As someone who runs several marathons a year, I am in the clear. That is, I am not going to have my professional credibility questioned by Steve Miller. I can see my abs in the mirror when I get out of the shower, so I’m alright Jack….


Steve Miller is the TV host of Sky Tv’s Fat Families and prides himself on his straight talking approach to slimming. His recent straight talking has been aimed at overweight neé “fat’ hypnotherapists. In this article over at the Huffington Post,  Steve suggests that “if a hypnotherapist is fat, they should not be treating fat clients.”  This has produced much debate in my own forums and a couple of upset colleagues urged me to write some sort of response…..

Is there any empirical evidence that shows a correlation between the weight of a therapist and their level of skill and ability as a therapist? I have trawled through the research databases, the same ones I use for my PhD study, and I can find nothing. I feel safely assured in the assertion that there is no such evidence.

Quite the opposite in fact, prolific researcher and far from insignificant contributor to the field of modern hypnosis, Theodore Barber, has shown in a replicated study, that hypnosis is less to do with the artistry of the hypnotist and far more to do with the engagement, attitudes, expectancies of the person being hypnotised. Hypnotherapy is collaborative, and as long as we have an effective working alliance and the right cognitive set is produced within the client, the therapists body weight does not matter in the slightest when it comes to the efficacy of the treatment.

Steve Miller writes that “fat” hypnotherapists “make the profession a laughing stock” – I don’t believe that is true. Good quality therapists, regardless of their weight, if they do their work well, definitely do not harm the field of hypnotherapy. Slating other hypnotherapists, that sort of divisive, polarising strategy is what harms this field and makes us a laughing stock. Making high profile media claims that our field even is a laughing stock, directly contributes to it being just that. Some of my own colleagues would suggest that making some therapists look bad to make yourself look good is ethically questionable?

Furthermore, some might suggest that Steve’s description of the profession harms the image of this field further by stating that it is “saturated with practitioners, some of whom have probably done little more than a weekend’s training course.” In order to become a fully qualified hypnotherapist registered with a quality governing body, you cannot qualify in a weekend, and despite being a non-regulated field, there are national occupational standards that we adhere to along with voluntary regulation. What about all the many high quality, very well-skilled, erudite therapists out there who serve this field incredibly well? Why not mention them and champion our field instead of casting shadows over it?

Why use your influence to detrimentally affect the public opinion of some hypnotherapists? There may well be very talented hypnotherapists out there, who have worked very hard with their studies, built credible businesses, helped a great many clients, who are now perceived in a particular light as a result of what is said in this article. Why attempt to harm them? The article also says:

You can compare it to a client coming for support to stop smoking only to find the hypnotherapist is smoking in front of them, or the client desperate to overcome a phobia of spiders to then hear the hypnotherapist explain that they are also terrified of spiders.

This is a non-sequitir argument, it is logically fallacious. Overweight therapists don’t sit in therapy eating mars bars suggesting that their clients do the same, do they? There is an insinuation that all therapists must be practically perfect (and we all know it is only Mary Poppins who lives up to that monicker) in order to be effective at what they do. Yet, many, many therapists are drawn to therapy because of their own experiences with it. They have had issues and troubles that they overcame with the aid of hypnotherapy and now want to help others in a similar fashion; many therapists may still have some issues, are there any human beings alive without any issue at all? Without any fears, without any insecurities or frailties?

Contrary to what this article suggests, and having worked with over 6000 individual clients in my therapy rooms in the past 15 years as a hypnotherapist, I have found that many clients seeking my help with weight loss initially find it daunting that I run so many marathons. Some hypnotherapists that I communicate with regularly even comment that clients would prefer someone they feel can empathise with them and relate to – for some that may even mean they prefer working with someone who is overweight.

Steve Miller was referred to as “The Simon Cowell of the slimming world” by the Daily Mirror. I’d say that Simon Cowell truly does promote the good within his field. He champions talent (substance) rather than an obsession with style which proliferates the music industry. Just look at how he has championed many stars that are products of his TV projects, regardless of looks. If they can sing, they make it. Likewise, I think he’d appreciate that regardless of whether a therapist is fat or not, if they can do good therapeutic work for their clients, that is most important.

Steve Miller clearly does some great therapeutic/coaching work. I may have misinterpreted some of what is written in the article (heck, it is tough to read things in a wholly neutral, objective tone), and if so, (and if you read this Steve), get in touch and I’ll be corrected. In fact, if you want to come and discuss the issue in a friendly, objective, warmly welcomed environment of my podcast, then please do so and we can make sure that your message is delivered correctly and accurately. Anyone that has trained with my school, read my books, seen me present at conferences or lecture at universities, all know that I like to celebrate this field, I like to celebrate diversity, I like to embrace individualism and I greatly respect people understanding both sides of any argument or philosophy. If I’ve misunderstood anything or if anything I have said is unfair, then I’ll gladly permit it to be superseded by what comes from the horses mouth, so to speak.

I have seen numerous before and after photos of Steve Miller’s clients. There are some brilliant results there. I have seen the way that some of his clients appreciate what he does for them. This is in no doubt. Does he really need to treat overweight hypnotherapists with such disdain and lack of professional respect? They seem to be a soft target and very few, if any, are going to stand up to what has been written in this Huffington Post article despite how it may make them feel, it is daunting to question someone with such standing and influence. Speaking of which…. I’ll let someone else stand up for all you “fat” hypnotherapists instead, here is a quote from a moderately well-known author:

“Fat’ is usually the first insult a girl throws at another girl when she wants to hurt her.

I mean, is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’? Not to me; but then, you might retort, what do I know about the pressure to be skinny? I’m not in the business of being judged on my looks, what with being a writer and earning my living by using my brain…

I went to the British Book Awards that evening. After the award ceremony I bumped into a woman I hadn’t seen for nearly three years. The first thing she said to me? ‘You’ve lost a lot of weight since the last time I saw you!’

‘Well,’ I said, slightly nonplussed, ‘the last time you saw me I’d just had a baby.’

What I felt like saying was, ‘I’ve produced my third child and my sixth novel since I last saw you. Aren’t either of those things more important, more interesting, than my size?’ But no – my waist looked smaller! Forget the kid and the book: finally, something to celebrate!

I’ve got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don’t want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I’d rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny – a thousand things, before ‘thin’. And frankly, I’d rather they didn’t give a gust of stinking chihuahua flatulence whether the woman standing next to them has fleshier knees than they do. Let my girls be Hermiones, rather than Pansy Parkinsons.”

― J.K. Rowling

Have a great weekend folks, I’ll be back next week.