March 23, 2012 -- Imagine having the sensation that your stomach is surgically constricted to a fraction of its original size, making your appetite tiny, and your weight loss huge -- no surgery, no magic pills. According to hypnotherapists, you can achieve that for just a fraction of the cost of real bariatric surgery, by undergoing so called gastric bypass hypnosis.
The idea of losing weight through hypnosis has been around for decades, but now some hypnotherapists are offering "gastric bypass hypnosis," also called "lap band hypnosis." This "procedure" is done to "reprogram" the minds of patients to believe their stomachs are actually smaller, making them incapable of eating large meals without feeling uncomfortably full.
Every year, more than 200,000 Americans undergo painful and expensive surgical procedures to have portions of their stomachs removed, repositioned or constricted. These procedures can cost up to $35,000 dollars, but gastric bypass hypnotherapists claim their hypnosis sessions can provide similar weight loss results for a lot less money: about $1,200 dollars.
Certified hypnotherapist Rena Greenberg said she has worked with over 100,000 patients in the past 20 years and is adamant that hypnosis helps stop her clients from obsessing over food. Her "virtual" procedure includes three hypnosis sessions, her therapeutic CDs and a weight-loss juice she invented called "Slender Cider."
Fifty-year-old Clarissa DeLong from Orlando, Fla., decided to try Greenberg's procedure after many failed attempts at dieting through much of her adult life. During a hypnotherapy session, Greenberg verbally walked DeLong through the gastric bypass procedure.
"You're aware the incision's being made and you feel sensation, as your liver is being moved over," she told DeLong. "You can feel that it's time to put that band on your belly."
When DeLong met Greenberg, she weighed 340 pounds and said she has had a life-long addiction to sugar. She said the virtual procedure helped re-program her brain to believe that her stomach had shrunken and her appetite for sugar was obliterated. She is hoping this mindset will help her get down to her goal weight of 200 pounds.
"It was almost surreal, that hollowness, and it was almost like dreaming," DeLong said after the session. "It's funny and it's hard to describe."
DeLong said her wake-up call to start losing weight was when six insurance companies turned her down for health care coverage, forcing her to pay a $1,200 premium and accept that she was considered morbidly obese.
"I never really considered myself in that category until I saw it in black and white," DeLong said. "I knew I had to figure out a plan that was going to be a lifetime plan because I wanted to be around for my son."
Greenberg says DeLong will be successful as long as she continues to reaffirm her hypnosis daily, reminding her brain that it no longer desires unhealthy foods.
"The old program is 'Mmm, chocolate, give me more,' you know, and there's never enough. And the new program is, you know, 'That chocolate, it might taste good but I don't care about it because the new me is not interested in that,'" she said.
After seeing three of her siblings go through actual gastric bypass surgery, Molly Everett knew surgery was not the answer for her. In addition to the cost being prohibitive, she says two of her three siblings who had the procedure gained the weight back.
So the 58-year-old teacher from Bushnell, Fla., went through Greenberg's gastric bypass hypnosis program, and said she was able to quit all sugars and starches, cold turkey, after a few sessions.
"I had the procedure done at the end of June and since then -- I was 300 pounds then -- this morning I was 224, so that's 76 pounds that I've lost since then," Everett said, referring to the hypnosis procedure.
"In July I was using a cane and I had a knee brace," she said, adding that she could not have walked three miles at the time.
By December, she was able to not only walk but run and now, she has lost 100 pounds. "Now I can run three miles," she said.
This promise of an inexpensive, re-programming of the brain to eliminate sugar cravings could appeal to many of the 60 million Americans who are classified as obese. To the skeptics of gastric bypass hypnosis, Greenberg said, "Many of us underestimate the real power of the mind -- what we're capable of."
Dr. David Treen, a leading bariatric surgeon in New Orleans, performs a radical stomach surgery known as sleeve gastrectomy, which removes 85 percent of the stomach and a hormone called Ghrelin, which stimulates appetite.
Treen said he thought long term success with hypnosis seems "unrealistic."
"The reality is that there are no studies which demonstrate that kind of weight loss with hypnosis alone," he said.
Undaunted by skepticism, DeLong has lost 23 pounds in eight weeks with the hypnosis sessions and exercise, and she plans to continue her transformation.
"It is extreme but it's a lifestyle choice and I'm confident it's going to work," she said.