consistent change.  But do not leave your success solely in the hands of a reinforcement CD. Schedule them for monthly a follow-up session to keep them accountable.  (Continue following up with clients who have a lot of weight to lose.)

Tip #6. Make the client accountable

You need to hold the client accountable for taking action to make those changes.  The conscious mind of the client needs to be on board with creating change for change to be lasting. So at the end of each session elicit a conscious agreement from the client about what they’re going to do or not do as a result of the session.  What action can they take between sessions to move them closer to their goal?

When a client comes back and reports having failed to do/not do – there’s bound to be guilt.  That’s when doubt can rear it’s ugly head with the thought, “It’s not working.”

You need to recognize the Saboteur when you see it.  And address it right away.  Reinforce that it’s not the client’s fault. This is precisely how the subconscious mind works.  They just bumped into a subconscious objection to change.  This is valuable information!  

The process is actually working to surface precisely what’s been getting in their way.  So they can change it.  And now you have a choice of how to proceed.  You might decide to go with Parts Therapy (bring out the Part that’s sabotaging their vision), or use tapping to clear all the thoughts and feelings associated with the behaviours that caused them to “fail”, or you can associate them into the biggest feeling and regress into it.   Or do all three!

Tip #7. Keep the client accountable

Think about it . . .  If you know you have to check in every 4 – 6 weeks is there an incentive to stay conscious and stick to your program? Accountability works.  It's the basis of virtually every successful coaching program.  

It’s no secret that the best way to gain control of eating habits is to become conscious of your food choices. So when your client returns for their follow-up session, if she has done well, give her a reward. Give her a “yummy” relaxation hypnosis session with lots of praise, and compounding of good feelings, and all the fixins (benefits).

And a cookie. (just kidding!)

When a client falls off the wagon, they don’t have to carry the guilt and shame and self-punishment one day longer.  You can help them face the Saboteur.

In the Grimm's fairy tale, The Devil's Grimy Brother, the saboteur appears as the Innkeeper who steals the client's gold. The saboteur can be a person in their daily life - a spouse, a parent, a boss, or even a Part of themselves - but when a client bumps into the Innkeeper, your job is to listen to their “tale of woe”.   Then, provide whatever is needed to get them back on track.

Regardless of the issue, I believe programs are the way to go.  Especially when it comes to weight loss.  We have to eat every day, and in our overfed, undernourished society, there is temptation at every turn.  Ongoing support is the logical solution to creating real and lasting change.

So that's it. You now have 7 tips to help you be successful working with weight loss clients who don’t want to give up “the good life”.

  1. Qualify your client
  2. Apply tough love
  3. Focus on baby steps
  4. Find an activity they love
  5. Follow up
  6. Make the client accountable
  7. Keep the client accountable

About the author 

Wendie Webber

With over thirty years of experience as a healing practitioner, Wendie brings a broad range of skills to her approach to regression to cause hypnosis. She combines a gentle, yet commanding way of presenting with a thorough, clear and systematic approach to helping healing practitioners to make sense of regression hypnotherapy.

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