ELLY MOYER staff reporter | Posted: Wednesday, February 24, 2016 12:00 am
AFTER SEVEN MONTHS of hypnosis with Battle Ground hypnotherapist Connie Osborne (center), this Vancouver family has lost a total of more than 160 pounds. Pictured here (from left to right) are Ashley Culver, Adam Culver, Connie Osborne, Lisa Culver and Debbie Martin.
BATTLE GROUND – Their story has a happy ending, but telling the story brings up some heavy emotions. And, on this particular day, there are no dry eyes inside Battle Ground hypnotherapist Connie Osborne’s A New You Hypnosis clinic.
“She loves her family. She wants to see them get healthier,” Osborne says of her client, Debbie Martin. “That’s why they’re all here today.”
Martin sits in a circle with her daughter, Lisa Culver; son-in-law, Adam Culver; and granddaughter, Ashley Culver. The Vancouver family have been coming to see Osborne for the past seven months, in the hope of finally losing the weight that has held them back from living a healthy, vibrant life for so many years.
Nodding toward 14-year-old Ashley, an eighth-grader who says she could barely run for 30 seconds last year before having to stop to catch her breath, Martin has tears streaming down her face.
“I knew we had to do something for Ashley,” Martin says. “She was eating garbage … but that’s how it was in my family. We were never taught how to eat. We ate junk food when I was growing up, so that’s what I fed my own daughter. And what she fed her children. We just never knew how to eat healthy.”
Coming to Osborne for weekly hypnotherapy sessions has changed this family’s storyline. Now, instead of reaching for a bag of chips to quell her stress or to feel a brief moment of fleeting contentment, Martin says she makes better food choices automatically. So do her family members. In the corner of the room, Ashley is smiling. These days, she can run a mile in gym class – and she’s become a beacon of hope for other overweight classmates.
“She’s a big inspiration for the kids and for one of her teachers,” Martin says of her granddaughter. “They didn’t know that she was coming here, so they just saw her dropping the weight and feeling better about herself.”
In seven months, Ashley has shed more than 30 pounds. Her mother, Lisa, has dropped more than 40 pounds. Her father, Adam, who wasn’t even going in for the weekly hypnotherapy, has lost nearly 70 pounds thanks to the food and exercise changes his family has made. And Ashley’s grandmother, Debbie Martin, has lost 20 pounds.
What’s more, the entire family says their moods have improved tremendously and they have gained lifelong tools for reducing stress, making healthier choices and tuning in to their bodies’ basic needs.
“Besides the weight, the change in their self-confidence is huge,” Osborne says of her clients, who she has counseled and worked with since Martin approached her last summer.
Martin agrees that the family’s physical changes aren’t the only benefit of the hypnosis: “I’ve struggled with depression all my life. And I’d gotten to the point where I was just sitting all day, not moving, eating junk. I was just stuck.”
Now, after seven months of subliminal messages designed to help her make healthier decisions and understand the emotions that were contributing to her low self-esteem and depression, Martin says she often chooses a walk over sitting in front of the television.
“I’ve been packing up my parents’ house and I’m up and moving,” Martin says. “I can calm myself automatically now. And my mood is much better. It (the hypnosis) has made a big difference in my life.”
Martin’s daughter, Lisa, says she and her husband desperately wanted to help their youngest child, Ashley, make healthier choices.
“She was getting bullied at school and she was getting bigger. We were worried that she would get diabetes,” Lisa says. “I wanted Ashley to learn how to eat healthier and to exercise now, so that she can make those choices when she’s older.”
Osborne, a registered mental health counselor and hypnotherapist in Washington State and member of the National Guild of Hypnotherapists, says hypnotherapy is a great tool for people who have made the decision to get healthier and who are really ready for a change.
“I don’t take food away,” Osborne says. “I teach them how to be mindful of what they’re eating … and teach them how to eat and how to (let go) of the sugary, fatty foods.”
Osborne’s weight-loss clients keep daily journals of their food intake and exercise and learn how to practice mindfulness when it comes to eating and understanding your body’s cues for hunger or for something else – like a need to be soothed or loved.
“Weight is often the byproduct of something else that’s going on,” Osborne says.
Through counseling and hypnotic suggestion, Osborne has helped Martin and the Culvers work through the issues that were leading them toward overeating and unhealthy “comfort” foods.
“I was raised in a household where I was always looking for love,” explains Martin. “The love was there, but it wasn’t really acknowledged.”
Comfort foods, instead of humans, often provided that feeling of “love” that Martin was seeking. And, over the years, she learned to believe that she was an overweight person who would always be overweight.
“Once you believe something like that, it’s hard to change it,” Martin says.
Still, like many people who are battling weight problems, Martin and her daughter, Lisa, had tried all of the quick-fix diet plans as well as the more mainstream plans that encourage healthier eating habits. Nothing worked until hypnosis, she says.
“We’d lose weight for a while,” Martin says.
“And then gain it back,” Lisa adds. “And we’d gain even more than we lost!”
But after seeing her young granddaughter struggle with a host of weight-related health problems, Martin turned to Osborne, who she’d met at a community event last summer.
“This is an expensive gift that she’s given to her family,” Osborne says of Martin’s commitment to the ongoing family hypnotherapy sessions. “She wanted to help her family. She was investing in them. And it worked.”
The family has dropped more than 160 pounds altogether and says they’re still on their path toward a truly healthy lifestyle. Lisa and Adam walk together every morning, and then walk with their daughter in the evenings. Recently, Lisa went shopping for new jeans and was amazed – and delighted – to find that she’d gone from a size 26 to a size 18.
“She’s been getting looks from guys in the grocery store,” Adam teases his wife, good naturedly.
And how has the weight loss and improved mood helped their love life, Osborne asks Adam.
“Did you see that?” Osborne laughs, when Adam responds with a huge grin. “He just gave me two thumbs up!”
Talking about their journey is tough for the family, but their moods lighten considerably when they talk about where they are today versus last year at this time.
“PE class used to be really hard,” Ashley says. “But now I can walk five miles … and some of my old clothes are so big they fall down. I’m happier now, too.”
Osborne says the family’s transformation, even in just half a year, has been amazing: “When they first came in here, I could see that they were downtrodden. Now, they walk in and they’re happier, more self-confident. It’s such a difference.”
Now that the family has learned to incorporate healthy choices into their daily routines, Osborne says she’s working on “weaning” them off of her services. She’ll always be there if they need to come back for more hypnotherapy, of course, but instead of weekly visits, the family could come once every three weeks for a while, then once a month, then once in a while, until they’re secure in their own abilities to choose healthy foods and exercise.
“I feel confident that I’ve given them the tools they need to get out there and do this on their own, to not depend on me,” Osborne says.