Six years ago, Sanna Carapellotti noticed that many of her clients were reporting they were troubled by overeating due to stress.
"I began asking myself how I could take what I know and apply it to create an experience that would help," said Ms. Carapellotti, 58, a certified medical hypnotherapist who has a master's degree in school psychology from Duquesne University.
As a first step, she visited local food courts, sat for several hours and observed diners' eating habits. She even counted the number of times people chewed their food.
"I noticed they took a fast-paced approach to eating and seemed to be distracted as if in a trance of obliviousness," she said. "This can leave us feeling less than satisfied and compounds any stress we feel. If you finish a burger, fries and drink in three minutes, you might feel you need to eat more because the body's 20-minute eating cycle is not complete."
Seeking answers, she invited a group of people to her home in Mt. Lebanon to dine. But she also applied a trance of awareness to heighten the eating experience and she used integrated hypnotherapy, Emotional Freedom Technique and psychological acupressure into the meal experience. The results were encouraging.
"Currently, in my updated classes, I swing the pendulum the other way from rushed to very slow and deliberate and engage all the senses because we experience food through sight, smell, sound, touch, rhythms, as well as taste," she said. "The meal takes about 2 1/2 hours to complete, and while people would never eat this slow again, they experience the gifts food offers in a way that is unforgettable."
Ms. Carapellotti has officially registered the class she titled HypnoDining, which has attracted foodies who want to deepen their experiences with food as well as those wanting to eat slower, enjoy smaller portions and lose weight.
Cory Higgins, 24, of Mt. Lebanon and his fiancee, Ciara Eisennarth, recently attended HypnoDining and came away with a marked change in their eating habits.
"When I wolfed down a hot dog in five seconds at a recent Penguins game, I realized it might be time to begin eating a little slower," said Mr. Higgins, an accountant for his family's painting and wall cover business. "I knew about Sanna's classes from a business networking group we both belong to, and her session came as a big surprise. Eating slowly in an exaggerated fashion with a more relaxed rhythm helped me see how my body reacts to food intake."
For a while, Ms. Carapellotti held HypnoDining in her home, but it was too much work to buy and prepare the food, teach the class and clean up afterward. Last year, she worked out an arrangement with the Orbis Caffe in Mt. Lebanon to host HypnoDining as well as classes designed for those who struggle with junk food.
Ms. Carapellotti uses mental strategies and Emotional Freedom Technique, which uses mental concentration on issues coupled with tapping on certain points of the body, to neutralize the power that junk food has over the person.
"The person leaves more decisive and in charge," she said.
For those who eat because of stress, she teaches them to apply awareness and stress reduction strategies. If they choose to eat, they learn how to enjoy the food without the aftertaste of guilt.
"The ultimate goal is to engage ourselves while eating," she said. "We are the final authority in determining how we put food into our bodies. S-L-O-W eating increases our happiness because we feel satisfied, are eating less and can lose weight and improve digestion. It's even an anti-aging tool for the body."
For more information: Pittsburghadvancedhypnotherapy.com or 412-344-2272.
Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org