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I Tried YouTube Hypnosis To Solve My Picky Eating, & This Is What Happened

Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
I’ve hated fruit for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure if it was that my older brother stuffed his apple cores into the couch cushions, or if I should blame that time my husband ate two pints of blueberries and later puked them all up, but I cannot get on board with the sweet stuff. “Fruit flavour” is great, sure — but that texture is not okay in my book.

And yet, because I know that fruit is a good source of fibre and that it supposedly is a smart thing to add to yogurt, I’ve always really wanted to like it. And I’ve tried, I swear, but it’s so fucking hard for me because I am a picky eater in general (other dislikes: all seafood and really any meat unless it’s very well done). Plus, I happen to have a raging case of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which can be related to picky eating. So, at 31 years old, I’m still not able to have an apple or eat a handful of berries without my gag reflex going off instantly. I’ve tried blending fruit into smoothies, working in things I do like (cacao powder and frozen greek yogurt, for example), to trick myself. None of this is enough to cover up that unmistakable fruitiness.

But then, late one night, I stumbled into the bowels of the internet — Reddit — and came across a thread detailing some things my fellow fruit-haters had done to overcome their aversions. Turns out, lots of people had turned to hypnosis — something I’ve always been interested in, although I hadn’t tried it yet. Soon, I was clicking through to this hypnosis channel on YouTube that instantly sold me. Proponents (okay, by that I mean YouTube commenters) claimed that listening to this video for just 20 minutes a day did indeed help them learn to love fruits or vegetables. Keep in mind that, interestingly, I don’t mind vegetables (most of them, at least), so this was a bit broader than my needs. But if anything, that was a good thing, right? I felt like I hit the jackpot. Could this really work?

Well. While there isn’t research underscoring the benefits of hypnosis for picky eating, there is evidence that it can work for various other (more serious) health concerns. For example, a 2007 study published by the American College of Chest Physicians found that smokers had a nearly 50% higher incidence of quitting using hypnotherapy. And in 2012, research from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden showed that hypnotherapy helped alleviate IBS symptoms better than regular therapy alone.

But can it be done on YouTube? When I talked to Shana Cummins, a hypnotherapist at Maha Rose Centre for Healing in Brooklyn, she assured me that “there’s no wrong way to do it; just allowing yourself to open up [is what’s key.]” Similarly, the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis says that “learning self-hypnosis is the ultimate act of control because it allows people to use more of their potential.”

All this was enough reason to give it a try — plus, it’s not like I could hate fruit any more.

When I sat down with the video, aptly titled “Hypnosis: Love Fruits and Vegetables,” to seriously take a crack at it, it was a sunny afternoon — not the dark, cool atmosphere I had imagined I’d be hypnotised in with a pro, but my couch is cozy enough. The 20-minute clip features a constantly swirling spiral, but since you’re soon instructed to close your eyes, it’s really just a kooky moot point.

For the first half, a monotone male voice instructed me to let go, an attempt to induce a trance-like state, which was admittedly difficult for an uptight, clinically OCD, BDD, ADD, anxious, and depressed thirtysomething such as myself (I swear I’m really fun IRL). The hypnotist’s voice was also kind of irritating, and I was bothered that he kept telling me how “amazing” it all felt. (Erm, I feel the same? I kept thinking.)

Then, once we got to the point, the whole message about learning to love fruits and vegetables came from the idea that they’re connected to the Earth and incredibly nourishing. Perhaps it’s because I already had this institutional knowledge of fruits and veggies, or perhaps it’s because I’m too much of a control freak, but I found myself annoyed that the video was taking so long — I was in the exact opposite of a trance.

Still, I was hopeful. After my first session, I went to the grocery store and picked up a fruit I thought had the most potential: raspberries. I love the flavour, and they’re insanely cute (and little, so any texture should be gone relatively quickly). But at the first bite, it was still too much to bear: bile rose, gag reflex ensued, and that raspberry was definitely not swallowed.

I tried again, and again, every day for the next week. I did get better at getting into a meditative state during the video (which was, at the very least, relaxing), but each time, I still felt eager to turn the dude’s voice off. What’s worse is that I couldn’t find any other YouTube hypnosis videos that spoke to my specific issue. There are tons on weight loss and binge eating, but not one to help with my specific problem — although I did spot a few vlog testimonials about how hypnosis turned someone into a fruit lover. But not me. Each day that I hypnotised myself, I tried the berries, only to have the same reaction: Bite, bile, gag, spit.

Had I been seeing a hypnotist on the regular, I feel like things may have been different. There’s no doubt that it takes repetition, Cummins says, but even she admitted that everyone will respond to hypnosis differently. Until I find my own individual cure, I’ll be sticking with vegetables — and trying to block out the memory of the great blueberry purge of 2006.