Successful Weight Loss with EFT
By Carol Look, EFT Master
The following Successful Weight Loss protocol is divided into four sections:
(1) The Present, (2) The Past, (3) The Future, and (4) Extras.
PART 1 – THE PRESENT
The first section of this article targets the symptom and cravings, as well as the behavior of emotional overeating. When clients first contact an EFT practitioner, they often report that these are their “problems” – they have terrible cravings and they are unable to control what and how much they eat. Obviously, emotional overeating that temporarily satisfies intense cravings is only a symptom. There are many layers of issues under the symptom of emotional overeating that could be addressed with EFT, but it’s often more effective to target these symptoms first, since the client may not be ready to address the underlying emotions or childhood conflicts that trigger them.
When clients see that EFT can help them reduce their cravings, they have hope that they can solve their problems and greater confidence that EFT can help with losing weight permanently. After using EFT to work with cravings, some of the deeper layers of emotional issues have “space” and begin to emerge and new tapping targets can be addressed with EFT.
There are hundreds of Setup phrases that I have used with clients to target their addiction to food and the resulting weight problem. Overeating often feels compulsive to these clients – they are unable to control themselves, a critical feature of addiction.
Setup phrases that address the addictive and compulsive nature of the behavior can be helpful:
“Even though I’m a food addict, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
“Even though I’m obsessed with food, I choose to appreciate who I am.”
“Even though I can’t seem to stop once I start….”
“Even though I need to eat to feel numb….”
“Even though I’m a sugar addict and can’t stop eating it….”
“Even though I crave sweets at night….”
“Even though I have an enormous appetite….”
“Even though I’m a closet eater and have to satisfy that urge….”
“Even though I binge at night….”
“Even though my anxiety makes me need to stuff myself.…”
“Even though I’m eating because of all the stress in my life.…”
“Even though overeating calms me down.…”
“Even though I eat compulsively and can’t stop no matter what.…”
I usually ask the client to tap on themselves three times a day, for 5-10 minutes, using the phrases that accurately address their specific problem. I ask clients to tap in the early morning and in the late evening before they go to bed, as long as they are not in the middle of a struggle to avoid eating at these times. When a client waits to do their tapping until they have a strong craving, they are much less likely to complete the process, although, of course, I invite them to tap during those times as well!
Two Setups that work well to release the cravings of certain clients commonly emerge:
“Even though I have an urge to eat whenever I smell food….”
“Even though I have a craving whenever I see food….”
Our sense of smell may trigger cravings and seeing delicious food is a very powerful anchor – remember, “advertising” works.
Once the cravings are relieved somewhat, the next step is to move on to targeting the underlying emotions, stresses, and anxiety that drive cravings and the behavior of overeating. Recall, Gary Craig’s writing on the subject in The EFT Manual, “The true cause of all addictions is anxiety, an uneasy feeling that is temporarily masked, or tranquilized, by some substance or behavior” (p. 138). Food is just another “substance” and overeating another behavior. They are used because they successfully anesthetize or tranquilize strong emotional distress.
Classic phrases that address this connection between emotions and food often hit home with clients:
“Even though I eat when I’m bored….”
“Even though I feel the urge to eat when I’m angry….”
“Even though I need to eat when I’m lonely….”
“Even though I overeat to punish myself….”
“Even though I need to eat to avoid my feelings….”
“Even though I use food to soothe myself, because I don’t know how else to do it….”
“Even though I overeat to hide myself….”
“Even though I binge because I think I’m worthless….”
“Even though I overeat because I don’t love myself….”
“Even though I feel anxious when I can’t eat a lot.…”
“Even though I feel so deprived if I can’t overeat.…”
“Even though I feel deprived of love so I use food to fill me….”
I recommend that you and your clients spend time looking for the phrases that really ring true for them, as this will save a great deal of treatment time in the long run. If the clients call their behavior “stuffing,” rather than “overeating,” or they report they have strong “desires,” instead of “cravings,” then make sure to use their words.
In order for clients to enjoy long term weight loss success, I find it’s essential to focus on two key tapping targets: guilt and self-hatred. Often clients hold on to these emotions, thinking that guilt will push them towards dieting or losing weight or that self-hatred will keep their willpower strong. Unfortunately, these emotions are not motivating factors. In fact, they can make a client eat even more. This “punishment” approach never works, and often backfires. EFT is more effective when practitioners help clients release intense guilt and self hatred that they feel about overeating, feeling out of control, and being overweight.
