Wolfing down Maltesers, I felt relaxed.
Mmm, that’s the stuff, I thought.
Living with my husband John, 56, and our girls Rhea, 22, and Addison, 18, I was constantly hiding my secret stashes of choccy.
As a young girl, a piece of chocolate was a special Friday night ritual.
As a teen, I’d reward myself with the sweet treat after finishing homework.
By the time I was an adult, it was my guilty pleasure every night of the week.
Some people relax with a wine. This is just my comfort, I’d tell myself, tucking into a block of milk chocolate as I turned on my favourite show once the kids were asleep.
In 2009, aged 37, I was devastated to be diagnosed with a chronic illness, rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
It caused my lower limbs to hurt as the joints became inflamed, as well as liver and heart damage.
In agony, I wasn’t moving as much and couldn’t participate in activities I’d enjoyed for years, like martial arts and taekwondo.
My whole lifestyle has changed, I thought, fearing for my future.
My body breaking down, I underwent three surgeries over two years to help repair the damage to my right foot caused by my RA.
Sadly, the deterioration of my condition had seen me with 22 fractures in my feet. Ultimately, I felt it was easier to just stay home than go out and risk injury or be in pain.
'I’d sneakily buy choccy in bulk for my stockpile'
Alone during the day, my obsession for chocolate grew worse. Whenever I ducked out to the shops, I’d sneakily buy choccy in bulk for my stockpile.
Hiding it in the laundry room, bedroom drawers and even under my bed, I’d eat at least 12 blocks of chocolate and seven packets of Tim Tams each week.
I’d hide the wrappers in drawers, my wardrobe or the laundry.
The worst part was that the chocolate addiction inflamed my RA, causing my joints to swell and stiffen further.
I felt so much shame.
Keeping my self-sabotage with chocolate and my RA pain to myself, my family didn’t have a clue.
By 2019, my weight had risen to well over 100 kilos.
In emotional and physical pain, I tried to quit by doing every diet under the sun.
‘I’m on the soup diet!’ I said to my mum, Eileen.
After a week or two, I’d always break and turn back to my vice.
In January 2019, Mum had an idea. ‘I heard about hypnotherapy on the radio this morning,’ she said, thinking it might help with my chronic pain.
So I googled hypnotherapist Mark Stephens and went along to my first appointment.
‘I’ve tried everything,’ I told him, plopping down with my walking stick and explaining my condition.
Mark introduced me to meditation and self-hypnosis for my pain. Amazingly, over the next two years, I felt it was easier to manage without the need for high-dose medication.
In April 2022, I was nibbling on some chocolate when I opened an email from Mark.
Hoping to help those who had bad habits, he asked if any of his clients knew of anyone willing to participate in a TV show.
Me! I realised, looking down at my half-eaten block of chocolate – my second for the evening. So I got in touch and told him about my situation.
Afterwards, I also confessed to my family who were all super supportive.
Within a month, I was sitting down with a film crew from TV show A Current Affair to do a report on whether hypnotherapy would help me beat my choccy habit.
When Mark walked in with a wheelbarrow filled with 40 kilos worth of chocolate, equivalent to what I’d polish off in a bad month, I felt embarrassed.
Then, I closed my eyes and Mark began the hypnosis session.
'I felt different right away'
‘I don’t need it, I don’t want it, I won’t have it,’ I repeated after Mark.
Waking from the trance-like state, I felt different right away. Asked to have a bite of chocolate, I felt sick to my stomach and repulsed.
‘I can’t,’ I said, surprised.
After filming, Mark sent me home with techniques to help me stay off the sweet stuff.
Instead of chocolate, I’d reach for water to hydrate or went for a walk to exercise when I wanted a reward.
Since then, I haven’t touched chocolate once!
‘You seem great, Mum,’ Addison said.
By October, I’d dropped from a size 24 to a 14. Best of all, I felt much closer to my old self and my RA was so much better.
‘I’m so happy for you,’ my hubby told me.
Now, I’ve lost 44 kilos and can do gentle at-home workouts. I feel more social and connected, going out to events with loved ones.
Life is constantly looking up.
My rheumatoid arthritis is better than it ever was and I’m more active, going for walks and doing gardening.
I’m chuffed to have broken my bad habit.
There’s nothing sweeter than happiness.
Mark Stephens says:
An extreme chocolate addiction controlled Luana’s life. Chocolate was her emotional anaesthetic. The 12 chocolate blocks and seven Tim Tam packets were adding up to 172 kilos a year. As Luana was ready to finally ditch the bad habit, it made the hypnotherapy easier. Now, she’s an activity machine. ‘I just did a two hour walk,’ she tells me. She’s inspiring! With hypnotherapy, I help people tap into their subconscious and flip switches keeping them in bad habits. Luana has the tools for self-hypnosis and will continue to flourish. I couldn’t be prouder of her.
See mindfreeapp.com for more of Mark’s work.