Category Archives: General

Beware the halo effect, or, don’t trust the promises on packages

November’s group session will be 6:30 pm, Thursday the 17th. Contact me for details.

The halo effect refers to our tendency to ascribe value to something because we consciously or unconsciously associate it with something else that we value.  It’s also another way we can unintentionally make it hard to build the habit of eating healthier.

I just saw this headline “‘Fitness foods actually lead people to eat more and exercise less, a new study finds.” The study it refers to used identical trail mix snacks with two different labels: one label said “fitness,” with a picture of running shoes, and the other label just said simply “trail mix.”

Some of the people in the study were concerned about their weight. People in this group were more likely to eat lots of the “fitness” trail mix, and exercise less afterwards.

It’s not surprising; we’ve seen this research before. The word fitness on the package leads us to assume that by eating this, we are doing something that supports our health, and we can then check that off the list for the rest of the day.

People who are not concerned about their weight, or people who get lots of physical activity already, are not likely to be taken in by that kind of advertising, since they have their own reasons—their own internal motivation—for keeping active.

The way to fight this kind of unintentional self-sabotage is to make a habit of reading the ingredients and looking at labels for the portion size, not the advertising. If you’re not in the habit already, give it a try. If you want to make it interesting, see how many packaged foods have 5 or fewer ingredients. Let me know how it goes.

You say placebo like it’s a bad thing . . . .

I recently heard hypnosis described as a placebo-effect delivery system, which I loved, since it does reflect how I think about what I’m doing when I do hypnosis.

There are as many ways to talk about hypnosis as there are ways to talk about the weather—no doubt partly because it’s just as natural, and just as likely to be misunderstood. But rather than talking about what hypnosis is, or perhaps more importantly, what it can do, I want to take a moment to talk about how I see hypnosis—through the lens of how I use it.

My intention, my focus, in facilitating a hypnosis session—yes, I said “facilitating”—is to induce a hypnotic state that allows the people I’m working with to activate their own healing, expansive, growth-oriented abilities.

That’s it. I work with all kinds of people, who are dealing with all kinds of issues. As it happens, I’m privileged to work with many people who are dealing with weight issues, and so that has become a specialty for me—I love working with people who are tackling this complex problem.

I also have a specialty in working with people with medical issues. Working with these differing concerns, I use the same hypnosis techniques, and they work, because the power of hypnosis comes from the power of your mind, your body, your spirit. I’m there so that my voice and my words can become the trigger for the change that comes from your innate ability and your desire for well-being and good health.

Simple. And yes, it can seem magical. Placebo, anyone?


Tapping is a great tool for managing cravings

Cravings are a cruel part of breaking a bad habit–they can be painful, and they tend to lead to self-shame and other negative, unhelpful feelings. I’m thinking about sugar cravings here, but there are lots of other things that fit the description.

One thing  I know about cravings, after dealing with them first with smoking and later with food, is that as we persevere, they do get less frequent and eventually go away.  In the meantime, however, it’s helpful to have techniques to deal with them in the moment, when they first strike–when they are hard to ignore.  EFT (emotional freedom technique, or just tapping) works really well for getting through the cravings without giving in.

If you’re one who struggles, here’s a link to the Tapping Solution how to video. it’s very easy to follow if you’ve never done it, or you’ve forgotten where all those pesky tapping points are. (This  technique has also helped me with sleep issues, too.)

Making mindless eating work for you

I mentioned an article by Brian Wansink in a previous post, and after reading his article, I checked out his book, Slim by Design. The book is a great resource—he has useful suggestions for diverting the train wreck of bad choices that can sneak up on us when we’re not paying attention. I’ve been able to strategize my way through some of my own problems in this area—like moving the peanuts to a different shelf, out of my sight—but it hadn’t occurred to me that could use similar strategies to steer my family’s choices towards healthier options.

Following his advice in Slim by Design, I moved the least desirable snack things—cookies, crackers, bread—out of sight. (I had to leave the toaster where it is, because space constraints wouldn’t allow me to hide it.) I moved the fruit bowl into the main flight path through the kitchen, and made sure it was stocked with apples, oranges, and pears. (This was new since I usually prefer to keep them in the frig to maintain freshness.) I put yogurt—the lowest-sugar, lowest-fat yogurt I could find—on eye-level in the fridge, along with some good quality cheese sticks. I was already a believer in having celery, carrots, radishes, and red peppers washed, cut up, and available for snacking, but I added baby carrots because they are guaranteed to appeal to some other members of the household.

