New Trend: Fake Gastric Banding Surgery

Clinics use hypnosis to "fake" gastric banding surgery.

April 9, 2010, 7:04 PM

April 13, 2010— -- 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."

Does Forcing Smaller Portions Really Solve the Problem?

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.

"We take them into another room and it's a different reclining chair, we have a computer, we put them into hypnosis," said Newsom. "Then we go through a procedure, under hypnosis, which isn't real."

Newsom said once the client reached an appropriate stage of hypnosis, she simulates the entire process of a surgery, from wheeling into the operating theater to the sound of the lap band clicking.

"You're on the trolley being wheeled to go down to the operating room and they hear the trolley -- 'ca chung, ca chung...' then you're feeling this slight tingling as they put in the band, and you're hearing a click, because in a really in the operation they click the band," said Newsom.

Newsome said she attempts to follow up with each client 8-10 weeks later. She said she's had some success and most clients fly in from out of state.

"We just had a lady from Pennsylvania who wrote in saying she just lost 71 pounds," said Newsom.

But when asked, Newsom said she couldn't release how much each of her clients lost due "client confidentiality."

U.S. Hypnotist Will Have to Wait and See

So far Newsom has performed at least 15 of gastric mind band hypnosis sessions.

"I am absolutely committed to staying in touch with everyone," she said. "This is not a diet. It's about changing your relationship with food, the amount you eat and how you eat. Dieting is usually a temporary thing."

Ayoob still said he will have to wait to be convinced. He pointed out that even real gastric bypass patients will have to face the trouble of maintaining weight loss.

"Eventually that hypnosis -- any hypnosis -- will fade and it has to be replaced by something," said Ayoob. "If hypnosis was the cure for everything, my God! "

"Losing weight and learning how to maintain it is a real process," he said.

ABC News' Lauren Stiffelman contributed to this report

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