Setups that address these self-sabotaging emotions can be very effective:
“Even though I hate myself for overeating…”
“Even though I feel guilty when I overeat…”
“Even though I feel guilty about being overweight…”
“Even though I feel ashamed of my body…”
“Even though I want to hide behind the food and weight…”
Tapping on guilt and self-hatred may dramatically reduce anxiety, which, in turn, helps people stay on their food plan and prevent relapse. Remember, overeating works to reduce anxiety, so if we can help our clients reduce their anxiety in a healthier way, they can gain some traction with their weight issues. Sometimes it’s helpful to ask clients to tap for forgiveness with such phrases as “I forgive myself for overeating,” or “I forgive myself for eating when I’m not hungry,” or “I forgive myself for overeating when I’m angry.” If they object to saying these phrases, the objection can be excellent feedback for the practitioner. This tells you that, evidently, they need more work on releasing their guilt and shame. All strong emotions need to be addressed with tapping or these clients will inevitably relapse and long-term success will elude them.
A note about guilt: I worked for eight years at an institute treating alcoholics, addicts, and their family members. The population termed “ACOAs,” Adult Children of Alcoholics, deserves special mention. These clients were raised by one or more addicted parents or caregivers. ACOAs often suffer from free-floating guilt that is astoundingly intense. They report feeling a gnawing sense of emptiness and never doing enough that comes from the perception and feeling that they were not a good enough child to make their parent stop drinking. “If only I had been smart enough, good enough, clever enough etc… dad would have stopped drinking for me.” Of course, this isn’t true, but eight year olds don’t understand addiction! Dig deep with clients who were raised with excessive dysfunction and help them release the irrational guilt that tells them they should have been able to stop the parent from using drugs or alcohol. Without releasing these feelings and reframing this perception, they will not have long-term success with weight loss.
In addition, it’s important to note that many ACOAs have sworn off alcohol because of their associations with their addicted parent, yet they haven’t addressed the underlying emotional conflicts. They often turn to food as a more “acceptable” substance to neutralize all of their emotions and childhood conflicts. This underlying anxiety from childhood dysfunction and family addiction is often undiagnosed and untreated in children, so that it results in a continuing cycle of drug, alcohol, or food addiction later in life.
PART 2 – THE PAST
In this part of the treatment protocol, I address specific events from a client’s childhood. I ask clients to name three of the worst incidents that have hurt their self-esteem and then we tap for the feelings associated with the events. Who hurt them? What did the person say? What embarrassed them or humiliated them? I ask which is the “loudest” memory? The stickiest? The worst? If childhood abuse issues surface, make sure you are equipped to handle this material as a clinician, as the client can be retraumatized if they don’t feel safe talking about (and re-living) what happened. In the event that abuse memories surface for the first time for the client (or you), make sure you tread lightly and gently.
I also ask clients to picture the first time they discovered food as a “pacifier” and address the underlying emotions that they felt at the time.
“Even though I remember turning to food after he yelled at me, I accept who I am and how I feel.”
“Even though thinking of that memory makes me have cravings right now.…”
“Even though remembering that loneliness makes me want to stuff myself.…”
“Even though I felt so inadequate back then.…”
“Even though I remember her giving me candy when I was upset, and it calmed me down.…”
I also ask clients about their family’s attitude toward food, for instance, what was the emotional atmosphere around the dinner table at home?
This often brings up new emotional material which I help them form into suitable EFT Setup phrases for their tapping sessions:
“Even though I’m anxious whenever I sit down to eat….”
“Even though I associate food with my parents’ fighting….”
“Even though I associate food with my mother’s love….”
“Even though I feel unsafe without food….”
“Even though I eat to feel better….”
“Even though I had to eat to feel safe.…”
I ask clients to remember the sharpest criticism they’ve heard regarding their bodies. I ask them to tap for shame or whatever the strongest feelings are that surface when they think of being overweight. This treatment direction can uncover additional upsetting events and time periods that may need more work. Go slowly and respectfully and you will make tremendous headway.
PART 3 – THE FUTURE
In this phase of treating clients for weight loss, I test them to see how they would feel in the future if they couldn’t binge with freedom, or were blocked from satisfying intense cravings, or couldn’t use food to shut down their emotions. It is critical for practitioners to address a weight loss client’s future, or it is inevitable that they will relapse.
I ask them the following questions and tap for the emotional reaction they give me:
1. “Picture yourself not being able to eat sweets in the evening…How do you feel?” They often respond by saying: “anxious, angry, lonely or irritable.” We tap for their response.
