Published: February 9, 2012
Updated: March 22, 2021
February 9, 2012
With her glamorous blonde appearance and star-studded clientele, it is impossible to imagine that diet guru and psychotherapist Marisa Peer has ever endured a second of insecurity, low confidence and self esteem.
She seems to have it all – charisma, looks and a client list that includes rock stars, royalty and Olympic athletes.
As well as her hectic media career, she has a thriving practice in London and has published five self-help books, including the best seller -You can be Thin ( sphere £9.99).
Yet, despite her obvious success, she admits she hasn’t always been the confident woman she is today.
“The truth is I spent 20 years struggling with over-eating and then obsessive dieting and exercising,” she admits. “I was a chubby teenager and had an incredibly sweet tooth. I could never resist cakes and biscuits and I craved carbohydrates all the time.
As a result, I had a huge stomach and I was always on a diet. I absolutely hated the way I looked and sometimes I found it hard to think about anything else.”
When she hit her early 20's, Marisa’s obsession with food and exercise became even more extreme. After graduating from university, she became an aerobics instructor for Pineapple Dance Studios and was so successful that she soon found herself teaching aerobics to Jane Fonda in Los Angeles.
“Being in LA in the early Eighties was a crazy time as the exercise industry was booming and everyone was completely focused on being as thin as they could,” Marisa recalls. “Not surprisingly, I fell victim to this and no matter how much weight I lost, I never felt good enough.”
As an aerobics instructor, she would exercise four or five hours a day, giving her a perfectly toned size eight figure and she had a handsome footballer as a boyfriend.
“On the surface, everything was great. It seemed that I had the perfect body and at the time I lived in vests and cut-off tights but no matter how good I looked, I never felt slim enough and I was always battling to eat as little as possible.”
But her problems with food were nothing compared with the madness that was going on around her.
“I would have girls coming to my classes who were so severely anorexic that they’d turn up in a taxi, wrapped in blankets. They were seriously ill but honestly thought they needed to burn off the calories in their cough medicine.
Of course, I turned them away but part of me knew exactly where they were coming from.”
At the time, Marisa shared a flat with an anorexic and a bulimic so her own behaviour didn’t seem at all out of the ordinary.
“The turning point for me was when I got up in the middle of the night to find my bulimic flatmate hysterically trying to defrost a cheesecake in a frying pan, before eating the whole lot in a flood of tears.
I realised this was crazy behaviour and I decided I should help her. We sat down and talked for hours and I really tried to get to the bottom of her problems.
It emerged that her parents had split up when she was very young and her stepfather virtually ignored her. The only time he paid her any attention was when he came home with sweets and cakes for her. She began to associate food with love and became very fat".
Then in her teens, her real father got back in touch but he was very critical about her weight and my flatmate thought she had to be thin to get his approval.
“Not surprisingly, her relationship with food had become totally warped which was why she was stuck in this pattern of feast and famine.”
Having helped her flatmate get to the heart of her eating problems, Marisa began to tackle her own thinking patterns and subsequently “cured” herself of her own obsession with food by changing the way you eat.
“Although I was slim, I still secretly craved cakes and biscuits,” she says. “I realised that this was because my grandmother, whom I adored, had always baked special treats for me and I’d come to associate sugar with feeling accepted and secure.
Once I’d worked out the way my mind was working it was much easier to break the association,” she says.
Discovering she had a talent for therapy, Marisa retrained as a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist, gaining qualifications on both sides of the Atlantic.
Now she uses her pioneering therapy techniques not just to help her clients lose weight but also to work with people who suffer from addictions, phobias, infertility, sexual and self-esteem issues.
“It’s all about changing people’s beliefs,” she says. “I have clients who have battled with their weight for years. Many of them are intelligent, successful people who have tried to approach their problems with food in a rational way.
They may think, ‘Of course I should have a plateful of salad instead of another bar of chocolate.’ Only this kind of reasoning doesn’t have any impact on the way that they eat".
The problem, she explains, is that emotion is a far stronger force than logic and our actions often tend to be a response to our innate beliefs rather than our rational thoughts. “That’s why diets don’t work, not in the long term anyway, because you’re just changing the way you eat not your belief system.”
Most of us are unaware of what our unconscious mind believes and this is where hypnosis comes in. Once we are aware of those deep-rooted beliefs we can start to challenge them.
Former sugar addict Marisa says she no longer craves sweet food because she managed to destroy her once deep-rooted belief that chocolate and biscuits made her feel secure.
“It’s surprisingly easy to retrain your brain,” she says. “If you’ve ever had food poisoning, it is very likely that you will never touch the food that made you ill again and that is because, deep down, you believe it will do you harm. You can apply those kind of beliefs to other foods, too".
“On average, it only takes between 10 and 20 days to replace established behavioural patterns with new ones. I guess it’s like learning to drive on the other side of the road. At first, it’s a battle and feels unnatural but after a while it becomes second nature.”
According to Marisa, not everyone who has a weight problem is an emotional eater. “Many have simply become hooked on certain additives and others don’t have a clue about healthy eating,” she says.
“It is becoming increasingly easy to eat badly as fast food is available everywhere and a lot of it is full of sugar and additives. The trick is to train your brain to crave healthier alternatives.”
It is her desire to educate other women about nutrition and changing the way you eat that makes her relish her role at Boot Camp. Under instruction from military physical instructors, clients are guaranteed to leave the camp a dress size smaller and most women lose at least 10lb while they are there.
“It’s a great idea but what I really like about the programme is that it provides women with the tools to maintain and improve on their weight loss,” says Marisa.
“We teach them how to devise a healthy menu and we offer them regular therapy sessions, too, so they leave with a totally different attitude towards food. By changing the way they think, we’re giving them the power to stay slim.”
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Marisa shares an abundance of free resources and tools to help people grow and heal as part of her philanthropic goals. With a weekly reach of 25 million, follow Marisa’s latest content across her social media channels.
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