Interview with Estil Boyd – Using hypnosis for eating disorder recovery

Morty: Hi. This is Morty Lefkoe with another podcast interview of somebody who has some ideas that might be useful to you on eating disorder recovery.. We’ve had authors and people who run clinics and today we have somebody who’s totally different. We have a hypnotist, a hypnotherapist who’s done some good work in a lot of different areas, including the area of eating disorder recovery,, who might have some really good ideas for you on how hypnosis might be a potential treatment for eating disorders. Estil, is that how you pronounce it?

Mr. Boyd: Estil.

Morty: Estil. Okay, it’s Estil Boyd. He’s the graduate of the Ohio Academy of Holistic Health and has been certified as a clinical hypnotherapist in 1998 and has had a private practice in the Oxford Ohio area since 1997. Estil thank you for coming and welcome to our show today.

Mr. Boyd: It’s a pleasure to be here, Morty.

Morty: Good. Could you give us a little bit of background on how you got interested in and started working in the area of emotional eating.  What is your specific treatment for eating disorders?

Mr. Boyd: Well, being a full service hypnotherapist I have had clients interested in weight management, which is usually the way it’s put to me. It’s always an issue that clients come to me for.  As far as emotional eating goes–one of the first things that I explain to people is that it makes a lot of sense that eating and emotions are closely tied together and it goes way back usually, to when we’re infants and we only have one way of communication. Once we cry, we get support. We get nurturing. We get physical contact and at the same time we get food.

It makes sense that we would associate the two with each other. So then in later life anytime that you’re feeling down, or depressed, or uncertain of yourself, maybe not feeling as good about yourself as you might like, it makes sense that one would find solace in food. In a lot of cases the emotional issue goes way back and is deeply seated by the time it becomes a problem for an adult.

Morty: Very interesting. I have one question based on what you said so far. You said you called it weight management. I like to make a distinction between emotional eating and weight.  I am actually able to tell people, “I can help you. I can almost guarantee to help you with your emotional eating. I have no idea what’s going to happen to your weight because weight is not only a question of how much you eat but the type of food you eat and exercise.

“If you are eating when you’re not hungry for emotional reasons–because you’re upset, you’re anxious, you’re bored, you feel unlovable, etc., I can figure out a way to help you stop doing that. But if all you eat are high carbs and you eat 5,000 calories a day and never get up from your desk, you’re going to gain weight even if you don’t have an emotional eating problem.” So I try to make a distinction between the two and it sounds as if you’re not making that distinction or are you?

Mr. Boyd:  Well, there’s a fair amount of guilt involved. People who eat emotionally never feel good about it. We’re such a visually oriented society these days that the compelling issue  that usually brings people to me is the way they look, their health, and things like that.

The first thing that I usually do my best to dispel is the whole idea of diet because it just doesn’t work. We’re hardwired, the unconscious mind is hardwired to protect this, to preserve this and if we threaten that unconscious mind with starvation, withholding food, it rebels. Now one can consciously overcome that for a while.

One can go on a diet and lose weight but eventually it comes back. The approach that I put forth is rather than denying yourself food, treat yourself to the proper kinds of food in the proper amounts.

Morty:   Okay but do you actually identify something that I call emotional eating, which is people who say, “when I have certain negative feelings–I am anxious, I am angry, I am sad, I am depressed, etc.,– I just find myself going to get food, and I have to use tremendous willpower to stop myself from eating or if I am eating I keep eating and eating even when I am full.”  I actually distinguish a particular behavior that is eating when you’re not hungry because you’re triggered by an emotion.

Mr. Boyd: Well, my intention is to re-channel that. If my client is feeling down, depressed, a situation where they would ordinarily go for food, well I am going to re-channel that to a more healthy choice. People feel that they have limited options. My job is to convince them that they always have options. In a place where they would have formerly gone for food, they have a walk instead. How about deep breathing? How about the things that are apt to uplift the body rather than drag it down?

Morty: Okay.  You actually acknowledge that there are emotional triggers to eat and what you do through hypnotherapy is get them to stop eating in response to the trigger and do something healthy in response to the trigger?

