Why you should care
Because maybe the answer to shedding pounds is in your mind — or at least on your smartphone.
The simplest way to shed pounds? Eat less, exercise more. Some take a more drastic approach and have a gastric band fitted, which fools the body into feeling full faster. But this surgery doesn’t come cheap. According to the British NHS, the cost runs as high as $12,000.
Not flush with cash but like to believe you’ve already had the procedure? The Hypnotic Gastric Band, an app by British hypnotist and self-help guru Paul McKenna, claims to hypnotize users — by “a virtual operation, without the gory bits” — via NLP (neuro-linguistic programming). Users know they haven’t gone under the knife, McKenna says, “but their unconscious mind is convinced through hypnosis their stomach has shrunk from the size of a melon to that of a tennis ball,” without feeling like they’re dieting.
A mighty claim — of which some experts are highly critical. “After guaranteeing he could ‘Make Us Thin’ with his last weight-loss product, Paul McKenna’s latest money-spinner does nothing to help the cause at all,” says Nigel Denby, a registered dietitian at London’s Harley Street Clinic. It gives false hope to people who need intensive support — and not quick-fix promises — in their weight-loss journey, he adds. “There never has been and never will be a quick fix to obesity.”
But for those who think it’s possible to be hypnotized by their phone, here’s how it works. Users are to get comfortable before listening to messages of “motivation and encouragement,” delivered in McKenna’s voice — like: Be more relaxed around meals by chewing more slowly. McKenna says it takes about seven days to get comfortable with the process. The $8 app, which is available for Android and iPhone and reached No. 1 in Britain’s iTunes during the first week of August, provides 24-hour access to a digital dietitian, interactive monitoring, a personal performance chart and daily motivational videos.
One customer says she lost 56 pounds in five months using the Hypnotic Gastric Band.
But how successful is it? The jury’s still out. According to McKenna’s PR, the band hasn’t been out long enough to analyze its effects; it takes around six months for people to see significant results.
Angela Ashwell, a 35-year-old freelance recruitment agent from Cirencester, England, says she lost 56 pounds in five months using the Hypnotic Gastric Band. She claims she made no diet changes; however, the fact that the program led her to run seven miles a day, six days a week, likely contributed to her success.
But even if people can manage to trick themselves into thinking they’ve had gastric band surgery — a procedure that Denby says is “hardly an automatic success story” — they are still at risk for the same pitfalls as those who’ve had the operation. Solid scientific evidence to back the effectiveness of weight-loss hypnosis is lacking. And some banded patients continue to consume high-calorie foods — just in smaller amounts — or resort to liquefying high-fat and high-sugar foods.
And as long as there are people who want to lose weight, there will be a constant supply of weight-loss products on the market. If hypnosis-via-phone works for you, great. At least you may have saved yourself thousands and a trip to the OR.
Photography by Shutterstock.