About two years ago I went to a hypnotherapist who said he specialised in weight loss – among a tranche of other specialties. He was expensive, but I belong to the class of stupid people who believe paying a lot has something to do with successful outcomes – especially when the service is largely dependent on my own input. It’s mad, I know.
On top of that, he was fat. I admit that did straight away diminish the value of his pitch.
At around $2.00 per minute, he wasted the first twenty bucks telling me why he was so clever, how qualified he was, the places where he had taught and the names of famous academics he had either worked with or influenced.
He also told me about his wife’s fantastic figure – which made me suspect he was thinking about sex.
All up it cost me around $40.00 to listen to him talk about things unrelated to my fat and I.
By the time he began asking me questions – one or two, and sharing with me his observations on weight loss – several, I was pretty certain this was a lost cause.
For example, he told me how he and a mate who was a ‘medical doctor’ both agreed the only realistic way to lose weight was to “Stop eating when you are no longer hungry.”
When he said that I stared at him in a such a manner any other person would have felt impelled to say, “Do you have a question about that?”
If he had, I’d have asked if he realised fat people do not know when they aren’t hungry. And, looking at his bursting shirt buttons, whether he knew when he wasn’t hungry?
But you know, if you’re a woman – or anyway, this woman – and you’ve already put your sensitivities in the spotlight, you’re not inclined to put up a fight in defense of your weakness. The subjects cancel each other out – you’re stuck.
Before entirely losing my credibility as a rational person who just has a few irrational habits, let me say I have an excellent track record with hypnotherapy. I believe in it.
Fifteen years before I sat there paying this fat dude all this money, I had visited an enigmatic Sikh doctor named Dr Singh. Dr Sarjit S. Singh. You may or may not know that all Sikhs are named ‘Singh’, but I am fond of sharing this smidgeon of knowledge.
During one, one-hour visit, Dr Singh ended my cigarette-smoking days. Finished. I had committed to three sessions – that was his deal – but after that first hour in his leather recliner I never touched another cigarette. Ever. And to this day I find at the very top of my consciousness the mantra he gave my unconscious as a bar to smoking – so simple, so beautiful: “No thank you, I don’t smoke anymore.”
I don’t want to get diverted by the relative differences between a smoking habit and an eating habit – they are not as clear-cut as one may think. Still, the Fat Hypnotherapist carefully pointed out the special nature of an eating habit, that is, you cannot just stop it, you cannot just do without it.
So it is not like cigarettes, nail-biting or alcohol, he said. Surprise.
By this stage I was ready to start talking back at him, to share some guidelines and pointers about how to properly approach the subject. But the first rule of successful hypnotherapy is to ‘give yourself’ to the process – and that means you never, ever argue back.
Suffice to say the session was meaningless and I left never to return.
A more reasonable approach could have been to look for the ‘hooks’ and work with those, rather than take on eating as a global fact with no concrete edges.
Cigarette, alcohol or nail-biting addicts have their hook to focus on, something to say ‘No’ to. The same applies to eating.
People who eat too much – eat too much.
We often eat foods that adversely affect energy levels. I’m not going to rehash all the gumph – you know the kind of food I mean … useless food, food that’s hard to digest, that gives you an insulin spike, that delivers a mantle of fat around your organs.
So if you are a fat person who has difficulty identifying when you are satisfied … that won’t be top of your mind. Top of your mind is that you are fat and you are in a cycle which seems to have no edges. <span style="font-size:13px;"
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Hypnotherapists could help you say “NO THANK YOU, I DON’T EAT THAT ******* ANYMORE.” How easy would that be? If they were worried about getting sued they could put a time-limit on the period of abstinence. People who are ‘under’ are very, very good at managing time limits.
For instance, “No thank you I don’t eat any saturated fat anymore,” or how about, “No thank you, I don’t eat white carbohydrates anymore,” or “No thank you, I don’t eat anything bigger than the palm of my hand”?
Fat people know perfectly well what saturated fat is, what a white carb is and where the palm of their hand is. We KNOW. What we need is a brake. And a break.
We use food unconsciously. We don’t clearly relate food to energy needs. We cannot tell when we have eaten ‘enough’, or when we are ‘satisfied’ until long after those physiological events have occurred.
And here is a nasty conundrum:
Fat people think about food and eating the way any addict thinks about their drug of choice – that is, too often.
Diets by definition make us think about our addiction all the time. That is why they fail.