Mr. Boyd: Right but I am always going to put that in a positive way.

Morty: Got it.

Mr. Boyd: I am always going to phrase a suggestion positively rather than negatively.

Morty: So how would you do that? What would that sound like?

Mr. Boyd: I’ll talk about the good things they could do rather than the bad things they want to do. The unconscious mind doesn’t process negative very well. If I were to say, “Morty this is very important and your life depends on this. Whatever you do, don’t think about a blue tree.” Do you understand what it is I ask you not to do, you have to do it. For instance, you will never smoke again is a useless suggestion for a smoker.  You can now become a non-smoker is a much better suggestion.

Morty: Got it.

Mr. Boyd: So I am always going to phrase things in a positive way. So the suggestion would go like–in those times when you feel a little depressed or a little anxious, you can do this, you can do this. I am not going to talk about what they don’t want to do.

Morty: Got it. What is your experience–I always ask people who call with different techniques–what is your experience on the success rate of people no longer eating when they feel negative feelings and instead starting to go for a walk or whatever suggestions you make? To what extent, what percentage of the people, would you say are amenable to hypnotherapy as a solution to an eating problem?

Mr. Boyd: Well I think everybody is amenable to hypnotherapy. I have yet to find anyone who couldn’t do it.

Morty: Oh boy. Okay.

Mr. Boyd: One of the misconceptions because people think that hypnosis is something that a hypnotist does to you. That’s not what it is. Hypnotic trance is something that a person does. I just show them how. It’s not about one person’s control over another. It’s about self-control, taking charge of your own issues. Everybody that I have dealt with, I would say, at least 75% of them have positive results.

Morty: Oh boy, great.

Mr. Boyd: People move around, so it’s hard to keep track of your former clients, but that’s my gut reaction. I think probably 75% had some positive results.

Morty: Excellent. Congratulations. That’s exciting.

Mr. Boyd: It tends to generalize in a person’s life too. Once they have the techniques to deal with this issue, everything else seems better, as far as eating and exercise for instance. Once the person starts eating better and starts eating the proper diet and the proper amount, they’re going to be the one who rises so it’s much easier for them to exercise and they tend to want to.

We have an automatic system for weight management. It’s hardwired into us. It’s called the appetite. Now the problem comes because most Americans’ appetite are buried under about a meal and a half, but your body will tell you when it’s proper to eat. In its own–

Morty: What do you mean buried under a meal and a half?

Mr. Boyd: Well, most people don’t wait till they get hungry. They eat at a regular time of the day when their job or their regular schedule tells them it’s time to eat.

Morty: Okay.

Mr. Boyd: If they waited until they got hungry, their appetite would them when they’re hungry. Since they never let themselves get to that point, their appetite never gets engaged. They never notice it. One of the things that I stress with my weight management clients is it’s always proper to eat when you’re hungry and it’s always proper to stop eating when you’re not hungry anymore.

The appetite works exceptionally well if one pays attention to it and the idea is not to kill the appetite. The idea is to become friends with the appetite and as you go on and become better friends and get to know each other better, your appetite will not only tell you when you’re hungry, it will tell you what your body needs to eat at that time.

Morty: That I agree with totally. My experience in working with clients is that sometimes having to eat before you go to work at 7 o’clock or having to eat at noon time is a problem, but for me that’s not as big a problem as being triggered by negative feelings. It’s not that people eat so much when they’re not hungry because it’s time to eat, it’s that people eat when they’re not hungry because they’re driven to eat in order to cover up some negative feeling.

People have negative feelings all the time, all times of day and night, and in between etc., so that what drives people to the cupboard, or to the refrigerator, or the pantry on a regular basis is feeling lonely, feeling bored, or feeling depressed, or feeling unloved–so that’s the way they handle it. It’s the way they handle negative feelings, so I agree with you.

For me, we don’t even talk about weight, we just talk about can you stop eating, getting you to stop eating except when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re full. And if you do that and if you eat relatively healthy food and get some modicum of exercise, you’ll be fine. But for me the problem is eating when you’re not hungry because there is an emotional need.

