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Comfort Eating

Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Comfort Eating

Everyone knows about the sort of compulsive habitual behaviour this expression refers to, but most people don't know exactly why it happens - or that it can be shut down with hypnosis - until I explain it, and then demonstrate that. As comfort-eating is a very commonplace reaction to stress, emotional upset or general unhappiness, there are literally millions of people who would benefit from a hypnotherapy session to eliminate that, nearly all of them trying to tackle it with willpower alone.

The Original Cause

Subconscious memory goes back further than conscious memory.  The Subconscious is already forming lasting impressions even in the womb. I didn't really believe that myself until experiments were conducted using music which actually proved it. During pregnancy, a particular piece of music was played regularly to the 'bump', and after the baby was born and had developed enough to show clear emotional responses, several pieces of music were played to the child, which showed no reaction until that particular piece was played, then the baby showed clear reactions of excitement. This was demonstrated with a number of different babies and several different tunes, so it really does prove that we are forming Subconscious memories even in the womb.

What has all that got to do with comfort-eating? Well, it proves to the skeptical conscious mind that although we have no conscious memories of the first few years of our lives, the Subconscious mind does, and it refers back to those experiences sometimes. So, just as our later conscious memories will be influencing the judgement and actions of the analytical part of the mind, so our Subconscious impressions will be a reference point for later Subconscious impulses, including the urge to eat, eat, eat... even when you know you cannot possibly be hungry!

Early Feeding and the State of Bliss

There was a time in your life, you see, when you were blissfully happy and didn't have a care in the world. When you had no responsibilities, didn't even know how to worry and had everything done for you, every day.

Really? When?

Infancy! You did sometimes feel uncomfortable though - like when you got that empty feeling inside - so then you would cry for attention, because you couldn't fix that yourself, but you knew someone who could...

As you were being fed, you were also being cuddled, which was nice. That probably doesn't happen now, but it did then, so feeding was closely associated with feeling loved and emotionally secure. After a time the empty feeling went away, and once winded and changed you were blissfully happy again, without a care in the world, and either lay there gurgling or maybe drifted off to sleep for a bit, to do some more effortless growing.

Now, this pattern didn't just happen once or twice, but several times a day for months on end, so it is not surprising that 'feeding' and 'comfort' are very closely associated in the Subconscious mind right from the beginning.

So why doesn't everyone Comfort-Eat?

I was just coming to that. No two human minds are identical, but there are similarities. Comfort-eating isn't directly caused by those early experiences in themselves, and will not necessarily lead to a later Subconscious decision to prompt that behaviour. And although everyone has ups and downs in their lives, how they react to those changes personally varies from one individual to another.

We don't stay infants for long, and pretty soon life gets more demanding. If that gets rather hard to bear later on, and your spirits sink, the Subconscious mind (effectively your Protector) may decide to intervene, and if so it will scan the Archives to see if anything it can get hold of might possibly help. If it then concludes that feeding is potentially comforting, we should not be surprised: not just because of those early experiences, but also partly because normal feeding also brings a shift from a state of want to a state of satisfaction. So, in an aim to lift your spirits and hopefully bring a sense of 'comfort' in general, it may choose to trigger compulsive eating using the craving system (physical impulses felt in the body) to prompt that action, often repeatedly.


Trouble is, this doesn't work, as the conscious mind already knows! Firstly, the Subconscious mind knows nothing about the weight issue. Being 'conscious of your weight' is, literally, a conscious perception - as is all the information about health issues, and different types of food. If you have not previously had hypnotherapy for food and weight issues, your Subconscious mind is blissfully unaware that the behaviour it is prompting will cause weight gain. So the poor old conscious mind, which does know that, is frustrated and dismayed by compulsive eating that it did not authorise and cannot apparently stop.

This upsets the conscious mind, which was always led to believe it should be in control of all our decisions and behaviour. Actually the Subconscious directs a lot of our daily behaviour, but until that is pointed out, by someone like myself, most people are grimly hanging on to the delusion that the conscious mind is the Boss. As it is in some things - but compulsive eating (or comfort-eating) ain't one of 'em!

So the conscious frustration and fretting leads to another drop in mood, but the Subconscious has no way of knowing what is going on in the conscious mind. That is a different mental department. It simply picks up on the mood, and may even prompt more comfort-eating, in the vain hope that it might help. These behaviours can also become habitual in the same way any behaviour can, and of course that is also outside the conscious mind's domain, so any conscious decisions to stop doing that will have very little influence.

If you ever accepted the naive suggestion that Willpower ought to overcome this, you need to read The Willpower Myth page on this site - see top left list on the Home Page.

Don't Beat Yourself Up!

People who comfort-eat are inclined to blame themselves, and indeed are often encouraged to blame themselves by others, usually people who don't have that problem. Even when other people are more sympathetic, the general assumption is that this is some sort of a 'weakness', and that more willpower is the order of the day! This is simply ignorance, and of course the poor comfort-eater has no defence against that suggestion, and ends up concluding that they have "no willpower".

You would be amazed how many people tell me that they have no willpower. So I ask them, "How on Earth did you get here today then? Because you certainly don't come here everyday. So you must have decided to, and then gone to the trouble of actually turning up on the day. You made the effort and successfully arrived! So there's nothing wrong with your willpower, obviously."

There was nothing opposing your decision!

Of course you do not lack willpower. It's just that your Subconscious mind wasn't trying to send you somewhere else, so you didn't have to fight a battle over it! Not only did you decide to come here (conscious decision), but you also wanted to (Subconscious preference). Because believe me, if you had decided to, but not wanted to, it is highly likely you would have ended up as a pp, a ca or an fta on my diary entry for that day. (That's postponed, cancelled or failed to arrive, by the way.)

It is understandable when some clients back out like that, but a shame because most of those people would have been successful anyway, it's just that they didn't expect that, so they didn't arrive on the day. They didn't realise that we can deal with all the conflicts on the day, and get rid of them! That's my job, they can leave all that responsibility to me. I only need them to arrive at the appointed time (or thereabouts), because if they don't do that I cannot even begin.

Comfort-eating and the associated weight-gain are very common, and certainly nothing to be ashamed of, especially as we can get rid of the compulsive urge to do that with effective hypnotherapy. Here at Central Hypnotherapy your experiences and your feelings will be properly understood and respected, and then changed very much for the better.  more about this

If that sounds like just what you need, call or text Chris (that's me, by the way!) on:

Office: 0161-474-8120 Monday-Friday 8.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m., or call/text 07748 838 644 any day, any time.

Consultant Hypnotherapist Chris Holmes BA(Hons) HPD DipCAH MNCH is a Senior Registered Hypnotherapy Practitioner (General Hypnotherapy Register) and has been providing effective and confidential hypnosis and hypnotherapy services at Central Hypnotherapy for Stockport, Manchester, Tameside and Cheshire since August 2000.


Categories for this article

  • Eating & Weight Issues
  • Comfort Eating