Articles

Brexit Blues?

March 10th, 2019

By ChiralJon – https://www.flickr.com/photos/69057297@N04/33661354141/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61553209

As we are about to embark on yet another week of Brexit turmoil, don’t you sometimes wish that you would never see, hear or read the word “Brexit” ever again? This wretched debate has paralysed the government and diverted attention and funds away from issues that matter.

 

But are we right even to call it a “debate”. The word “debate” suggests an impartial assessment and analysis of evidence. But what we get instead are statements of radically opposing views and, very frequently, abuse of anyone holding a contrary opinion. The abuse can be extreme, often involving threats of violence, threats of rape or death threats.

 

Why has the Brexit “debate” become so violently polarized? Social media may be partly to blame. A platform such as Twitter only allows for a brief expression of opinion rather than the exposition of a coherent argument. In that environment, debate can’t happen. Statements of opposing opinions rapidly degenerate into abuse.

 

But there is another reason for the intractable nature of the Brexit issue and it is a very surprising one. The real problem is that both sides of the Brexit argument – Leave and Remain – are right. And each side knows it is right.

 

Neither side is 100% right. But both sides put forward beliefs which are either self-evidently true or at least highly plausible.

 

For example: Remainers say that to remain in the EU guarantees ongoing, frictionless trade with our biggest trading partner and poses no threat to peace in Northern Ireland and risks no breakup of the United Kingdom. That’s true, isn’t it?

 

And Leavers say that in certain areas immigration has caused a reduction of job opportunities and a suppression of wage growth. That also seems highly plausible.

 

There are many other truths on both sides – I’m not going to list them all. But each side clings passionately to its own truths and the result is polarization and deadlock.

 

Like everyone else, I’ve no idea what will actually happen. But one thing I’m certain about is that, whatever the outcome, most people will be bitterly disappointed, including those who, on the face of it, get their way. This will add to the tension which this thoroughly toxic issue has already caused.

 

As a family man, a friend and a colleague, I have seen for myself the strain which Brexit has put upon relationships and friendships. So, whatever happens on the week commencing March 11, 2019, I would urge us all to try our hardest to understand and tolerate views which are different from our own. This can be very hard to do in the face of extremist rhetoric. But the majority of British people are not extremists. Most of us simply want the best for our country and ourselves.

 

If all this stress starts to get you down, why not book an appointment with me and offload a bit of it?

 

 

If e-cigarettes are completely safe, why is the use of them mainly banned in public places such as pubs, restaurants, in-door shopping malls, and so on?

 

People who grew up in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, or earlier, will remember when tobacco smoking was permitted in restaurants, cinemas, trains, busses and other public places. The smell of cigarette smoke would cling to the clothing of both smokers and non-smokers and the risks of passive smoking would be readily accepted by anyone who left a smoky environment with a clogged-up throat and running eyes.

 

But e-cigarettes are safe, aren’t they? They either have no smell, or they smell of things such as vanilla or fruit. Where’s the harm in that?

 

The harm lies in what the vapour actually contains. It is now accepted as a fact that the vapour exhaled by e-cig smokers (the “second hand aerosols”, to use the technical expression) contains high levels of hazardous particulate matter, including metals such as nickel and chromium.

 

In an article for Science News (vol. 185, issue 13), Janet Raloff summarizes some recent scientific research into the safety of e cigarettes. E-cigarettes release high levels of nanoparticles into the body. Nanoparticles have been linked to heat disease, stroke, asthma and diabetes. E-cigarette vapours usually contain at least some of the solvents in which nicotine and flavourings are dissolved. E-cigarettes which deliver high levels of nicotine need to dissolve nicotine at a higher temperature. Higher temperatures cause a breakdown of solvents and produce carbonyls such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, which cause, or are linked to, cancer.

 

Put more simply, recent research strongly suggests that although e-cigarettes pose less of a risk than tobacco cigarettes, there is still evidence of a cancer risk. “Passive smoking” of e-cig vapour is now perceived to be potentially harmful.

 

There are other reasons why e-cigarette use should be banned in public places. Use of e-cigarettes may encourage children and young people to regard smoking as safe and normal. E-cigarette use might encourage someone who has recently quit smoking to relapse. (“Vaping isn’t smoking, is it?”). Although the smell of e-cigarettes doesn’t compare to the pong of tobacco cigarettes, some e-cigs do smell very strong. You wouldn’t necessarily want to inhale some perfumed cocktail of vapour if you’re trying to eat.

