HBM091: Hypnosis of Hunger

Producer Bethany Denton found a box in her basement storage room with two old cassette tapes inside. It took her a moment to realize what they were.

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Content Note:

Descriptions of disordered eating

Bethany has been fat her whole life, even when she was a kid. She ate hidden stashes of food when she felt anxious. By the time she was eleven years old, Bethany’s parents worried she would have health problems as as an adult, and they thought weight-loss hypnotherapy could help. The hypnotherapist tried to guide Bethany’s subconscious mind into making choices that would help her lose weight, like developing the ability to control her hunger with an imaginary dial in her mind. The hypnotherapist had Bethany visualize her favorite greasy, salty potato chips covered in vomit.  She had Bethany visualize her ideal, thin body, and affirmed that this ideal body was “who you really are.”  The therapist recorded their sessions and gave them to Bethany on cassette tapes.  She was supposed to use them to relax.

Fifteen years later, Bethany never lost the weight, never achieved that ideal body. But she doesn't really eat potato chips anymore either.

For information about treatment for disordered eating, visit The Emily Program.


Bethany Denton produced this episode and Jeff Emtman edited it. Here Be Monsters is part of KCRW’s Independent Producer Project, edited by Nick White and managed by Kristen Lepore.

Music: The Black Spot

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HBM046: Crooked Skirts

Growing up in Queens, NY, Karen Smith had no reason to suspect anything was wrong with her. Even when it hurt to sit for too long, or when her clothes didn't fit right, everything seemed fine. That's because Karen's mother did everything she could to hide the fact that Karen had Spina Bifida.  The condition gave Karen severe scoliosis, a curve in her spine that made walking painful and made her skirts hang crooked.  Her mother removed any full-length mirrors from the house in attempts to keep Karen from becoming self-conscious. But as she grew older, her scoliosis became more severe.  And by the time she was in fifth grade, Karen had to be hospitalized in a children's ward, in and out of a corrective halo.  This was just the beginning of three long years of treatment.

Bedridden and limited in her mobility by body casts and back braces, Karen judged the passing of time by the sounds around her as her vision progressively worsened. She found solace in her AM radio, pulling in stations in from far away in the middle of the night.  She heard sounds of the courtyard below, filtering up through an open window.  She wondered if the other kids would be too old to play with her by the time she's healthy enough to join them. 

Music: Garrett Tiedemann of American Residue Records

This story was produced and scored by Garrett Tiedemann, creator of The White Whale podcast.  Garrett also works for Sister Story, a series that shares the daily lives of Catholic nuns.   Bethany Denton and Jeff Emtman edited this piece. Nick White is our editor at KCRW.

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