A book review by Tim Brunson, PhD
In Forget Diets, Plant Tomatoes: A metaphoric, hypnotic journey to stop emotional eating Joanna Cameron DCH, who labels herself as the "Trance Lady," presents a rather simple and elegant seven-step approach to overcoming obesity. Her tactics come down to reducing biographical emotional blockages using Time Line Therapy, parts therapy, chakra balancing, and Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). They are integrated with an effective approach toward goal setting and accomplishment.
Her ideas are apparently influenced by her extensive practice as a hypnotherapist. In turn, they are illustrated by numerous interesting and appropriate cases mentioned throughout her book. Her compassion, enthusiasm, and passion are obvious in every paragraph. As such, this book is very congruent with her personality as seen in her videos and by listening to several of the MP3 recordings that are accessible to her readers.
This is an excellent example of the more idealistic approach prevalent in much of contemporary practice of hypnotherapy – as well as a substantial portion of the rest of the psychotherapeutic community. Thus her concepts and ideas are presented and promoted in a way that draws their credibility from her experience, passion, and enthusiasm rather than any evidence-based research or widely documented clinical experience. While this Institute is dedicated to promoting the scientific basis of integrative healing, I realize that the bulk of such practitioners continue to operate with a more idealistic orientation and benefit society in many ways.
Unfortunately, the foundation of Forget Diets, Plant Tomatoes is based upon the author's unsubstantiated use of the unconscious mind myth. Before building her case in support of her weight loss protocols, very early on she establishes the acceptance of an unconscious mind as essential to her theories. Then the only proof that she offers is that it was talked about by Milton H. Erickson, MD, and that in her opinion he was a fantastic hypnotherapist. Of course, she did mention that the unconscious mind was addressed by Sigmund Freud, MD. However, that alone provides insufficient scientific or academic justification. Furthermore, neither of those two notable historical figures ever provided any scientific rationale for their opinions regarding the unconscious. Moreover, throughout the book comments made as to the nature and behavior of the unconscious mind were presented solely as opinions without any further attempts to provide support or clarification. Essentially, the reader is required to accept these statements based only on faith.
I am also concerned that for the most part this book could have been easily written over forty years ago. Even though much the work of Erickson, Bandler and Grinder (NLP), and Tad James (Time Line Therapy) will continue to be influential for some time, many of their ideas are presently rather dated. Regardless, a few efforts were made to show some currency. She threw in several references to neurology (albeit only partially accurate) and included EFT, which is an elegant technique that is quickly growing in popularity yet still much in need of scientific validation. Nevertheless, these additions fail to overcome the book's lack of a better causal explanation of emotion-caused obesity.
Therapists who are comfortable with a more idealistic – but less scientific and clinical – approach to weight loss will most definitely benefit from and enjoy this book. Indeed, it is full of nuggets of wisdom, which Cameron derives from her vast experience. I also see this as a book that will help the lay reader, who may be struggling with their own weight issues. Other clinicians will appreciate the elegance of her approach, although they may desire to use other methods to address step five, which covers limiting decisions and negative emotions from the past. While the more idealistic approach to hypnotherapy is not one that will likely help our acceptance with the more scientifically-oriented clinical community, everyone can appreciate the wealth of valid experience of such practitioners.