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Frightened of food for 20 years
Coventry woman is finally starting to enjoy a healthy diet for the first time in her life after eating nothing but pizza and soup for the past 20 years
By: Tara Cain
Even the thought of putting different types of food in her mouth would make her heart race, she would tense up and sweat and experience an anxiety attack.
And her lifestyle seriously hampered her social life as she would avoid anywhere that meant she would be questioned about her food choices.
"My throat would tighten up and I would feel physically sick," Hayley said.
"People thought I was rude when I wouldn't eat what they had provided. They just couldn't understand why I physically couldn't try it."
"If friends were having a party or I was invited somewhere I knew there would be food, I would make excuses not to go because it was just too stressful."
As a toddler, 22-year-old Hayley, of Torcross Avenue, Wyken, was an extremely fussy eater.
Her eating habits never improved and she grew up only eating chicken or tomato soup.
Hayley, a sales administrator, would panic if she thought she had to eat something she didn't want to.
"Then at the age of 13 I started to eat pizza; but only the cheese and tomato one! And that's pretty much all I could face.
"I would always take my own dinner to school, which was usually soup in a flask, and if ever I was asked to eat anything else I would get butterflies in my stomach and feel quite panicy. The effects were quite physical."
Dinner times in the Gunn household were trying times.
"I have no idea what started me off like this. I was very fussy as a baby; I just remember always being like this."
Hayley's teenage years were very tough too. Family meals out were impossible because she would only go to specific restaurants where she knew they served something she could eat and she quickly became labelled as awkward and fussy.
But now Hayley has been weaned off her unhealthy diet with the aid of hypnotherapy and is eating fruits, vegetables and bacon for the first time in her life!
"I was really hopeful it would work for me, as a friend of mine had had it for a similar problem and she had been totally transformed,"
"After my first session I went straight home and asked mum to make me a mixed fruit salad - something totally unheard of. I could never ever mix food before!
"Mum was just astounded, but I think she was a bit wary and wondered if it would help me permanently!"
Hayley's turn around has been at the hands of clinical hypnotherapist Russell Hemmings at the Bridge Clinic at Earlsdon Street, Coventry.
Mr Hemmings said: "Hayley has now tried bacon, pineapple, apple, grapes and strawberries - something she could never have dreamt of doing before without experiencing high anxiety levels.
"Phobias can be very life-limiting and it has been wonderful to see the change in her. To see her try new foods.
"I have treated a lot of people for food phobias - it really is quite common - and every one of them is different. There is no 'one treatment fits all'.
WHAT IS A PHOBIA
A phobia is a constant, extreme or irrational fear of something that would not normally worry most people.
They can develop at any time, but often start in childhood in response to a frightening event.
Symptoms are varied but can include irregular heartbeat, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath or more rapid breathing, dry mouth, confusion, disorientation and general dread.
After these feelings pass the experience may cause depression and embarrassment.
There is help available for people who want to overcome their phobia if it is affecting them severely.
Counselling, psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy and hypnotherapy are most often used.
FOOD PHOBIA - A HYPNOTHERAPIST'S VIEW
"I treat a lot of people for food phobias, it really is quite common," said Russell Hemmings.
"From those who have survived their whole life on one type of food to others who have a fear of being sick. Everyone one of them is different and every one of the treatments are different too".
So why is food phobia so common? Is it actually more prevalent now, or are we just more aware of it?
Mr Hemmings believes much of the blame is down to the change in the way we feed our children now.
Post war parents were a lot stricter. There wasn't such an abundance of food available and you sat at the table and had a family meal. It was an event.
"Following this, parents - quite understandably - didn't want their children to suffer like their parents had. And so children growing up now have fast food at their disposal and a distinct lack of assertiveness at the table.
"Many people are eating TV dinners or eating at separate times - there is no structure to dinner time any more. And that lack of discipline is having a knock-on effect".
He adds: "The key to success is to remove the anxiety. Remove the stress around eating the particular food which sets the phobia off".
Visit http://www.russellhemmings.co.uk for more information or the blog at http://www.thebridgeclinic.wordpress.com