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What’s keeping you fat?
Weight Watchers, Slimming World, The Cambridge diet... Kay Howard's clients have invariable tried them all. For many, Kay is a last resort. They've struggled and failed to lose weight for years - and even then don't really expect hypnotherapy to work.
"I'd failed so often in the past it seemed like a forgone conclusion that this could not possibly work either,' says Carly Ellis, 30, from Portsmouth.
"My self confidence had plummeted, I found myself at my heaviest weight and feeling like I had no other option than to seriously consider weight loss surgery. Thank goodness I didn't, as I've now managed to lose nearly four stone with Kay's help."
So what's the secret? Kay has devised a unique session in which she uses a variety of techniques to re-programme the mind to create "powerful change."
"The session lasts for four to five hours. It's intense but I've found working like that causes the most instant and profound change," says Kay.
Releasing underlying issues
First, Kay works with a client to identify the underlying issues which have caused them to over-eat and may be blocking them from losing weight.
"It might be a relationship with a parent, marriage problems, work-related stress, something they were taught in childhood - everyone is different," explains Kay.
Issue or issues identified, Kay then uses Emotional Freedom Therapy, which involves gently tapping on the meridian energy pathways - the same ones used in Chinese acupuncture - to release negative emotions.
Of course, tapping yourself won't change what happened, but according to advocates of the technique it can release negative energy from your memories and will help you to feel more resilient, so that the person or memory no longer has the same power over you.
Kay then moves on to discover what your current relationship with food is like and explains how to use the 'mindful eating' technique.
"Physically, we're no different from animals in the way our mind and body work together to produce hunger signals," says Kay. "The problem is that we've been conditioned to override them, often from a very young age. As a result, we often don't know whether we're hungry enough to eat or not - and so eat regardless of what our body is actually telling us."
Kay suggests interpreting hunger signals using a scale of 1 to 6. "When you are at '1' you are just starting to think about food, '2' means within about 30 minutes you will be ready to eat, '3 to 4' is when you begin to salivate thinking about food - and this is when you eat. Once you get to '5' you are extremely hungry and likely to eat too much - '6' means you have starved your body and will be likely to binge eat."
According to Kay, when you tune into your hunger signals and eat at the right time, you will find that you will eat only as much as you want and stop once you are full.
"Be attentive to what's happening whenever you put food in your mouth," adds Kay. "If you smell it and the aroma is delicious, great - go ahead and eat. If it doesn't smell much of anything, you're body doesn't really need it.
"Many of my clients are surprised to find that they don't like the smell of foods, even ones they've been eating for years. The rule is, if it smells of nothing much or bad, your body is saying don't eat it."
In fact, you should never eat anything unless the thought and smell of it is exciting.
"Never eat bland food," says Kay. "And once you start eating a delicious meal, only eat while it still smells and tastes fantastic. You'll find that the way it tastes and smells will change once your body has had enough - and that's when it's time to put down your fork.
"This way you'll end up eating smaller portions of very nice tasting food."
I spoke to several of Kay's clients and their experiences were strikingly similar - each had tried and failed to lose weight using 'conventional' methods, each had been shocked when it actually worked - and all of them praised how patient and supportive Kay had been.
"After a lifetime of being overweight, I knew that a fat person has a totally different relationship with food from that of a thin person. I wasn't greedy, lazy or uneducated about healthy eating. I knew exactly what to do - doing it was the problem," says Kay Tregenna, 46, of Cosham.
"To be honest I was expecting a few hours of straight hypno but got much more. What was really good was that Kay was willing to work with me for as long at it was going to take."
The role of NLP
Kay is perhaps able to relate to and understand her clients so well because she's been there herself.
"I had an eating disorder in my twenties and thirties," says Kay. "I was always plump as a child and like so many other kids, was encouraged to clear my plate so I could go out and play. As a fit and active child the amount of food I ate wasn't a problem but as an adult dealing with the loneliness and rejection of a failed marriage, it soon piled on."
Things changed for Kay the day she met Paul McKenna.
"I was a classic yo-yo dieter until I reached my forties. I was already a trained hypnotherapist but it wasn't until I trained with Paul McKenna and learned about NLP that I changed my life. I lost three stone - and have kept it off since."
Kay now uses NLP (Neurolinguistic programming) in her sessions - to help address negative self esteem and improve her clients' confidence and positivity.
"I really can't praise NLP enough," says Kay. "It's amazingly powerful. I regularly use it with my clients to re-frame negative beliefs they have about themselves and to increase their positivity - giving them the confidence and strength of belief they need to know they can lose the weight they want and be slim for life."
The hypno gastric band
Finally, Kay offers her clients the option to have a 'gastric band' fitted through hypnotherapy.
"Clients can feel nervous about having hypnotherapy, so I always spend time explaining exactly how it works and how it will feel. Basically, hypnosis is simply taking someone into a trance-like state. It's similar to when you gaze out of a window on a sunny day, and you experience that 'floaty' feeling, it is not necessary to get into a deep state of consciousness.
"Although in reality you know that you haven't had a gastric band fitted, the subconscious mind works in amazing ways - and what we visualise is just as 'real' for the mind as what actually happens in normal life," explains Kay.
The technique may sound far-fetched, but according to Kay it has a high success rate.
"Nearly everyone who has a hypno gastric band fitted reports eating much smaller portions during the following weeks - and without even thinking about it or knowing why!"
The most impressive success story has to be Lara Humphreys, 42, from Portsmouth, who has managed to lose seven-and-a-half stone with Kay's help.
No easy fix
While a 'gastric band for the mind' and 'mental re-programming' might sound like the easy option, Kay warns that her clients must show commitment and put the work in.
"I can use all the hypnotherapy and NLP I like but a client has to want to lose weight," insists Kay. "They must make a commitment to do mindful eating and get it right every single time food passes their lips for at least three weeks, at which point it becomes second nature.
"My techniques are about helping people to change for life - my aim is that everyone who comes to see me loses the weight they want, and keeps it off for good."
And surely that's what anyone who has struggled with their weight wants.
"I only went for the hypno gastric band just over a week ago," says Kay Tregenna. "I've already lost 5lb and 4 inches - and feel pretty sure I am going to win the weight loss battle. Kay has made it so easy I can hardly believe it.
"What is so wonderful is that I am free from 'food addiction' - I am in control and eating like a 'normal' person. Only a fat person would understand how wonderful that is."
Kay Howard holds clinics in Essex, Southampton and Portsmouth. For more information about her techniques visit: kayhoward-weightloss.co.uk or call: 02392 704230 or 07769 728094 for a free consultation. A session (lasting 4-5 hours) costs £250 and includes a follow up consultation and hypnotherapy CD.