Mr. Boyd: We’re pretty much on the same page with that. I probably am going to play up the healthy eating and treating yourself to proper nutrition and I am probably going to play down the negative emotions that you might be feeling that trigger it, but other than that I mean our outcome is the same.

Morty: How do you work with people? Do they just call you for a session and how many sessions does it normally take to get somebody to stop eating emotionally and start eating only when they’re hungry?

Mr. Boyd: Well, for most issues I’ve never been into this for long-term therapy. I would normally see a client for weight management probably three times with the initial session being pretty long because I need to learn quite a bit about how they approach the world and what talents they already have for dealing with things. Then usually a couple of weeks later we do reinforcement and then probably 3 months later. Usually, with weight management clients probably 3 sessions over the period of about three and a half to four months.

Morty: Okay.

Mr. Boyd: With most issues, I believe that change happens in a instant. Smoking for instance, I ordinarily see a client twice. Preparation for surgery, once. Now the only thing that is sort of ongoing would be hypnotic preparation for natural childbirth because I won’t be in the delivery room there so it’s necessary for me to teach the client self-hypnosis and to train their coach or partner in helping them deepen their trance.

So I probably see them half a dozen times starting their third trimester up until the birthday but the therapy can work, it’s not magic. It can seem like that sometimes because the power of the unconscious mind, but ordinarily it is short lived, the therapeutic setting.

Morty: That’s amazing to be able to produce that kind of result in a such a short period of time. And you find that hypnosis, I mean I’ve heard that some people are good hypnotic subjects and some people are not. Is that accurate or is everybody a good hypnotic subject?

Mr. Boyd: Everybody is different. The way they come up with the statistics is they’ll fit a hundred college students in a room and deliver a general hypnotic induction to the whole group or something like a systematic relaxation which works on about 80% of the people and that’s how they come up with their statistic, but I have yet to find out anybody that couldn’t do it. It’s just a matter of how a person would prefer to do it. Everybody can do it, it’s just people do it in different ways. I’ve had clients that giggle their way into trance.

Morty: [Laughs]

Mr. Boyd: Everybody does it differently but everybody can do it. It’s not something that’s strange or weird. It’s something that we all do all the time. People go in and out of trances in different times everyday. It’s not something mystical. It’s a function of the unconscious mind that happens all the time.

Morty: So basically you contend that if you’re working with an individual and you can work with them the way their mind works, you can get anybody into a trance that would enable them to resolve an overeating problem.

Mr. Boyd: Yes.

Morty: That’s exciting. Well, congratulations on that.

Mr. Boyd: It is indeed. I love what I do.

Morty: Most of the people that I’ve read about and have talked to basically say it’s an X number of weeks program or an X number of months program.  In our case I would say maybe 5 to 8 one-hour sessions, but to be able to do that in 1 or 2 sessions where they supplement an hour or a couple of months later is amazing, so congratulations.

Mr. Boyd: Well, you’re releasing belief systems.

Morty: We’re doing two things, releasing beliefs but also deconditioning triggers. Basically we would say that there is a conditioned response. Just like if you hear a gunshot, there can be a conditioned emotional response, like with PSTD. You can have an automatic response of dropping to the ground or something like that. If every time you have a negative feeling, you just happen to be eating because you eat three times a day, and you notice that there is a kind of a pleasurable distraction. Instead of feeling some negative feeling, you’re feeling good because you’re eating some tasty food. Number 1–it’s pleasurable. Number 2–it’s a distraction.

While you’re eating, you’re not thinking about your boredom or feeling unloved or your anxiety.  What people get is there is a positive reinforcement to eating and if you do that five times, ten times, or twenty times–at some point, it gets literally conditioned so that when you have any of these negative feelings, you just feel the desire to eat.

So what we do is we have a process that deconditions and it only takes about 10 minutes, but it actually deconditions each one of those because each one is conditioned separately. Boredom is conditioned separately from feeling unloveable, which is conditioned separately from general anxiety, which is conditioned separately from anger, etc.

