Tapping on One’s Own to Control Appetite

by Dr. Patricia Carrington

In the early 1990's Roger Callahan appeared on a radio show (I was listening to it at the time) and led a woman in tapping who had called into the show about her "absolutely uncontrollable" need to eat a chocolate cake which she had in front of her. Roger led her step by step over the airwaves to tap for this issue. The woman lost any interest in eating the cake. She was astounded. So was the host.

I also remember repeatedly watching Gary Craig start off his workshops with his Hershey Kisses demo – on several occasions I was co-teaching with Gary at these workshops and took an active role in the demonstrations. I have also known of hundreds of other EFT Practitioners who have used food cravings as a remarkable demonstration of the power of tapping. It makes a superb convincer.

But, in my long experience with the tapping therapies – I have been using them for 24 years – I don't think I have ever had a client or someone in an audience tell me that they had been using tapping to control unwanted food cravings at home on their own on any kind of regular basis. This is particularly striking because people regularly report almost every conceivable way of using tapping on their own. Their applications range from using it to reduce allergic reactions or mosquito bites to saving someone's life in intensive care through surrogate tapping, and so on.

Why don't people tap on their own to control their appetites more often? Is it because the results of tapping to eliminate a food craving are only temporary?

For the most part they are not long-lasting, at least in the manner that tapping has been used for food cravings up until now, but we need to recognize that tapping to control pain also has only a temporary effect in most cases, yet it is used extensively by people on their own. The reason for this is probably because there is a strong motivation to reduce pain, yet when you want to reach for comforting pleasurable food the motivation is low to stop that need. Can it be that tapping to control appetite is actually a threat to most people precisely because it is so effective?

After interviewing a sample of people who were given an opportunity to use a highly effective computer program that would, in many cases, take away their craving for a particular food and allow them to eat more sensibly, I discovered that these people were actually reluctant to tap away their food cravings because they did not want to be deprived of their need for their favorite foods! Their fear was that they would be deprived of the food itself and the solace of eating it. No-one likes to feel deprived.

Strong resistance to being deprived of foods people love is known to be one of the main reasons for the notorious failure of so many weight control programs. While those attending a

meridian tapping workshop may agree, under group pressure and the request of their leader, to temporarily tap away their cravings for a specific food (such as Hershey Kisses!), they are viewing this as sort of an experiment, an exploration only. Left to their own devices later on, the very craving for this food itself may make tapping for it be strongly resisted.

What can we do to overcome this resistance to self-help applications of tapping for food cravings? This was the question that some of my colleagues in the Energy Psychology field and myself faced when we discussed the possibility of launching a self-help program using Meridian Tapping to control food cravings, one which would have a reasonable expectation of being used by people in their homes.

The answer to this was informative. In experimenting with my own clients and with groups I was conducting, I discovered that people who crave undesirable (in the sense of weight producing or unhealthy) foods, need to experience tapping to end their cravings for these foods as a pleasurable act in and of itself. In a sense, the process of  tapping to end these cravings would have to be able to substitute for the pleasure of the food they wanted to eat at the time – or people simply wouldn’t tap.

This should have been no surprise to me but I had not realized the inadequacy of our usual tapping phrases to handle this problem. When I began substituting the setup phrase, "Even though I crave this food, I choose to pass it up for now", instead of using a phrase that suggested giving up the food, I got very different results. Obviously this is the kind of approach that the Twelve Step programs employ when they advise their followers to practice abstinence "one day at a time" – they are advising something do-able, something that does not create the powerful rebellion that the idea of abstinence forever can create.

When I added a component of real pleasure to the tapping itself by introducing slideshows consisting of mouth watering photos of tempting foods, I found that people (myself included!) responded with a sense of satisfaction to these dazzling displays. I then realized that this must be the reason people buy those hugely costly coffee table books with exquisite photos of food in them.

To make a long story short (it took me two years of experimenting before I hit on the procedures that were really effective) I found that using these slideshows of tempting photos while repeating certain tapping phrases which encourages people to enjoy the photos as though they were eating these foods, has an almost magical effect. For most people it creates a sense of being pleasantly satisfied when they sit down to eat afterwards and of not needing much of their Downfall food now, or they may find that they can easily substitute a less fat-producing food in its place.

The impression I have – for I experience this effect myself – is that after the tapping somehow

the appetite control center in the brain has been "fooled" into thinking we are pleasantly full and don't need to eat much more of that particular food.

This finding takes Meridian Tapping into a different realm than previously. It makes direct use of positive suggestion in the words being used while tapping, as well as the effect of the physical tapping itself. This creates a state that is so pleasant that the person is drawn to using this procedure instead of resisting it. The process of tapping while viewing the beautiful photographs of food is not now viewed as "deprivation" in the person's mind, but somehow experienced as "satisfaction".

Since the game first became available for purchase, I have received some informative emails about it. All but one were positive – one woman didn't find it her "cup of tea". I was particularly struck by the statement of a user from Vermont, Pat Lusher, who wrote that "I was certainly not expecting to want to play the game more and more and to eat less and less as time went on, but that's what's happening." Others, such as Heather Ramanlal of Hawaii, report that the game has not only reduced their specific cravings but their general appetite as well. And others report looking forward to playing the "satisfaction" version of the game as a sort of treat on its own (there are two games in one in the set, the Satisfaction game takes less than 3 minutes).

Psychologically, what is happening with these users is an indication of "reconditioning", the forming of a new habit in these people vis a vis their most tempting foods. What I consider particularly important is the fact that they are using the game at home on their own and enjoying doing that. This means that Hurdle #1, getting people to tap for food cravings when left to their own devices, is being overcome for these people. I look forward to what we will discover…

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