I saw a coach to stop my nail biting habit: this is what happened

After biting her nails for over 20 years, Sophie Foster decided that enough was enough. She challenged herself to stop within 60 days... by any means necessary
After biting her nails for over 20 years, Sophie Foster decided that enough was enough. She challenged herself to stop within 60 days... by any means necessary Credit: Vincent Besnault/Getty Images

If you’ve been biting your nails for most of your life you’ll know that this not-so-secret habit is both painful and embarrassing. I'm forever worried that strangers with their long, glossy nails will recoil in disgust when they shake my hand and notice my raggedy nail beds.

I’m being overly dramatic, but the appearance of my nails has often affected my confidence. They made me feel childish  which isn’t surprising when you consider that 45 percent of teenagers bite their nails  and also pretty disgusting (think: commuting on the tube and absent-minded nibbling).

I’m not alone in the habit: Britney Spears is known to be a chewer and it’s reportedly the reason why Jackie O always wore gloves. But, this is 2019 and gloves don’t really cut it anymore, also, sadly I am not a teen pop idol. So I decided that this was the year to end my bad habit.

I took a leaf from the book of a fellow reporter and hoped that the unique pressure of agreeing to write an article on the subject would furnish me with the willpower necessary to achieve my goal. It didn’t. A month later, I was still picking away at my cuticles and tugging at that uneven edge that I just had to get off. Despite the gross tasting polish I’d been using to stop me from biting, I continued to bite them and kept forgetting to reapply.

Sophie's nails on Day 1, after over 20 years of biting Credit: Sophie Foster

I tried the plasters over the fingertips trick but as I work on a computer, and I’m a functioning human who has to interact with other people, it just wasn’t practical. Acrylic and gel nails weren't an option either. I'd worn them fairly often in my teenage years and though my nails grew beneath, they were so damaged that they flaked away like tissue-paper post removal. Nothing seemed to be working.

Perhaps I needed to address the reasons as to why I was biting to finally rid myself of this habit. There are a number of psychological theories out there - it's a form of self-soothing, a nervous tic, we mirror our parents, it relieves the frustrations that perfectionists feel, it's symptomatic of OCD.  

I met up with Elijah Sheikh a hypnotist and Rapid Change specialist, who reasoned that I could achieve my goal by re-framing the way that I feel about biting my nails and really acknowledging why I did it.

‘I bite my nails all the time,’ I told him. ‘When I’m nervous, or bored, or not paying attention, I become hyper-focused on my nails and getting rid of annoying bits.’

His reply was to have me think about the times when I didn’t bite them instead: when I’m sleeping, or eating, or talking, when I’m having fun. In reality, I probably only bite my nails five per cent of the time - which felt much more manageable than all the time. This is one of the techniques he uses to put his clients problems into perspective and this aids in setting realistic goals. 

I figured out that my habit helps me to feel like I’m 'fixing' something when I’m worried or stressed. My mind reasoned that if I was cleaning up that bumpy edge then at least I was doing something, even if it wasn’t fixing the thing that I was actually worried about.

Sophie's nails 30 days after her first session of hypnotherapy Credit: Sophie Foster

Sheikh's other helpful technique  is to take you through a series of guided trances. This isn’t scary and I was always aware of what I was doing. We even did some in Kensington Gardens, which was immensely relaxing. The trances are more like mental exercises than hypnosis but the relaxed state you experience helps your subconscious become 'malleable' and more receptive to positive suggestions of change.

A particularly memorable exercise within these trances was to think of a time when you’ve felt joy and a time when you’ve felt stress. Whenever you feel stressed in your life try and remember that memory of joy. The muscle memory in your brain recalls the feeling of joy at the moment you feel stress, bringing your over-all stress levels down.

When we finished our two sessions, Elijah said with confidence that I had already shifted my mindset and would no longer bite my nails. He was right, spooky.

I invested in a cuticle oil, hand cream and balm which I used to keep annoying rough patches, ugly cuticles and painful hangnails at bay until my nails grew out enough that I wasn’t tempted to just “clean them up a bit”.

Sophie's nails 60 days after her first session with Elijah Credit: Sophie Foster

After 30 days, I finally had nails and used the Kiko Milano Manicure Sticks, and Reverence de Bastien Glass Nail File, to keep them tidy and well-shaped as they grew.

Eventually, after 60 days I had shiny nails that reached well over the tips of my fingers and I painted them in my new favourite polish Nails Inc Nail Pure in More Self Love Please. The gorgeous pink shade makes me smile whenever I look at them. 

Now, I wouldn’t dream of biting my nails, not least because of the dirt I’ve seen can gather there, but because it just doesn’t cross my mind anymore. Plus, I’m quite proud of them. 

My nail care saviours

Superfood Repair Oil, £15, Nails inc

Superfood Repair Oil, £15, Nails inc Credit: Nails Inc

If you pick or bite your cuticles you can be left with hard, rough edges which are unsightly and annoying. This Argan and almond infused oil softened and nourished my cuticles within weeks.

Nailactan Nutritive Nail Cream, £21.50, Mavala 

Nailactan Nutritive Nail Cream, £21.50, Mavala  Credit: Mavala

My nails were fragile when I first grew them out. This cream, made of essential amino acids, lipids and kerato-balancing vitamins, worked to nourish and restore flexibility so they snapped off less.

Biotin Vitamin Spray, £10.00, VitSpritz 

Biotin Vitamin Spray, £10.00, VitSpritz  Credit: VitSpritz

The new way to take your vitamins: this orange-flavoured spray is easy to use and strengthens nails from within.

Hand Cream, £14, Seams 

Hand Cream, £14, Seams  Credit: Seams

Formulated for hardworking seamstresses, this non-greasy hand cream uses a Biomimetic Lipid Complex to lock in moisture. Plus, it smells amazing, thanks to the rosehip and macadamia oil.

Nail Envy Original Formula, £19.50

Nail Envy Original Formula, £19.50 Credit: OPI

Formulated to prevent flaking a splitting,  applying a weekly coat of this clear polish really helped strengthen my nails. 

Book a free consultation with Rapid Change Specialist Elijah Sheikh at mind-meta.com or call 07825 917 427 ​