A woman who lived on a diet of chips for 15 years has finally eaten a proper meal – after being hypnotised to overcome her debilitating fear of food. Hanna Little, 20, has eaten chips every day since she was five years old – after she developed a fear of all other foods that made her physically sick if she tried to eat them.
Hannah has severe Selective Eating Disorder (SED) and would suffer anxiety attacks at the thought of eating anything new. Hanna could never eat with her friends, had to check menus before visiting restaurants and was in a constant panic about how she would react to new foods. It was when she was forced to quit her factory job after she kept passing out due to her limited diet that she was forced to take action. Now after one hypnotherapy session, she has managed to battle her demons – and has eaten her first proper meal – pizza- in more than a decade.
Hanna said: “ Refusing foods started when I developed colic as a baby – I’ve had SED for as long as I can remember – I never really knew what scared me about food. Different foods terrified me, it made me physically sick and anxious and I never knew how I would react”. Hanna said that “I ate chips because they’re just plain – it was the idea of different flavours mixing together which really freaked me out. I could manage a slice of dry toast for breakfast, but lunch and dinner every days always had to be chips.”
Hanna’s mum tried to tempt her with new vegetables and fruits but would be forced to bulk buy chips from the supermarket when she continually failed. Hanna visited psychologist and clinical hypnotist Felix Economakis, at the Heath therapy clinic in North London. He said: “SED is usually caused by a trauma associated with food – it is often something that has happened as a baby that the patient has no conscious memory of. The fear of food stems from this trauma and the anxiety associated with it. By unlocking the subconscious I can get the patient to process the past and learn to let go of the fear – detraumatising the experience.”
The hypnosis process takes just over an hour and at the end of the session Hanna was able to try several types of new food without anxiety. He said: “The result of the therapy is immediately measurable and with 90 percent of the SED patients I have worked with hypnosis treatment has been incredibly effective”. Hanna said: “I’d seen so many dieticians and psychologists before I went for hypnotherapy but nothing had worked. I could feel my health deteriorating and I knew I had to do something about it. The first thing I ate after the hypnotherapy was a mango – it was so sweet and delicious and it is now my favourite fruit.
SED is also known as picky eating, fussing eating, food phobia, selective eating or Perseverative Feeding Disorder. It is more common among those within the autistic spectrum and in combination with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It starts in childhood or early adolescence and the most common cause is a development of extra sensitive taste sensation, which is caused by an increase in fungiform papilla – taste buds – throughout childhood. Typically the food preferred by an SED suffered are “comfort foods”- bland and refined foods, high in carbohydrates – such as pizza, cheese and chips, often from particular brands.
Hanna said “ Now I can eat whatever I like – my favourite food is pizza – I could never have imagined being able to eat it before the treatment but now I love it”. She also said “hypnotherapy treatment was amazing and can now live a normal life. She feels much healthier and is putting weight on – has much more energy and feels much happier.”