Sept. 17, 2005 -- As Americans gain girth, and yo-yo dieting or diet pills rarely have lasting effects, many are at a loss when it comes to losing weight.
The latest data from the National Center for Health Statistics show that 30 percent of U.S. adults 20 years of age and older -- more than 60 million people -- are obese. And kids are following suit, with the number of overweight young people tripling since 1980.
Being overweight or obese increases the risk of many diseases and health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Hypnosis is an age-old technique designed to speak to your subconscious mind and alter your behavior. Known to work well to quit smoking, can it re-program your eating habits?
Tried-and-True Weight Loss
Judy Lederman has struggled with her weight all her life, and said hypnosis helped her lose 95 pounds.
"I've tried every diet known to man," she said.
Not wanting to deal with another diet, she went to a hypnotist. At the time, Lederman weighed 224 pounds.
Initially, she was skeptical. Not so, when she saw the results.
Her hypnotist, Rosemarie Schulman, uses a two-part process. First, she gets the patient to understand his or her behavior. And then, through a relaxed state of mind, she suggests they alter their habits.
"When they are completely relaxed and open to suggestion,'' said Schulman, "then you go into saying things like, 'The sugar cravings you have in the afternoon no longer interest you. The wonderful smell of fresh fruit, and taste, now interest you and make you feel very strong.' "
Three years since Lederman's first session, she now weighs 129 pounds and still works with her hypnotist to maintain her healthy lifestyle.
"I used to go out of my way to find the best bakery or the best cakes or pastries," Lederman said. "At this point, I would go anywhere to find the best hypnotist, the best gym. My whole way of thinking has turned on that. And the pastries, they can just sit in the bakery."
Can Hypnosis Work for Everyone?
Dr. David Katz, an ABC medical contributor and a professor at Yale University, said hypnosis is not the definitive solution to weight control or weight loss. He also recommends exercise and seeing a nutritionist.
"Hypnosis can make a contribution [to weight loss] but it's not the be-all, end-all," Katz said.
He believes hypnosis has gained ground because people feel frustrated that nothing else seems to work.
"People who are more submissive tend to be more hypnotizable," said Katz.
If you're resistant to the idea of hypnosis, it may not work, he warned.
"It's not magic; it's a form of psychotherapy," he said.
About 15 percent of the nation's population is highly hypnotizable, while 10 percent to 15 percent can't be hypnotized at all, according to a study by Stanford University.
Hypnosis is a temporary, altered state of consciousness. It's a condition akin to being so absorbed in a good book that the outside world seems to fade away.
Because you're in a compromised state during hypnotism, it's important to check the person's credentials.
"Hypnosis itself is non-toxic," Katz said. "But if you're very impressionable, someone could take advantage of you."
Choose a hypnotist who is a credentialed health care provider, like a clinical psychologist or someone with psychology counseling.
The only downside may be that you've wasted money if it doesn't work for you, Katz said.
Hypnosis can have numerous other applications besides weight loss. For instance, athletes turn to hypnosis at times to improve their performance. Clinicians have been known to use it as therapy for victims of incest, rape and physical abuse.
Hypnosis can also treat sleep disorders, migraines, anxieties, ulcers, nausea and depression.