Kay Lindley spent days preparing for her fake surgery.
Lindley, 59, weighed 315 pounds and wanted to lose weight before retiring from her position in a school in Keighley, England. So in July 2009, she traveled to a clinic in Spain. She spent days in "pre-surgery" counseling talking about her food choices and how gastric banding surgery would leave her stomach no bigger than a golf ball and make it uncomfortable for her to eat more than she needed.
In her final session, Lindley went into the "operating room" where she smelled antiseptics and heard sounds of the doctors and nurses talking. But rather than go under anesthesia, Lindley had actually already been put under, using hypnosis.
Hours later she walked out of the "hospital" without a single incision having been made. Lindley didn't actually have -- or want -- gastric bypass surgery, she had hoped the hypnotists at the Elite Clinic in Marbella, Spain could just convince her she had one so her body would not let her eat as much.
"I was finding it increasingly painful walking in general, the added weight was causing some difficulties. As I was coming up to my last year of working, I knew I wanted to travel and I knew I wouldn't be fit enough to benefit from the places I would visit, so I knew I needed to do something fairly drastic," Lindley said. "I was a little bit skeptical. I thought if it works it could be brilliant, and I hoped it would work because I wanted to do something."
Lindley said she lost 70 pounds in the first five months after her $1,077 mock surgery and hypnosis sessions, and is pleased with the results -- at the very least she gained confidence that she could lose weight. According to a representative from the Elite Clinic about 470 mock gastric banding procedures have been done to date with 70 percent of the clients achieving some weight loss.
Hypnotists Martin and Marion Shirran started what's called gastric mind band hypnosis process in Spain three years ago, but hypnotists on this side of the Atlantic were keen to start on the project too.
But many obesity experts are far from convinced that a successful round of hypnosis will give long-lasting solutions to weight loss.
"This kind of hypnosis probably has an expiration date," said Keith Ayoob, a dietician and professor at Albert Einstein School of Medicine in New York City. "I'd be more convinced if these people lost the weight and kept it off for a year ... [or] a year and a half."
Ayoob also worried with a treatment focused so highly on reducing portions.
"They had a crappy diet beforehand, they eat smaller amounts but a crappy diet?" said Ayoob. "I'd rather have people eat just what they need. There's a lot of leeway in there."
Yet Ayoob said he's not surprised there's an interest in fake gastric banding surgeries. His patients have been curious how they too, could eat just half a cup of food at a time mimicking the effects of a real gastric bypass surgery.
"They say 'rather than get the surgery, why don't they just eat that amount?" said Ayoob. "But it sounds little simpler to do than it is."
Hazel Newsom, partner in the Elite Clinics in Olympia, Wash., started doing Gastric Mind Band hypnosis in October, 2009.
Newsom charges $1,395 for one round of hypnosis which includes a four day process with food counseling sessions and hypnosis which culminates in a simulated surgery.