Peterson: Normal at a subconscious level

I am under the spell of a hypnotist.

And, no, I haven’t clucked like a chicken with the clap of hands in front of a carnival audience. Or in private, as near as I can tell. I’m certain my good wife would not play games like that for her amusement.

After months of searching, I found someone who practices hypnosis to help me lose weight. I’ve been struggling with my weight for several, nay, many years, and the only surefire method for me is hypnosis.

My first foray into hypnosis was 24 years ago when the Northwest Herald, like businesses across the country, kept further restricting smoking in the workplace. We first were banished from smoking at our desks, then we were exiled to the lunchroom, then – and this was the deal-breaker – we were about to be forced outside if we wanted to smoke.

And with winter always approaching, I didn’t want to be one of those poor saps sucking on a cigarette when it was a windy 20 below or when it was a rainy 40 above. My employer offered alternatives to quit smoking, and this was before the nicotine patch. Hypnosis was one of the alternatives. There were others, like a smoking cessation class and having your fingernails pulled off at the first thought of having a cigarette. They were barbaric times.

I didn’t necessarily believe in hypnosis. In fact, I had never tried it and was skeptical. My only experience with it was watching people at carnivals doing embarrassing things while under the spell. But I figured I would keep an open mind.

Little did I know how open, how pliable, my mind was.

Two years previous I had quit smoking, and like many ex-smokers, I substituted food for nicotine, and I gained 50 pounds. But I lost the weight over the next year and still wasn’t smoking. Then it happened. It was a summer day on a lake, and I was fishing with someone, not that I had any interest in catching fish. It was a way to pass time and read.
But I was offered a cigarette, and I thought, what harm can that do, one cigarette? Of course, I was hooked like before.

I still needed to quit; being banished to the great out of doors was harkening, and I knew that wasn’t for me. So I settled in with the hypnotist, and after two sessions, I was free from the desire to smoke. I told the hypnotist about weight gain, and she included that in the hypnosis. I would stop smoking and wouldn’t replace it with eating.

It worked. I didn’t have any cravings for cigarettes or for food. All I had to do when I felt the need for a cigarette coming on was take a deep breath and blow it away. I did a lot of sighing for a long time, but I didn’t smoke. It wasn’t a problem.

Fast forward to two years ago and an appointment with my gastroenterologist. I have acid reflux, and I was being treated for it with medication. He said losing weight would help. Not only did he say losing weight would help, but he called me obese, which might have been true, but I didn’t need to be called names.

Maybe he was having a bad day. Short people do, you know, and I was prepared to remark on his stature at my next appointment with him the next year if he called me obese again. But he didn’t; he said I could stand to lose 30 pounds.

I thought, OK, I can do that. I wasn’t being called names. All I needed was someone who did hypnosis, which took half a year to find. Finally. And I am under the spell. But I am not on a diet. I’m just eating less, and I’m good with that.

I started treatment in mid-March, and after several sessions, I was on my own. It is working.

I have lost 23 pounds slowly at a pound or two a week. But I still am considered obese, according to the people who created the body mass index. I have to lose another 20 pounds to be categorized as simply overweight, and another 30 pounds to be considered “normal,” which is about what I weighed in college.

So, take that into account the next time you read about far too many Americans being obese. The standards are set extraordinarily high by the body mass index torturers. I was at a mental-health conference the other day, and the topic turned to “normal,” and people wanting to be “normal,” which is tricky proposition. Just what is normal?

I found out. It’s a setting on the clothes dryer. I’m on a quest, and it may take a year, but I’m bound and determined to be normal without having to tumble in the dryer.

• Dick Peterson, who lives in Woodstock, is a mental-health advocate. He is a freelance writer and a former Northwest Herald Opinion Page editor. He can be contacted at

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