Case Study: In Control of Food


57 year old female has to stop for food when in the car driving, and feels out of control when dealing with food.

Presenting Problem

Dana* is a 57 year old female who has always struggled with her weight, but until a few years ago had been relatively in control of eating. Shortly after the death of her husband, Dana started to have urges to stop for food while driving. Dana had never been someone who was in love with food. In fact, she has food allergies that have her on a relatively restrictive diet. Despite knowing the adverse reactions of her allergies to certain foods, her ability to curb her subconscious ghost appetite while in the car became excessively out of control. Once in the car her mind would begin to plan out where and when she would stop on her way home. In almost all instances, Dana would stop for foods that were considered unhealthy or poor food choices for her health. Realizing her eating in the car was becoming out of hand, and having tried everything else in her power to stop this unwanted feeling while driving, Dana decided to try hypnosis.**

* To protect the confidentiality of the client her name has been replaced with an alias.

** Prior to working with Dana we had a phone consultation it was noted that the idea of “therapy” was something she hadn’t wanted to do, but hypnosis was something she was open to trying. Thus, it was important to coin my role as a hypnotist rather than a hypnotherapist.

Background Information

During our initial discussion, Dana had mentioned that she was interested in weight loss. Upon further discussing the weight loss program it became evident that Dana was not as concerned with her weight as she was with being in control of her eating habits. A few key factors came into play when discussing her eating habits with her and included the following:

  • Dana was on a relatively restrictive diet due to her various food allergies
  • She felt out of control while driving due to her consistent need to stop for food in the car despite  not being hungry.
  • Over eating during meals despite being full
  • Her relationship with food always felt in excess or abundant despite not really ever loving food

In the past Dana had tried dieting, food plans, and programs with minimal success. However, one particular program she had been on a number of years ago had been relatively successful, but without sustainability. While on this food program, Dana began to feel a sense of accomplishment and drive she hadn’t felt before, and gave her a sense of being in control, ability to sit back during  meals and enjoy the company she was with, and have a sense of pride of stopping eating when feeling full while she watched her friends at the table continue to eat despite reaching their capacity. Despite not having stuck with this program, it was a time in her life when she had felt in control of food.

In Dana’s adult life she had always been a caregiver to her sick mother and then later in life to her husband. She always identified herself as someone who was giving of her time and an extremely good caretaker. However, what Dana felt she fell short on was taking care of her.

Having identified a number of areas that Dana felt she fell short, a plan of action was prepared that would aid Dana in creating the changes she wanted in her life. Specifically:

  1. Being in Control of Food
  2. Stop Eating Food in The Car
  3. Stop Eating When Full

Why This Occurred

From a young age Dana has mentioned that her family had a distorted view of food amounts. Growing up Dana was always served large portions of food, and during meals, holidays, and family dinners the idea that there had to be “plenty” and “large portions.” This way of eating and preparing for meals, parties, or holidays became a known association Dana’s subconscious. Dana had never been deprived of food, but having “just enough” or “not enough” was never an option.

The second subconscious association that Dana made was that eating was a social event. Going out to meals meant seeing friends and having good conversations and fun. Thus, scheduling time with her friends meant going out for a meal.

An additional, association occurred shortly after her husband’s death, which was stopping for food while in the car driving. It is unclear how this association was born. However, it is suspected that it was easier to start planning out her meal (which was identified as social) in the car than to be left thinking about going home to her apartment alone. Food slowly became a comfort, and a distraction of thinking about the loss of her husband.

Method of Treatment

Over a course of three sessions, Dana and I would work on the following 3 presenting issues:

  1. Being in Control of Food
  2. Stop Eating Food in The Car
  3. Stop Eating When Full

The initial session would deal directly with the idea of putting herself back in control. Specifically, understanding her body, her triggers that caused her unwanted eating response, and being aware of the negative affects that allergic foods have on her body.

Being a strong visual learner, Dana was put into the hypnotic state and asked to go to a place that meant relaxation for her. While building this visual picture, we tapped into all the physical feelings that relaxation meant. Once fully relaxed, I wanted Dana to identified with a time in her life that she had felt success with food, and to bring up all the confidence she had felt at that time and bring them forward into the moment. Once Dana had tapped into those feelings, we developed a beautiful new path to success with food in her place of relaxation. A path that meant being in control of food, motivation, making good food choices, and taking care of herself. These motivations and feelings were rationalized with the wants of her conscious mind and why she had chosen now to create these changes in her life and how she would feel in the future after creating these positive changes.

Once directly taped into her motivations, wants, and feelings of control and relaxation, desensitization of each trigger response for eating was addressed. These included:

  1. Eating while in the car
  2. Over eating at restaurants
  3. Eating when not hungry in the house
  4. Eating foods that were poor food choices

Dana had wanted to increase her knowledge while in hypnosis that she always had time to cook. This meant that while being in the car she could re-focus on what she would stop for at the supermarket to cook or eat instead of which fast food restaurant she would stop at.

Over eating was addressed through understanding her stages of hunger and identifying the point at which she was almost full as a time to stop eating. Positive suggestions to elicit this response were given, as well as bringing up the potential negative path she could take of continuing to eat and how it could feel if she continued to over eat.

Eating out of boredom and eating poor food choices were desensitized by allowing her mind to refocus on other tasks. An anchor of hearing “NO,” “you can do this,” “yes you can,” and “you’re ok” as well as, visualizations of putting all her bad food into garbage bags and dragging them out to the dumpster were given. Once ‘trashing’ her bad foods and unnecessary cravings for them she would move forward on a light and bright path of success feeling confident and in control of her life and food she chooses to eat.

An additional suggestion of Dana referring to herself as her own caregiver was also suggested during a hypnotic session. Prior to entering into the hypnotic state on our third session, Dana had mentioned that she never identified with being her own caregiver. However, when presented with the visualization and suggestion in hypnosis she was receiving of the idea. In fact, she had a visualization of her as a child and taking care of herself from that point forward in making good and healthy food choices, as well as knowing she was always in control of food.


Within our first session of working together Dana, who had once been slightly skeptical of how easy creating these changes would be, began to feel immediate relief in the car while driving. The positive suggestions of our work together began to manifest through her life and within the first 2 weeks Dana had lost 4 pounds. After our first session, she stated that she had no idea how easy creating the changes could be, and that each session helped to reinforce her positive associations so that they no longer felt like fragile parts of her life, but rather changes that would last a lifetime.