 

Finally, we should remember that e-cigarettes were only invented in 2003 (in China) and were only introduced into Europe in 2005. Widespread use of e-cigarettes is only about a decade old. The real long-term effects have not had time to emerge.

 

Vaping isn’t safe. Decide to quit today – and then contact me.

 

 

I have been practicing as a hypnotherapist for over twenty years. For about fifteen of those twenty years, smoking cessation was one of the most popular issues which clients wanted me to treat. There has been a reduced demand for this treatment over recent years and the main reason is that instead of quitting smoking more and more people are turning to “e cigarettes”, or vaping.

 

How many times have you heard people say “I’ve given up smoking – I just do this now” as they pull out a weird smelling contraption, put it in their mouths and inhale the flavoured vapour rich in nicotine. Have they really quit smoking? Is it really “Job Done”?

 

There can be little doubt that vaping is less harmful than smoking tobacco. You lungs don’t get silted up with tar and therefore there is considerably less risk of lung cancer. I am in no doubt that it is better to vape than to smoke. But is there a downside to vaping?

 

The answer has to be yes, for the following reasons:

 

  1. Long term health risks of vaping have yet to be determined.

 

E cigarettes have increased in popularity over the past 5 – 10 years. They haven’t been around long enough for long-term effects to be revealed. Should that be a cause for concern? Perhaps it should. E cigarettes contain a cocktail of chemicals whose long-term use may be harmful to the heart and the central nervous system.

 

  1. E cigarettes can function as a “gateway drug”.

 

According to Michael Blaha MD, MPH of John Hopkins Ciccarone Centre, use of e cigarettes has increased by around 900 % with some 40 % of users never having used traditional cigarettes. Vaping is replacing smoking, not eliminating it. Young vapers will sometimes move on to tobacco products or use them casually whenever the need or fancy arises.

 

  1. E cigarettes are as addictive as tobacco cigarettes, if not more so.

 

Users of tobacco know that their habit has serious health risks. Every packet of tobacco has grim warnings and lurid imagery all over it. So smokers tend to favour lower tar products which contain less nicotine. But e cigarettes vary the amount of nicotine they contain. Some can contain levels of nicotine which are very much higher than that of conventional cigarettes. As nicotine is a highly addictive substance this means that e cigarette use is every bit as hard to break as that of conventional cigarettes.

 

  1. Nicotine is bad for you.

 

Nicotine is a poison. It raises blood pressure, greatly increases heart rate and makes heart disease, heart attack, artery problems and strokes far more likely. High levels of nicotine counteract the effects of alcohol which encourages users to drink more. And nicotine is addictive. It is as hard to quite e cigarettes as it is to quit smoking tobacco.

 

But it can be done. Just give me a ring on 01403 272559 or contact me through the Contacts page of this website. Make up your mind to quite today!

 

According to the latest medical advice, there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. Time for a dry January, then. But is that really such a good idea?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – January is one of my favourite months. It is a month of recovery and a month of change. I speak for myself, of course, but there seems to be a rhythm or a pattern in the way we respond to different parts of the year. I’m not at my best in November. I find it very hard to get motivated. I can never initiate anything new or start a new project. Everything has to wait until Christmas is out of the way. After Christmas, January comes as a huge relief.

I don’t eat or drink vastly more during the Festive Season than I would normally. But I do indulge a bit more and I’m a bit less active. And that takes its toll. I feel more tired, sometimes a bit jaded. The cool, quiet month of January washes all that away.

This particular January has been a trial for some people. Many family homes have been devastated by floods. And even here in the South East, where we have been relatively fortunate with the weather, the grey skies and frequent rain take a toll on the mood of some people. Not me. The soft light of January, the dark greys and greens of the winter countryside, never fail to raise my spirits. Routine returns, along with normal patterns of consumption. The body regains its equilibrium.

For many people, January is a time to take action. This is the month to take up jogging, to see that the inside of a gym looks like, to cut out this and give up that. And, because there are no national holidays or feast days (with the exception of Burns Night, not celebrated in this neck of the woods) this is an ideal month for a “dry” spell. If all drinking is bad for you then a dry month has got to be a good idea, hasn’t it?

That depends. If you’re drinking relatively heavily each day then medical advise seems to suggest that cutting down gradually might be safer than suddenly stopping. Obviously I’m talking about more than a couple of pints every night. If you’re drinking, say, a bottle of wine, or more, every night then it might be wiser to reduce alcohol consumption for a period rather than stop suddenly.