People who use food normally are also subject to ‘temptation’ but they temper the desire. For instance just yesterday I heard an ordinary eater describe some food as ‘more energy than I needed’ – and so they simply didn’t eat it.
Fat people would have to invest serious mind resources into making a statement like that – and would likely be unable to follow through and eat that extra food anyway. Because that is how it works for us most of the time.
Thin dietitians and fat hypnotherapists have to understand a lot more about how a fat person does not think if they want to be part of a solution. They have all the stats, the ‘findings’, the quantitative and qualitative data needed to reach the obvious conclusions and people are getting fatter. What those professionals cannot know – unless they are fat and honest – is emotional and lifestyle-driven attachment to food requires special tools to undo it.
Now, it is a fact that extroverted personalities are better subjects for hypnotherapy than introverted ones. Dr Sarjit S. Singh told me and I have every reason to believe him.
He also said the less often you have tried to kick your habit – no matter which one it is – the more likely you are to succeed. Fascinating. But it implies a lifetime of dieting may not give you the most positive basis for a hypnotherapy program.
But Dr Singh also said: “If you start from a position of ‘well-informed ambition’ – then I can work with you to bring about change.”
That was why before he began a session he spent time going over the physiological impacts of smoking. Not like the Fat Hypnotherapist, with second-class opinions and reflections on his wife, but by showing me those x-rays of tar-laden lungs, photos of tongues covered in blisters, talking me through the toxicity of nicotine. And so on. I listened respectfully. He taught me to remember “No thank you I don’t smoke anymore.”
He also told me to go home, take a rubbish bag, and throw into it every ashtray, box of matches, lighter and cigarette in the house. He told me to take the bag outside, dig a hole and bury it. I remember lying there on his burgundy leather recliner in the peaceful room in Camberwell and thinking, “Fat chance of that, mate” (you are able to think independently when you’re ‘under’.)
An hour later I was back home assiduously rounding up all smoking paraphernalia as instructed. Then I went outside and buried it.
Imagine packing up every food in your home that contains saturated fat, wheaten or white carbs, fructose, lactose or sucrose, taking them into the yard, digging a hole and burying the lot. Imagine walking away from that ceremony saying to yourself, “No thanks, I just don’t eat that shit anymore.”
‘Les Amis Toujours’, Demeter Charpuris, 1925. Lots of queries at the end of this blog entry. All comments welcome.
You’re not allowed to get involved with theory of art unless you’ve read ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ – if Walter Benjamin received a rose from every student who’s pawed through his insights he’d be under a Kilimanjaro-sized bouquet.
Thirty-five years ago, my friend Paul Rappoport asked if I’d read the Benjamin essay. I had not; I was too busy cutting tropical fish shapes out of sticky shelving paper and making zany collages to be reading anything seriously educative. I was too busy ‘experiencing art’.
Between then and returning to university I a few times did try to get my head around those pages and even owned a copy of the collection ‘Illuminations’, with a foreword by Hannah Arendt. Didn’t get it. Gave the book away eventually.
Now I am by choice re-reading the essay, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, and now incredibly I can see it, follow it.
There are even bits I can disagree with because I have other ideas, my own ideas, built by exposure to other writing, images and systems of belief.
There are lines I want to copy out and use because now I see they are beautiful and precise synonyms for more complicated ideas.
Most astonishing of all, places where I now can appreciate the value of his enthymemes – those parabolas of Benjamin’s imagination where he leaps over giant scads of knowledge. He knits together ideas about the 5th Century and the 20th on the assumption that you will get what he is saying. He assumes you have read Adorno (I have not!) and Kant – yes, I have … but not on this subject precisely. But I have read other people who have read Adorno and Kant, et al and I have understood things as transmuted by them and that is okay with me.
The key signifier of Benjamin is always his definition of ‘aura’. It is such a challenging insight you can see how it kick-started a half-century of new discussions.
And in the context of the essay I am writing, it is the difficult word – ‘aura’ – around which some of my thinking now spins. It’s not the ONLY word, not the LAST word … it is an important word, a key word that Walter Benjamin picked and added to our lexicon of cultural signifiers.
‘Les Amis Toujours’, Demeter Charpuris, 1925.
Sculpture from ‘chryselephantine’ – combining carved elephant ivory and bronze casting. What happens to the ‘aura’ of this work in the context of current beliefs and values around the horrific trade in elephants’ tusks? Does that affect the cult value of the work in public collections? Should it be in collections? How do changes in public ethos affect the status of artworks? Ideas? Anyone?