Love Handles: Chapter Eleven

6.5.2005

By Bob Merrick

Out.com is proud to present the wacky and wild (and absolutely true-although some names have been changed to protect the guilty) adventures of a 30-year-old guy in Hollywood who just wants to lose a few (dozen) pounds. And find eternal happiness and fulfillment. Is that too much to ask?

Part Eleven: I'm Getting Very Sleepy'

I have had the same reoccurring dream for a while now, that Jamie 'Naked Chef' Oliver and Nigella Lawson are my parents and we live in a humble yet spacious estate in London. In every dream we are sitting around the kitchen as Jamie prepares a pumpkin risotto with pancetta, sage, and chestnut. Mama Lawson prepares her famous slut red raspberries in chardonnay jelly for dessert, and we laugh and tell stories as I pour the first of many dry martinis of the night. I have yet to actually eat a meal with them. We're always having so much fun preparing the food, it takes too long and I am usually awakened by my alarm clock before the first morsel hits my lips.

I worry about the fact that I have had these dreams repeatedly. Does it mean my addiction to food doesn't just occur in my waking day, but in my unconscious sleep as well?

My friend Mimi, an accomplished film director, and I have been on many diets together over the years. The amount of meat we ate on Atkins would turn a dog vegan. The tiny portions of food on the Zone would have starved Oompa Loompas, and we were so obsessed with counting points on Weight Watchers that I felt like a volunteer in Florida recounting the ballots after the 2000 election. The only diet we avoided, which probably could've delivered the best advice, was Susan Powter's 'Stop The Insanity!'

When Mimi called me up with the latest weight-loss affair, I responded with trepidation. 'My friend has just given me the number to one of the top hypnotherapists and she swears he can help us lose weight. She has recently lost 60 pounds by going to him.' It's her contagious optimism that reels me in every time. I'm the junkie and she's my dealer.

I asked her, 'This isn't something scary like that episode of Wonder Woman where Martin Mull played his flute and Eve Plumb fell into a trance and robbed safes, is it?'

'No. This doctor is supposed to be one of the best and I know you'll love this: he's even worked with Oprah.' I hate that my friends know my weaknesses. Contemplating my Naked Chef dreams and my 'round the clock obsession with food, I decided to give Dr. Hypno a try.

My first appointment, I didn't go under. Instead, Dr. Hypno asked me questions to fill in the blanks of my past and the causes that brought me to his office. He wanted to know about my home life growing up (I had a mother who pretty much left me to raise my- self as she partied her life away), my childhood (I had very few friends and was painfully shy), and where I go to find solace and happiness (Santa Barbara). I was a bit disappointed that he didn't hypnotize me because I was anxious for him to get in my head and shut up the Roseanne Barr-like voice that is always talking about food.

When I arrived a few days later for my second appointment, things were a bit different. This time he did more of the talking and explained to me how hypnosis works and warned me that it doesn't always work on everyone. Nice. He couldn't have said that in the first appointment?

Dr. Hypno has a very calming demeanor when he speaks, almost like he is in a dreamlike state himself. 'Basically, imagine that the tool you need to get through life is a hammer. And based on your circumstances, you were given a sledgehammer to sort of smash your way through and survive. My intention is to go in and give you a new a hammer, a smaller and more delicate instrument to use.' I could wrap my mind around that metaphor, as I have often felt I live life like a bull in a china shop.

We went over other demons from my childhood and dug to the roots of my insecurity. In a nutshell, food represents all that I didn't have growing up. On the rare occasion when my family would have extra money from the welfare check, we would splurge at the Royal Fork or Sizzler. Having money meant eating all you wanted, which, when it happened only once every other month, wasn't an issue. But the more successful I became in my early 20s, the more I could afford to eat in restaurants, and I would order with full abandon. Eating out meant that I was no longer poor and food became a symbol of my success.

He then said our ongoing work would be to level the surface of all of my bad habits before he can start suggesting new ones. This would also involve building up my confidence. Having come from such an unsafe and dysfunctional childhood, I spend a lot of time fearing that anything I have now will be taken away from me and I will be returned to that life. I was learning quickly why it is called hypno-therapy and not just hypnosis.

Maybe it was too many Bugs Bunny cartoons as a child, but I thought that when he put me under, it would require a pocket watch dangling in front of my face and the silly, 'You are getting very sleepy.' Instead, I reclined in a leather Barcalounger and glanced at my watch. 4:02pm. I closed my eyes and leaned back into the chair.

His voice began to speak in a very calm and relaxing tone. 'And so beginning with slow and easy breaths of air. Gently allowing the mind to begin drifting. Relaxing. Taking time for you.' I went in my body as though I were practicing meditation in yoga. 'You're going to a familiar place. A place where you know what to expect, hear, see, feel. Your happy place. Reconnect. You are in Santa Barbara'' his voice drifted off. I knew he was still talking, but almost immediately, I was in Santa Barbara, walking down State Street and heading for the beach. I could see the ocean. I could smell it. Then I slowly became aware of his voice again.

He said, 'I am going to count backwards from ten. By the time I get to one, you will open your eyes and feel refreshed and ready to go on with your day.'

'Ten'' As I heard him counting, I realized I wasn't really in Santa Barbara, but in his office. 'Nine, eight, seven'' My eyes felt like they were glued shut. 'Six, five, four'' I wanted to open my eyes, but I couldn't. 'Three, two'' My mind began to question how taking me to Santa Barbara could have helped my confidence or my food addiction. 'One.' My eyes opened immediately as though they had just been freed. I felt like I had just awakened from a good night's sleep, refreshed and ready to conquer the world. I looked at my watch. 4:25pm. I felt like I had closed my eyes for a minute and a half when in fact, it had been 22 minutes. I have no idea what happened in those 22 minutes. I hope I didn't break into any safes.

I drove home afterward feeling like no one and nothing could get me down and the world was mine for the taking. It was an incredible feeling of euphoria, like being on drugs without the clenching jaw or cottonmouth. As I have to keep reminding myself, I am a work in progress, these are the moments I use to find my strength and remind myself that I am in fact progressing (it also helps that I am officially a 38 inch waist at my six month mark instead of the 44 inches I began with).

He gave me a CD of our session that I listen to every night before I go to bed. I try to listen to it when I am awake so I can hear what he is saying, but every time I do, it puts me in a trance. I have gotten further though and know that it is filled with affirmations that I am a good person, to love myself, to feel safe and to know that I will never have to live in my childhood again. However, I'm not entirely convinced it doesn't make me cluck like a chicken.

I do have a secret fantasy that in one of my future sessions, that he'll walk me through my dream with Jamie and Nigella just long enough to finally taste Jamie's pumpkin risotto with pancetta. Would that count as my once-a-week cheat day?

To read part ten, 'Who's Got the Pain?' click here.

To read part nine, 'Old Habits Die Hard,' click here.

To read part eight, 'Taking A Fresh Dip in the Dating Pool,' click here.

To read part seven, 'A Walk Down (Unpleasant) Memory Lane,' click here.

To read part six, 'Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures,' click here.

To read part five, 'Sex, Lies, and the Internet,' click here.

To read part four, 'Sweatin' with an Oldie' But Goodie,' click here.

To read part three, 'What Happens in Vegas, Doesn't Always Stay in Vegas,' click here.

To read part two, 'Let's Get Physical,' click here.

To read part one, 'Resolutions and Commitment,' click here.

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