All my life, I’ve been a sugar fiend. I went through Butterfinger Blizzard phase in high school, and an everything-sweet phase in college. I was a Jelly Belly addict in my 20s (toasted marshmallow, graham cracker and coffee together is still the bomb), and fresh chocolate chip cookies always make me lose my mind. I would still drive miles out of my way for a Slurpee.
Through the years, I’ve more or less been able to get my sugar cravings under control. When I look at a piece of cake, I think how sick I’ll feel a few minutes after eating that sugary frosting, I remind myself that I like the way my jeans feel when they aren’t straining at the waist, and I try hard to eat only when I’m hungry. But most of all, it helps that, after moving to the suburbs from the city, I no longer live within walking distance from candy stores or bakeries and have the wherewithal not to bring treats into my home on a regular basis.
“Regular” is the key word, however, because with two young kids there are a few times a year where it’s virtually impossible not to have candy and treats in the house—most recently it was Easter. Even though the Easter Bunny (aka me) filled their baskets with books and stuffed animals and just a few chocolate bunnies and ducks, well-meaning friends and family gave them baskets that were overflowing with the good stuff.
Given that it was a holiday, I indulged a little. It started with a Cadbury Egg here, a Starburst there. But it wasn’t enough. There are studies that show sugar is more addictive than cocaine, so it’s not surprising that I couldn’t stop. I introduced my young son to his first Peep and wound up eating more than he did; I bought a bag of half-off Cadbury mini eggs after the holiday, reasoning that it was my last chance until next year; at a friend’s BBQ I helped myself to more than one handful of M&Ms.
Then one night, about a week after Easter, I snuck into the kids’ candy stash and ate a green apple Blow-Pop. It was stale, the gum in the middle was overly sugary, and I didn’t even enjoy it. I stopped and consciously considered why I was eating it. Was I hungry? Thirsty? Bored? Upset about something? I couldn’t come up with a good answer. Still, I wound up eating a second one. It was not a proud moment.
It was around this time that hypnotherapy came into my life. I had been interested in it since reading The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarity last fall. The protagonist, as the title suggests, is a hypnotherapist. She uses hypnotherapy on herself and her clients to help them gain self-control, give up bad habits, fall asleep easily, and gain perspective on their lives. Early in the book, the narrator uses hypnotherapy to quickly gain her composure by envisioning a golden light pulsing through her body, and she helps a client fall asleep by visualizing dripping honey into a hot cup of tea. It was all so calming, appealing and powerful. I had wanted to try it ever since.
So when I was approached by Richard Barker, an Orlando, Florida-based hypnotist who offered to come to my office to speak to me about the field and give me a session, I readily said yes.
At our meeting, after giving me a backgrounder on hypnotherapy, we got down to business. I told Richard I wanted to get my sugar craving under control, but did ask him to include a caveat that I could include desserts on special occasions (Hey, Mother’s Day and my birthday were coming up.)
I started seated with my eyes open, staring at one singular point (I chose a red thumbtack on a bulletin board). Richard took me through some breathing exercises, then had me close my eyes and relax my body. The thing that struck me the most is that Richard kept talking the entire time for the full 20 minutes. He repeated himself often, kept up a soothing stream of words and chatter, using a tone that was comforting, yet firm.
Once I was hypnotized, he told me I would not eat sugar, candy, or treats on a regular basis. That when I had those cravings, I would opt for something healthier like an apple or a glass of water, and that I would do this because I valued my health and wanted to live a long healthy life. He also said this suggestion would work, because I wanted it to work. (A key part of hypnosis is that you have to be open to the suggestion.)
When the session ended, I felt super-refreshed and was in a happy energetic mood the rest of the day.
As for the sugar cravings… the first day I still had them, but the difference was that I didn’t indulge them. After lunch, I passed on the bowl of Hershey’s Kisses a co-worker kept on her desk and instead made a cup of tea. It was as if a switch had been flipped and I simply wasn’t going to eat candy anymore.
It has now been a month since our session. And I have to say that by and large the hypnotherapy has worked. I made it through Mother’s Day brunch and only sampled one well-chosen dessert at the all-you-can-eat buffet. (In the past I would have had tried at least three.) For my birthday, I insisted on celebrating with pineapple gelato instead of the red velvet cake my husband has traditionally bought. And I stuffed all the favor bags for my son’s birthday party with Starburst and Tootsie Rolls and didn’t eat a single one.
It’s too early to say if I’m cured for good, and, after all, I did only have one session. But for now, I feel like it has put me back on the right track for better health and overall happiness. What more can I ask?