And if you do stop drinking for a period, what happens after that period has elapsed? If you go dry for a month after drinking regularly for a long period then changes will take place in your body. Your resistance to alcohol will reduce. And that means that if and when you start drinking again your body will react to the alcohol more strongly. You will feel the effects of alcohol far more quickly and, I’m afraid, you’ll be rather more prone to hangovers.

So does a dry spell really do any good? It may not do any harm, but I’m not convinced that it does much long-term good if such a “dry spell” is simply followed by a return to old habits. A dry January may purge the Christmas toxins – but what then?

And this leads to the central problem at the heart of all habit issues, one which, as a hypnotherapist, I encounter all the time. Real change can only happen if you want it to happen. But if you do want it to happen then any change, no matter how radical, is possible. This is particularly problematic with alcohol as many people don’t really know where they want to be with their drinking habits. For people of my generation, social life tended to revolve around alcohol. To a large extent it still does. And – let’s be honest about it – to drink alcohol is a pleasant activity. The unpleasant bit comes from drinking too much or from drinking more than one is used to. Moreover, alcohol enhances other activities, such as eating, socializing, listening to music, and so on.

You want to alter your drinking pattern? (I’m not talking about alcoholism, by the way. Alcoholism is a very serious condition which requires a variety of medical and psychological interventions). Then you need to know exactly what you want to change and why. And you need to want it. Hypnotherapy can help you really to want what you (think you) want! Gradual modifications, over a period of time, are surely more beneficial than the odd dry January!

Happy New Year everyone!

What is obesity?

Obesity is usually defined by using the body mass index (BMI). BMI is a simple and effective calculation. A person’s weight is divided by the square of their height. A person is overweight if their BMI falls in the region between 25kg/m² to 29.9kg/m² and a person is obese if their BMI exceeds 30kg/m².

Now comes the scary stuff…

According to the latest figures from the British Health and Social Care Information Centre, 67.1% of men and 57.2% of women are overweight (including obese). In 2013, just over a quarter of all men (26%) and a quarter of all women (25%) were obese. In 2013, 19.1% of children aged 10 to 11 were obese. In the United States, obesity affects one third of the adult population (Flegal et al 2010)

 

Health risks of obesity

 

The main health risks of obesity, according to an American Department of Health and Human Services website, are as follows:

Heart disease

High blood pressure

Stroke

Type 2 diabetes

Abnormal blood fats

Metabolic syndrome

Cancer

Osteoarthritis

Gallstones

  • – and more.

 

In addition to these physical problems, obesity can both cause or exacerbate psychological problems such as low self esteem, low self-confidence, negative body image, and depression.

 

Causes of obesity

Bleich et al (2012) carried out a survey of primary care physicians in the USA to obtain perspectives on the causes of obesity. This interesting survey identifies three different types of cause:

  • Individual Behavioural Factors
  • Individual Biological Factors
  • Physical / Social Environment Factors

Among the physicians surveyed there was widespread agreement concerning individual behavioural factors. They were almost unanimous in attributing over-consumption of food and insufficient physical exercise as causes of obesity. 90% or above of those surveyed thought that restaurant / fast food eating and consumption of sugar sweetened beverages were causes of obesity. 88% identified lack of will-power as a cause. There was slightly less agreement concerning individual biological factors. 75% identified genetics or family history as a cause, 44% attributed obesity to metabolic effect and 25% to endocrine disorder. Three physical / social environmental factors were identified. 83% of physicians surveyed thought that “cultural factors” were a cause of obesity, 69% thought that lack of information on good eating habits is a cause of obesity and 52% attributed obesity to lack of access to healthy food.

These results reveal a number of striking features. The causes identified in this survey are almost entirely physical causes, and this is hardly surprising as the participants in the survey are practicing GPs. Sugary drinks are mentioned but alcohol isn’t, which is rather surprising. And I would suggest that this survey reveals two main causes to which the other causes are subsidiary: Overeating and lack of exercise.

Whatever the physiological condition of your body, whatever genetic or historical factors may contribute to obesity, the fact remains that obesity is still caused by ingesting more food than the body can burn off. Lack of information about healthy eating and lack of access to healthy food still amounts to the same thing – too much intake of weight-inducing food.

Cultural factors are not clearly defined in this survey and yet, however they may be defined, they still boil down to overeating and lack of exercise. In Britain, great social change has occurred over the last 50 years or so. People work longer and more irregular hours. Cost of housing has soared to unprecedented levels which means that both cohabiting partners need to work and they may simply lack the time to cook and prepare healthy food for themselves or their children. Simple lack of time can cause an over-reliance of fast or processed food.

