Eating in a trance

Sometimes I fantasize about being hypnotized to get out of my bad habits. I like the idea that my mind would be trained to stop doing the things I shouldn't do, and start doing the things I should do, without even trying. I've given up on willpower and self-control, especially where eating is concerned.

I know people who have used hypnosis to lose weight. The beauty of the therapy is that people are not trained to have the willpower to put the chocolate chip cookie down; they're trained not to want the cookie in the first place.

Resisting temptation is a losing battle. I don't care how strict I have vowed to be, or even how full I feel, if someone puts a plate of brownies on the conference table during a meeting, I want it. I lose all track of the matter at hand because I am focusing on whether it's bad form to be the first to sample the treat. I can't think about anything other than whether I should reach for the brownie and hope no one notices, or politely ask for the platter to be passed to me. If no one seems aware of the gooey squares of chocolate sitting in front of them, I am even more distracted from business wondering when someone is going to realize that dessert has been served.

At times like that, I think about how I would behave if I had been hypnotized to associate sweets with something unpleasant. I would glance at the platter, hardly registering the stacks of chocolate squares, maybe even slightly sickened by the smell of chocolate, butter and sugar, and I would move on to the purpose of the meeting. At the end of the meeting I would take my skinny self off to have the apple I had saved from lunch.

My husband recently pointed out to me that I cannot say no to food that is put in front of me, no matter how sincerely I have vowed to restrict my calories. He is so right. I can be virtuous as long as temptation is out of sight, but put a plate of hors d'oeuvres in front of me, pass those pigs-in-a-blankets my way at a cocktail party and you can bet I'm sticking my toothpick in.

If I was trained by hypnosis to find passed tidbits unappealing, I would look disdainfully at the pastry wrapped hot dog morsel and think "ick," not "don't."

I tend to eat when I read, when I watch TV, or when I am in my office working at the computer at the end of the day. I understand that hypnosis can teach you to stop associating eating with certain pastimes and places. This would alleviate half of my mindless snacking. Actually, it would alleviate most of my meals.

I love to start the day by reading the newspaper with a cup of coffee and a half bagel. I'm willing to get up a half hour early to have that time with my breakfast and my reading to start the day. I like to eat and read when I get home from work too. I snack and read a book, the mail, or a catalogue, making that tea and cookies last as long as I can to put off grading papers.

Snacking goes well with watching TV, too. What could be bad about a few pretzels, or a piece of cheese, or some dark chocolate (it's supposed to be good for you), or all of the above while tuning in to the latest episode of Grey's Anatomy or Top Chef? It's amazing how the pounds creep up when the television season is new.

I also nosh when I'm at the computer at work in the late afternoon. I'm tired and I need a treat to keep me going. I'll have the grapes I brought in my lunch bag. Then a few crackers I keep in my desk drawer. Then a piece of a protein bar I keep in my desk drawer. Every time I get stuck mid-thought or mid-sentence, my hand goes in my drawer that has begun to resemble a well-stocked pantry.

Everything I read about good eating habits tells me that I am not supposed to do anything else while I'm eating. I'm supposed to focus on the food, be mindful, savor each bite so that I take it slow and don't unconsciously keep shoving things into my mouth. That sounds good, but I have never been able to do it. Here is where hypnosis comes in. If someone could trance me so that I no longer associate eating with reading, watching TV or working at the computer, I would be a model eater.

Unfortunately, there are few things I enjoy more than leafing through In Style while munching on popcorn. If I didn't peruse the editorials over morning coffee I wouldn't know what opinions I wanted to adopt. And if I couldn't have a granola bar at my desk a work, I'd probably go home earlier and get less done.

And I would hate to think of a life without brownies. I wouldn't be very sweet if I couldn't eat any sweets. Also, some of my favorite foods are the small bites that are passed around at cocktail parties.

When I fantasize about hypnosis changing those bad eating habits forever, I realize that, despite the extra pounds they bring, they also bring me a lot of pleasure. Even if it were painless, I don't want to give them up completely.