A coach who has lost seven and a half stone said the money she paid for food aversion therapy and a hypnotic gastric band is the best she has ever spent – and it meant she could get back on a horse again.
Dawn Britnell, mother of five-star rider David Britnell, has gone from being sceptical about the treatment to “evangelical”, having dropped from 17 and a half stone to under 10 since last October.
She told H&H she hoped her story might help others in the equestrian world who are struggling with their weight.
“I used to eat till I was so full, eat more because I felt disgusted, then get something else because I hated myself,” she said. “That just doesn’t happen any more, and the joy of it – I can’t tell you. It’s brilliant.”
Dawn, who is now 59, had her first child aged 27, and “ever since, I’ve yo-yo dieted”.
“I think I had undiagnosed post-natal depression, and the pounds piled on,” she said. “So for 30 years, effectively, I’ve been doing that, it’s pretty unpleasant.
“I tried everything. I lost five stone on Lighter Life but because I hadn’t dealt with why I was overeating, it piled straight back on again.
“In May 2022, I went to see a horse I had with a friend and she took pictures; I looked at them and thought ‘Is that really me?’ When you’re that fat, for that long, you get body dysmorphia, so I’d thought I was a bit overweight. Then at Burghley, I was on the WOW stand, as I’m a WOW saddle-fitter, and someone said ‘Waddle over here, Dawn’.”
Dawn said that made her “have a bit of a cry”, but also, she realised something else.
“There’s nowhere to sit down on the stand so you have to sit on one of the saddles,” she said. “That’s usually a pleasure as they’re lovely but I couldn’t get my leg over, so to speak! Then my hips hurt, and my back, and I struggled to get off. I had another little cry and thought ‘This has to change’. I was in a pretty bad place, mentally and physically, and something had to change.
“I was 17st 7lb, which at 5’4” is morbidly obese, I was pre-diabetic, my asthma was horrendous, my arthritis hideous and my self-esteem through the floor.”
Dawn said she heard of Adrian Radford-Shute, of 1 Mind, as her son David had seen him after the loss of his Badminton horse Continuity.
“He fell apart when he lost ‘Brad’, he’d lost his best friend and his mojo, but Adrian stood him up and helped him carry on,” she said. “He got David over the trauma, of the injury, and Brad’s death – he’s done that for both of us.”
Dawn added: “When I saw how Adrian helped him, and heard he worked with people who needed to lose weight, it piqued my interest. Having had regression hypnosis before for the same issue, I was resistant and sceptical but talking to David, looking at the website, and taking into account my spiralling blood pressure, I decided to try.”
Dawn explained that Adrian’s approach helped her tackle the cause of her overeating. He asked her to write down traumas she had suffered, such as the loss of her father and her brother, and Brad, falls and accidents, and allocate each a number from one to 10 related to the scale of the trauma.
“In no time, I’d covered a side and a half of A4, and he said I was in a severe overwhelmed trauma state,” she said. “I thought ‘That’s probably why I’m here’. He said the reason I was overeating and binge-eating was because I didn’t have enough processing power left to deal with it.”
Adrian helped Dawn “dial down” each trauma, by asking her to focus on it and how she felt, and counting it down.
“It sounds like hocus pocus and people raise their eyebrows,” she said. “But after he’s counted it down, it doesn’t hurt. You turn off the pain of the memory.”
After the traumas had been dealt with, Adrian hypnotised Dawn. She said he took her, mentally, down two roads open to her: first he showed her becoming a bariatric patient, and “almost to the point of death; which was terrifying”.
“Then he draws you back and says that’s the wrong path, let’s take the right one,” she said. “He’d already asked me and knew I wanted to see my kids get married and my grandchildren, to ride again, to enjoy life. Then he took me down that path of joyousness, and asked me to look at the door to the wrong path, and go down the right one. I can still remember almost every word he said, and I lie in bed most mornings and check that the door to the bad path is locked, and the door to the right one open.”
Dawn said Adrian used aversion therapy to make sure she wasn’t tempted by her downfall; sweets, cakes, chocolate and biscuits. He asked her to imagine the taste of a certain sweet, then the taste of dog poo, were she to put that in her mouth, then the flavours mixing.
“Then he asks if you want any sweets, and you really, really don’t!” she said. “For eight months, I didn’t have sweets, cakes, biscuits or chocolate. I missed it horribly, but I was losing three pounds a week. The joy of seeing the scales go down is the best drug on the planet.”
Dawn did eventually “get them switched back on”, so she can eat her favourites again, but she has transformed her approach to food. The hypnotic “gastric band” – Adrian hypnotised her into believing one is fitted – means she cannot eat the same quantities as before.
She is now “programmed” to determine whether a food is worth the calories it contains, and if it is, she eats it and enjoys it, and then stops.
Once she had reached her target weight, she allowed herself to get back on a horse – she had stopped riding her dressage horse Fantasmic when she got too heavy, but finally got back in the saddle of her daughter Roxanne’s horse Clooney this year. Owing to an Achilles injury she is not riding at the moment, but hopes to be back in the saddle next spring.
“Riding was all my Christmases come at once,” she said. “I’m now doing everything I wanted to; I do Pilates and Nordic walking, I can buy clothes in normal shops; I was an XXL and now I’m a medium. I was so embarrassed by the way I looked, I used to hide away not wanting to be seen. I’m never going back.”
Dawn hopes her story will help others; she said at least 30 people she has spoken to about her experience have seen Adrian themselves.
“All the way through, people have asked me what was going on, then said ‘That can’t work’,” she said. “But the evidence is standing here. I sound a bit evangelical about it but that’s because I am!”
Always consult your doctor before you start any diet or weight-loss plan.
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