In another TV documentary about problem eating, a journalist tries out a variety of psychological approaches. Weirdly, it’s the hypnotherapist who attempts something like CBT.
The last documentary about eating I reviewed here a week ago in Housewives was about mental illness. This one was about obesity, but it examined some approaches to obesity in which eating behaviour is seen as a psychological issue.
Journalist Hannah Jones has also written online about her attempts to lose weight in her Diary of a Diet. In the documentary, her weight peaks at 21 stone (around 300 pounds, 135 kg) with a BMI of more than 47. The documentary is online for six more days:
The weight loss programme
Hannah Jones first joins a specialist weight loss programme that treats over-eating as an addiction. So when you’re in the programme you just don’t eat (5:54):
You basically survive on milk shakes and snack bars, and I don’t mean…two Topics and a Marathon. The kind of food that they give you to eat are…food pack things…but apparently you can have tap and mineral water. Joy.
She decided that this was not for her. She didn’t want to eat “food pack things”. She wanted to eat like normal people.
The support group
Then she joins a support group for people who want to lose weight without dieting (13:23):
The idea here is that your dependence on food can be overcome though meditation. We’re being asked to identify the emotional triggers that cause us to eat.
She enjoys the group, but the effect on her eating only lasts until dinner time.
Next, it’s a £275 (or was that £375) a session Harley Street hypnotherapist. Here’s the weird thing. The hypnotherapist has her fill in a food diary, matching everything she eats with what she is feeling at the time. Is she trying to do CBT?
But the therapist doesn’t know what to do with the information in the diary. This treatment doesn’t work either (27:00):
I need something more substantial. I need to talk.
Finally it’s off to psychoanalytic psychotherapist and academic Prof. Julia Buckroyd.
But Prof. Buckroyd doesn’t actually attempt any psychoanalysis. Instead she spends some time speculating about how Hannah Jones’ childhood might be contributing to her present obesity, ending up with a feeble ‘try harder’ overlay (44:44):
Five months into my journey, and Julia sets me a challenge. Her crazy idea is to get me to eat only when I’m hungry, and not for emotional reasons.
Although Hannah Jones is impressed by this, it doesn’t do anything for her. If anything, it’s boyfriend Darryl who gets closest to her and tries hardest with his gentle persistence to help her eat less.
The documentary ends concluding that none of the psychological approaches really worked (47:08):
Lets’ be honest. All the talk is just talk. Everyone knows what they have to do…[less eating, more exercise] Maybe this time it will go right. Maybe this time I’ll be lucky.
In a final twist, when Hannah Jones wrote about the documentary in her diary yesterday, she referred to the psychotherapy as “Cognitive Behaviour Therapy sessions”, which they certainly were not. The psychotherapist does not appear to be qualified to practise CBT, she did not claim in the documentary to be using CBT, and none of the sessions appeared to involve CBT.
Looking in the CBT Register I found four accredited CBT therapists in Cardiff who say they work with weight problems and who could probably have given Hannah Jones real CBT, perhaps using that food diary as a starting point for her to understand herself and her obesity properly, and for her to overcome it forever.