We have found about 20 different conditionings, 20 different triggers so the first thing you do is to decondition each of the triggers and then you say, “Do you have any beliefs?” In many household, beliefs can be based on parents who were always on a diet, or say you have to clean your plate whether you’re hungry or not, or you were in a big family where there wasn’t enough food, so if you didn’t get it right away and you waited until the end, there wouldn’t be any food left. So there’s a whole bunch of situations, things your parents might have said or done around food that would result in you having several beliefs around food too.

Mr. Boyd: Right.

Morty: And what we’ve concluded is that if you decondition all the triggers and then eliminate all the beliefs, the emotional eating just stops. There’s no situation where, “Oh I feel like eating now.” You just eat when you’re hungry and that’s pretty much it, but that takes as I say, depending on a person, from 4 to 7 one-hour sessions and then yours is even faster. I thought ours was the fastest I know about but yours is even faster. I think everybody ought to–all of our listeners ought to know about this. Could you say where people could get in touch with you?  Give them a website where they can check you out.

Mr. Boyd: I have one that’s under construction. It’s not really ready to go yet.

Morty: But if you have a phone number. If any of the people listening on my list are interested in contacting you, what would be the best way to contact you?

Mr. Boyd: My phone number is area code 513-200-5720.

Morty: So that’s 513-200-5720 and it’s Estil Boyd.

Mr. Boyd: E-S-T-I-L.

Morty: Estil Boyd, yes. And you’re in Ohio, right?

Mr. Boyd: I see in clients in the Oxford, Ohio area. Yes.

Morty: Are people able to work with you on the telephone?

Mr. Boyd: I’ve never done that. No, I don’t think that would work very well because I–

Morty: Okay.

Mr. Boyd: I need to see responses. One definition of hypnosis is a listening unconscious responses so I need to be able to see that.

Morty: Well, you can see that on Skype which we didn’t have set up today but it costs nothing at all. If you have a computer, you can buy a webcam for $10 and download Skype for free and make as many calls. So basically we work with people in 60 different countries around the world and use the telephone or Skype. Our work is amenable to telephone work but it’s nice to be able to see people so almost all the time now, people are calling in from all over the world on Skype.

So you’re sort of limited, I mean we have people from 60 countries on our mailing list and from all over the United States so the possibility of anybody happening to be near Oxford, Ohio is pretty slim. I mean, maybe there is somebody there but there are probably lots of people from all over the world who might be interested in pursuing this. You might want to consider getting a webcam as I say it’s only about $10-15 for a workable webcam and they’re very easy to set up and if that would enable you to work with people outside of your area, that would open up the entire world for you.

Mr. Boyd: Yes, it’s certainly worth considering. I keep up with all the new things in hypnotherapy but I’ve got to admit I am sort of a technology dinosaur, but there are young people around me I can always ask for help.

Morty: As I said, I’ve given people your phone number 513-200-5720 so if any of you are reading a transcript of this interview or listening to the interview want to call, please call and maybe you’ll convince Estil to hire some local high school or college kid and set Skype up for him because as I say, it costs nothing. It does require no technical skills at all. You just click on the Skype button and then you click on the name of the person you’re trying to call and if you’ve got the webcam attached, they will see you and you will see them.

Mr. Boyd: Okay. Well I’ll look into it, Morty, and thank you very much for your time.

Morty: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate the feedback, it’s great. I am always interested in learning myself about more approaches to helping people with such a widespread problem and it seem to be growing both in the U.S. and around the world. There’s literally tens of millions of people with emotional eating problems and the result of the emotional eating and the weight is significant health problems. It’s wonderful that there are more and more approaches to dealing with it and I thank you so much for your time and as soon as we get this thing up I’ll let you know about it, but we should be able to get this out to everybody some time early next week.

Mr. Boyd: Great. Thank you very much, Morty. Have a great time the rest of your day.

Morty: You too. Take care. Bye-bye.

Mr. Boyd: Bye-bye.

2 thoughts on “Interview with Estil Boyd – Using hypnosis for eating disorder recovery”

  1. I’ve had hypnosis, both from a practitioner and via my own practice. I can verify it definitely works. The trick is, your heart has to be in it, you have to be 100% committed on every level for it to be successful.

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