So the kitchen landscape now has some inviting and healthy choices in plain sight. The next bit of advice I followed was to institutionalize his half plate rule, which says you can have anything you want, but half the plate has to hold vegetables and fruits. Okay, you want a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch? Sure, just make sure to fill half the plate with vegetables and fruit. You want breakfast cereal? Okay, but you’re going to eat the same volume of fruit along with it.

There are a number of payoffs in this new approach. As a family, we are definitely more consistently getting good amounts of protein, fruit, and veg. But the unexpected thing I’m finding is that I can let go of the feeling that I need to intervene in others’ food choices—nagging is not what I want to do. No one really needs a load of my disapproval or a guilt-trip over food choices. This way, instead of nagging people to eat the way I want them to, I’m just quietly supplementing the available choices, and that is so much less stressful for the whole family, especially me.

Dates for upcoming hypnosis workshops at Whatcom Community College

To register for any of the following workshops, contact Whatcom Community Education at 360-383-3200 or visit Feel free to contact me for more info.

Hypnosis for Weight Control II

Part II of a series (3 class sessions in Part I and three in Part II) this class  is designed to continue the transformation of your relationship with with food.  Part II focuses on strengthening motivation for maintaining the healthy changes you’ve made, and developing strategies for dealing with obstacles to your continued well-being and stress-free relationship with food.  Class content is based on research in habit change, willpower, and how our bodies process the foods we choose.   Sessions are Wednesdays from February 26 to March 12.

The Power of Self Hypnosis for Positive Change

This one-session introduction to self hypnosis is designed to prepare you to use self-hypnosis to meet your goals. You’ll practice several ways to go into a hypnotic state, and learn how to craft effective suggestions to support your efforts.  You’ll leave the class ready to use self-hypnosis, a powerful tool for making changes.  Class is at Whatcom Community College on April 29th from 6:30 to 8:30.

Hypnosis for Weight Control I & II

This two-part series of classes at WCC is designed to transform your experience with food and strengthen your relationship with your own body.  Part I focuses on reducing the stress of the battle to control weight, appreciating yourself–and your body–for who you are right now, and learning how to move beyond old patterns that keep you from enjoying a healthy body at a healthy weight.  Class content is based on research in habit change, willpower, and how our bodies process the foods we choose. Part I is on Tuesdays from May 6 to May 20.

Part II focuses on strengthening motivation for maintaining the healthy changes you’ve made, and developing strategies for dealing with obstacles to your continued well-being and stress-free relationship with food.  Class content is based on research in habit change, willpower, and how our bodies process the foods we choose. Part II is on Tuesdays from May 27 to  June 10.


About HFCS, rats, obesity, and living well . . .

A recent headline says, “High-fructose corn syrup is as addictive as cocaine.”

The headline is about a study of rats fed high fructose corn syrup. It suggests that, because rats responded to large amounts of high fructose corn syrup in the same way that cocaine addicts respond to the drug, foods with high fructose corn syrup could partly explain the global obesity epidemic.

Okay—rats eating high fructose corn syrup point the way to solving the crisis of obesity in humans all over the world.  Hooray for science!

But this isn’t how science works.  Science is a process.  For a good example of the process, see this article in the June 1 Science News. It mentions an article written in 2004, pointing out that use of high fructose corn syrup and obesity had been increasing at the same rate. (The SN article also says that, since 2004, the use of high fructose corn syrup has been decreasing, while obesity has continued to increase.)

I’m willing to believe that high fructose corn syrup is horrible stuff.  I read ingredients, and I avoid “food” that includes it—but then, I avoid most processed food anyway.

And I am fascinated by the way research is illuminating the complex affects of food on the brain.  But let’s not forget that nutrition is a young science.  It’s certainly not advanced enough to tell us how to live well.  Far better to rely on what we already know about living well: eating healthy food that tastes good, getting good exercise that feels good, spending time with people we care about, and doing things that really matter to us.  I’m not saying it’s easy to create that kind of lifestyle these days, but if we can do it, there’s no way an occasional encounter with high fructose corn syrup is going to turn us into addicts.