Increasing levels of road traffic and concerns for safety mean that children rarely play unsupervised outside of the house. For children today, “play” is more likely to involve staring at the screen of a computer, laptop or tablet than anything physically active. Thus, bad habits are formed early and, consequently, childhood obesity continues to rise.

The only psychological factor mentioned in the Bleich survey is lack of will-power. I would suggest that the main psychological cause of obesity is comfort-eating. This is hardly a straightforward issue as people may comfort eat for a whole variety of reasons, such as stress at work, anxiety in general, low self-esteem, bereavement, lack of confidence, and a whole host of other such personality issues.

All of which means that obesity is very difficult to treat effectively. An obese person may know what they should be doing about their condition but they may feel prevented from doing so by any combination of personal and practical factors. Yet the search for short-term solutions continues. Diets and weight-loss plans abound and public appetite for them is huge. The problem with diets is that they may be fairly effective in the short term but are often too unbalanced or restrictive to be of any use in the longer term. Weight is lost and then gained as soon as the diet is abandoned. People are resorting to diet inhibiting medications, but use of these without proper medical guidance can literally be fatal.

Demand for a simple, safe and effective treatment for obesity has led to increasing use of surgical treatments. Of these, the most popular, safe and effective seems to be in implanting of an adjustable gastric band (AGB). We have also seen the rise of “virtual” gastric band treatments using hypnosis. I will discuss each of these in turn.

Treatments for obesity: adjustable gastric band surgery (AGB)

In 1974, L H Wilkinson experimented with a number of approaches aimed at reducing the size of the stomach. Among these was a treatment which involved wrapping the stomach in a mesh. Four years later, Wilkinson and Peloso refined the treatment by wrapping a polypropylene mesh around the upper part of the stomach. Non-adjustable gastric banding was first tried on animals by G Szinicz and his team (Szinicz et al 1989) in the mid-1980s and by 1986 L Kuzmak was implanting adjustable silicone gastric bands into humans. The development of laparoscopy in the 1980 has meant that silicone adjustable gastric bands can now be inserted with minimal invasive surgery and a rapid recovery period.

From the results given in Snyder’s paper, AGB is certainly effective in reducing “excess weight”. The average excess weight loss in the first 6 months following surgery is 35% and this rises steadily over the following years to reach a peak after four years of surgery, when the average excess weight loss reaches 64.3%. After that, there appears to be a steady decline. The average excess weight loss after ten years following surgery falls to 38.5%. Again, according to statistics in Snyder et al (2010), there appears to be a significant increase in “quality of life” for the first six months following surgery followed by a steady decrease over the next 18 months.

So – AGB treatment is an effective method of weight loss, with patients losing, on average, around half of their excess body weight. But, during the first six months after surgery, monthly follow-up operations are required for band adjustment. Thereafter, band adjustments may take place every three to six months. In addition to these inconveniences, dietary and lifestyle changes are also required.

(N)utritional education and dietary compliance are likely to be the most important elements for achieving successful weight loss and maintenance.

 Banding requires that a patient make dietary and behavioral adjustments to cope with their changed gastric ability.33 High-risk eating habits such as grazing, and emotional or mindless eating should be avoided because these behavior traits will hinder weight loss.34 The patient must be an active participant in helping to create a proper stoma size by monitoring the volume of food they consume…

Snyder et al (2010) p 59.

Volume restriction can put AGB patients at risk of vitamin deficiency. Use of vitamin supplements is recommended. Dietary advice recommends avoidance of “soft foods” such as yoghurt, chips, ice cream and cream soups. Cream and butter sauces should be avoided along with fatty or greasy foods. Grazing, snacking and comfort eating should also be avoided.

So – the findings of Snyder et al may be summarized as follows:

  • The success rate is high, but around 15% of patients fail to achieve 25% of excess weight loss.
  • Longer periods tend to reveal significant weight re-gain.
  • Dietary and / or lifestyle changes remain fundamental to success.

Do note that last point. AGB surgery does not take away the need to make dietary and lifestyle changes. Without them, while there still may be some weight loss owing to restricted stomach volume, the weight loss will probably not be sufficient to lift the patient out of obesity.

Treatments for obesity: virtual gastric band hypnotherapy.