2. “Picture yourself as thin as you would like to be. What happens? How do you feel?” This often brings up a variety of answers. Some clients say they don’t deserve to reach their goal weight, or they feel anxious, or they don’t feel safe anymore without their “shield” of extra weight. Sometimes they say they don’t want other people to be envious of them, or to comment on their body or appearance. We tap for whatever fears and feelings surface.
3. “Picture yourself addressing the underlying feelings that trigger the eating behavior. How do you feel?” They often feel anxious or just “resistant” to exploring their emotions and doing this “homework” and admit that they would rather suffer with the eating and weight problems. Tapping might sound something like this: “Even though I’m afraid to face my childhood depression…,” or “Even though I’m afraid to deal with my rage at my father…,” or “Even though I’m afraid to address the abuse that made me start eating in the first place.…”
Then I address specific sabotaging behaviors and ask clients what their theories are about why they might sabotage weight loss progress.
I ask them to repeat the following statements out loud and tap for whichever ones cause a reaction:
“It’s not safe for me to lose weight.”
“It’s not safe for others if I lose weight.”
“I don’t feel supported by my family members…” (I have often heard about clients who are offered food to sabotage them, just as they are making progress in their weight loss efforts)
“I don’t deserve to be happy with my body.”
I also ask clients to say out loud “I weigh _______ lbs.” (whatever the goal weight is) and see what emotions come up:
“Even though I have a block to weighing less than _______ lbs….”
“Even though I sabotage myself whenever I weigh less than _______ lbs….”
“Even though I have this comfort zone and can’t get below this number.…”
I also ask them to tap for the following phrases:
“Even if I never get over this eating disorder, I accept myself anyway.”
“Even if I never lose weight, I accept who I am right now.”
These two phrases seem to relieve the inevitable feelings of desperation that most people with binge eating habits suffer from on a daily basis. The clients often say they don’t want to repeat these phrases, because the phrases don’t feel “true.” I urge them to say the phrases anyway, although you might modify the phrases so that they are more acceptable to the client. You might suggest, for instance, “I’ll think about accepting who I am anyway.” Saying some statement of acceptance seems to reduce unconscious energetic blocks to losing weight and can help diminish the out of control behavior.
Obviously, there are many more phrases and issues you could ask the clients to tap for in an EFT session or for “homework” between sessions. It all depends on each client’s particular patterns and what might work for that client. The essential emotional targets as far as universal problems with weight loss and cravings seem to be guilt, self-hatred, fear, and anxiety.
PART 4 – “EXTRAS”
1. Apparently, restrictive eating, chronic dieting, yo-yo weight gain and loss, and binge eating disturb the balance of our endocrine system and thus our metabolism. This is particularly frustrating to clients who think that starving between binges can help them lose weight. The metabolism reacts by holding onto every last morsel of food, expecting to be starved again in the near future. For some people, this slowing of the metabolism can impede progress in the beginning. This is why you often hear people protest that they don’t eat enough food or calories to gain weight, yet they gain anyway! I ask my clients to read up on stress and how it affects the hormonal system, insulin production, and basics of nutrition.
2. I know there is a lot of bad press about low carbohydrate diets out there, but talk to a carb or sugar addict or someone who is hypoglycemic, and they will tell you that it does matter what kinds of foods they eat and when. They find that breads and sugars trigger a compulsion to eat more breads and sugars. It makes sense when you consider the basic principles of addiction. Alcoholics in A.A. know that “One drink is too many, and a million isn’t enough.” This is how a sugar addict feels. Have them tap for “Even though I’m out of control…,” or “Even though I’m powerless over food…,” or “Even though I can’t stop once I start….”
3. Tap for an imbalanced or slow metabolism.
People love this target:
“Even though my metabolism is too slow, I choose to regulate it now.”
“Even though my metabolism is imbalanced….”
4. You can always use daily affirmations such as “thank you, Universe, for speeding up my metabolism…,” or “thank you, God, for releasing me from compulsive eating….”
5. I always do the tapping on myself while my clients repeat the exact phrases they want to say. On many occasions, when clients say that they can’t repeat “I deeply and completely accept myself,” if I say it out loud first, they eventually follow.
Good luck, and be persistent. Your clients will notice that they begin to “forget” about eating binges and obsessive planning around food. They will begin to engage in activities other than secretive eating or food shopping, hoarding, or binging. As the anxiety, fear, and need for protection subside, the need for overeating subsides as well. The weight will begin to come off as the underlying issues are addressed and the basis for the symptomatic behaviors are tapped away.
Carol Look, LCSW, DCH, EFT Master