A schoolboy who lived on a diet of tomato-based foods for ten years has finally eaten a proper meal – after being hypnotised to overcome his bizarre fear of food.
Liam Pierce, 14, hasn’t been able to look at a vegetable without feeling sick since he choked on a pea when he was aged two.
The childhood trauma caused Liam to become addicted to tomato-based products, and he would get through more than three bottles of ketchup a week.
He was even forced to skip school lunches after classmates teased him about his daily diet of Heinz beans and spaghetti.
At home he would smother his food in ketchup and eat an entire 250g pack of cherry tomatoes every night as a snack.
He also scoffed his way through up to ten cans of tomato soup a week.
His distraught parents desperately tried to wean their son off tomatoes but every attempt failed and they would catch Liam covering his meals with ketchup.
Liam, of Abbeymead, Gloucester, was finally cured of his addiction and fear of other non-tomato foods after he underwent hypnotherapy sessions.
After just one hour-long session with hypnotherapist David Kilmurry, Liam tucked into roast vegetables – without any sauce of tomatoes on the plate.
Liam, who lives with mum Helen, his council worker step-dad Ian Pierce, 43, and stepsister Jessica Bees, 13, said: “For as long as I can remember I’ve always loved anything with tomatoes in it.
“If I couldn’t get my hands on tomatoes I just had ketchup with everything.
“I did like it, but it wasn’t just that – it was more like a habit. I was dependent on it, if I had anything I had to have it with ketchup.
“It meant I had to skip lunch at school, because I couldn’t have sausage rolls or sandwiches like everyone else and I was teased for standing out.
“I told my friends about it, but no-one really believes you. They just thought I was being fussy and took the mickey, saying ‘Oh no, a carrot!’ if someone had one to eat.
“Whenever I see a vegetable I start gagging. In food technology at school I couldn’t touch or be near any vegetables.”
The teenager who has eaten an estimated 500 litres (100 gallons) of ketchup in his lifetime, went to see Coventry-based hypnotherapist David Kilmurry last month.
Liam added: “I had tried hypnotherapy before, but it didn’t work. But straight after one session with him I noticed a difference.
“Now I’ve got over my phobia of trying new things in public. I had a Subway the other day, and I’ve tried a roast with vegetables and a full English breakfast.
“I’m not over it completely, but I’m gradually lowering the amount of ketchup I have each week and increasing the amount of vegetables.
“But I have to use ketchup to help me with most new things.
“I don’t know what it is, but if I just put a little bit of ketchup on something new it calms me down and I’m able to eat it.”
Liam now gets through just one bottle of ketchup a week and is able to have school lunches again.
Full-time mum Helen said: “The therapy has really turned him around. Now he’s had his first beef roast with all the vegetables, and had a subway for the first time the other day.
“It’s baby steps at the moment, but he’s made such good progress. We’re slowly weaning him off the ketchup.
“He developed his Selective Eating Disorder (SED) when he was two-and-a-half.
“He always used to have his food mashed, but I left him at home with his Dad and he refused to blend it for him.
“When I came back his dad told me he’d choked on a pea.
“Ever since then he’s not been able to look at a vegetable, and he’s become addicted to tomato based products.
“It’s taken over our whole lives. When we go to weddings or parties with fixed menus it’s so awkward.
“They bring out his meal and he can’t look at it, he has to look away from the table because he can’t see other people eating it either.
“He only wanted tomato based stuff, apart from at breakfast where he’d have cereal.
“Dinner was the worst. He would have a cheese and tomato pizza, and put half a bottle of ketchup on it. We would get through three bottles a week.
“The smell was horrible, his whole pizza would be covered in a layer of ketchup every night.”
Mr Kilmurry, a cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist who runs the Kilmurry Life Centre in Coventry and London, said: “When Liam first came in he was struggling.
“I could tell from his body language that he was suffering in self-confidence as a result of his SED.
“Liam’s mum had tried everything else, and so she was looking outside the box when she came to me.
“What I do is I neurologically retrain people – I relax them and then open up pathways that have become closed from negative self-reinforcement.
“I did a lot of positive word associations with Liam, and then took him on a food challenge where I got him to eat foods he had a phobia of.
“There was a great eureka moment where he suddenly realised he was having stuff he had always hated.
“He’s made brilliant progress, and now we’re just working to build on the magic that happened in that first session.”