 Virtual gastric band hypnotherapy involves the induction of hypnosis and the offering of suggestions to convince the “unconscious mind” of the client that a gastric band has been surgically fitted. I have made no secret of my views about this procedure (see my previous article on this subject) but I have decided to revisit the subject to see whether there was any scientific evidence that the procedure is successful. I consulted the following academic journals:

  • International Journal for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis
  • American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis
  • Cotemporary Hypnosis

None of these publications had any scholarly articles about any aspect of virtual gastric band hypnosis. So far, then, there is no hard scientific evidence to suggest that virtual gastric band treatments are successful.

When I wrote my earlier article in 2012 I was shocked at the amount of money some “therapists” were charging for VGB hypnotherapy. Research I conducted at the time suggested that the average cost of VGB was around £850 for anything between one and four sessions. One of my own clients told me that she paid £1300 for two sessions of VGB, and the treatment had no effect upon her weight whatsoever.

Cost-wise, the situation seems to have improved a little. It seems that the cost of VGB (up to 4 sessions) these days comes to around £550. A lot depends upon the area. Treatments in London are likely to be far more expensive than in other parts of the country. I think that there are two reasons for the fall in price. The first is that there are a number of very cheap VGB products available for purchase, such as CDs, DVD, podcasts and the like. The second reason is that the credit crunch and subsequent recession has had an impact upon the practice of hypnotherapy. People are less prepared to spend money, and if they do spend money they want some reassurance that their therapist is effective, properly qualified and registered. The recession has purged hypnotherapy of some of the “get rich quick” chancers who are only in it to make as much money as easily as possible and in the quickest possible time.

Losing weight requires significant lifestyle changes. We have seen that effective AGB surgery requires the patient to make permanent and significant changes to diet and exercise routine. While the patient may still lose some weight owing to less stomach size, if the patient sticks to a diet of high sugar and fat then they are unlikely to lose sufficient weight to escape obesity.

The same must therefore be true of VGB clients. For VGB to be effective, the client must make changes to diet and exercise routine. VGB cannot have any lasting beneficial effect unless the client makes the necessary changes. If a client is responsive enough to hypnotic suggestion to accept VGB suggestions then they will also be responsive to suggestions to alter their diet and lifestyle.

But if clients are able to respond to orthodox weight loss suggestions, why bother with VGB in the first place? I have never said that VGB can never work. My point is that the people for whom it works are people who would respond to orthodox hypnotherapy for weight loss. The whole pretence of surgery is reduced to the status of a gimmick, a selling point to convince would-be purchasers of the possibility of a magic-wand type of quick fix.

My advice to people who are overweight or obese is as follows. Firstly, see your doctor. If you are seriously obese then AGB might be recommended. If so, I would suggest you consider this recommendation. AGB is a safe and reversible procedure. Along with dietary and lifestyle changes it can lead you out of the trough of obesity. If you have trouble making those changes, or if you wish to avoid surgery, then consider hypnotherapy for weight loss. But do so on the understanding that hypnotherapy does not offer a magic wand solution. If you’re overweight then lasting changes have to be made. If they are not made then you will stay where you are. Hypnotherapy can help you to make those changes. It cannot make the changes for you. And if you do decide to try hypnotherapy click here to ensure that the therapist you choose is properly trained and registered, and is interested in lowering the weight of your body, not your wallet.

 

REFERENCES

 

Bleich S. N.; Bennett W. L.; Gudzune K. A.; Cooper L. A., National survey of US primary care physicians’ perspectives about causes of obesity and solutions to improve care, BMJ Open. 2012; 2(6): e001871

 

Flegal KM, Carroll MD, Ogden CL, et al. Prevalence and trends in obesity among US adults, 1999–2008.JAMA 2010;303:235–41

 

Garrow, J. S., Treating Obesity: The first law of thermodynamics still holds, British Medical Journal, vol 302, 6 April 1991.

 

Kuzmak LI. A review of seven years’ experience with silicone gastric banding. Obes Surg. 1991;1:403–408.

 

Lifestyles Statistics Team, Health and Social Care Information Centre, March 2015.

http://www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB16988/obes-phys-acti-diet-eng-2015.pdf

Website accessed 01/05/2015

 

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, 2012

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/obe/risks

Website accessed 01/05/2015

 

Snyder, B. et al, Past, present, and future: Critical analysis of use of gastric bands in obese patients, Journal of Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy, Dove Press, 2010.

 

Szinicz G, Mueller L, Erhard W, et al. Reversible gastric banding in surgical treatment of morbid obesity – results of animal experiments. Res Exp Med (Berl). 1989;189:55–60.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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