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Celebrity Health - Anna Richardson

A photo of Anna Richardson

TV presenter Anna Richardson speaks to Liz Parry about how she overcame her weight battles through hypnotherapy and is now helping others to do the same

Q: You’re well known for presenting shows on Channel Four like Supersize vs Superskinny and Secret Eaters, but you’ve recently trained as a hypnotherapist. Why is that?

Anna: " It’s something that I find absolutely fascinating. Around four or five years ago, when I was filming Supersize vs Superskinny, I underwent hypnosis as part of my job road-testing extreme diets. Initially I thought it would be a load of old hokum but I had the most extraordinary experience. I went on to lose two stone in weight and completely changed my eating habits. It prompted me to write my latest book, Mind Over Fatter, which delves very deeply into the reasons why people overeat."

Q: Tell us a bit more about the book

Anna: "It’s not just about a diet plan – it goes a lot deeper than that. The reasons why we overeat are often due to negative feelings, low self-esteem or issues around loneliness or boredom. Once you’ve changed that it can have a profound effect on your eating habits. I collaborated with the hypnotherapist Marisa Peer, who helped me to lose the weight in the first place. I also worked with Dr Christy Ferguson from Secret Eaters, who is a psychologist and nutritionist. I wanted to get us all together to join forces and prove that changing your mind can change your menu."

Q: Tell us about your own experience with hypnotherapy

Anna: "It was just extraordinary. Marisa began by explaining that she was going to regress me back to a time when I was a child which would connect me with my negative emotions around food. I went into quite a deep trance and I remember going back to a time when I was four years old. I was sitting in front of a massive plate of chips and beans with a glass of pop and feeling very upset. It turned out that my mum had been rushed off in the middle of the night because she was pregnant with my little brother and had to be hospitalised. She was kept in for about eight weeks. All I knew was that my Mummy suddenly wasn’t there any more. The only way my dad knew to cope was to feed me. So in my mind I formed an association that food equals love and that it will soothe me if I feel abandoned or lost. Once Marisa had identified that she brought me back to being an adult. While I was still in a trance she told me that I am good enough, I am better than that and I don’t need to use food to self-medicate."

Q: What happened after that?

Anna: " I didn’t know what to think afterwards as it was so bizarre, but the amazing thing was that within three to four months I lost two stone. I suddenly found that I was driven to make the correct food choices. I didn’t want to eat rubbish any more. I wanted to treat myself with respect. My weight now fluctuates by about seven pounds or so if I go through periods of stress, but I now know how to get myself back on track."

Q: In your book you quote a worrying statistic that women spend up to 17 years of their life on a diet. How do you feel about this?

Anna: "On a daily basis we are bombarded with images of skinny models through the media so it’s no surprise that as women we have become very hard on ourselves. Also we’re in a culture that is selfie obsessed, so we are constantly self-critical and it becomes increasingly difficult to accept yourself as you are. The other problem is that the food industry isn’t exactly helping. When you have food that’s laden with sugar and fat, both of which are highly addictive ingredients, it’s really hard to wean yourself off that convenience diet. It’s not about willpower, it’s about finding the reasons why you are overeating and then finding practical ways to choose the right foods."

Q: What sort of foods do you eat in a typical day?

Anna: " I tend to start with homemade bircher muesli sprinkled with mixed seeds, blueberries and agave syrup. For lunch I am a big fan of Vietnamese spring rolls because they are so easy to make. I’ll have them with avocado and prawns. Or I might have homemade soup with rye bread. In the evening I’ll go for either a salmon stir fry or maybe a homemade vegetable curry."

Q: Would you say that following a healthy lifestyle is important to you?

Anna: "It’s becoming increasingly important. When I was younger I was obsessed with getting thin and going on fad diets, but I’m 44 now and I’m really focusing on looking after my body. Last year my dad had three strokes and a heart attack, which really brought into sharp focus the idea that we only have one body and we need to take care of it. I’m also taking more care of my mental health. Living in London and having a really stressful media job can take its toll sometimes so I do some mindfulness meditation to ease the stress."

Q: Do you take any supplements?

Anna: "I never used to but now I’ve become a bit fanatical about them. I’ve got so many in my kitchen. I take my omegas, all the B vitamins, magnesium, calcium, vitamin and probiotics. I’m literally starting to rattle!"

Q: Do you shop in health food stores?

Anna: "Yes, there’s a fantastic organic deli near where I live called Pomona and I do a lot of my shopping there. I do try to support the local community as much as possible. I go to the local farmer’s market on a Saturday as well and I try to source organic produce whenever I can."

Q: Do you like to exercise?

Anna: " If anyone has got a mental block about exercise and needs to take a leaf out of her own book, it’s me. I just don’t enjoy it. I know I’ve got to do it though. What I do really love is being outside and walking. I recently spent a few days in the Lake District with my other half [comedienne Sue Perkins] and every day we made a massive effort to do plenty of walks around the lakes. I’ve enjoyed yoga, Pilates and kickboxing in the past but I think I need the right trainer to kick me into shape!"

Q: Would you say that you’ve reached a place where you are happy with how you are now?

Anna: "Yes. I’m in a place now where I absolutely understand myself, but that doesn’t mean that there’s not more to learn. In a sense I’m on a quest to always try and improve any negative behaviours in my life. There is a phrase we use in hypnotherapy and that’s that we are all fellow strugglers. I’ve always struggled with my weight but I know and accept that I’ll never be a skinny person. I just want to be healthy."

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