'Virtual gastric band' helps desperate people shed kilos
Weighing 90kg and not wanting to be an "embarrassment" to her teenage daughters, Michele Cadman was ready to try almost anything to lose weight.
"All of a sudden you've put on 20-odd kilos and mentally it becomes quite difficult to shed that weight," she said.
"It became a problem and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't seem to shift it."
Three years ago, she decided to try hypnotherapy. She paid $600 for a "virtual gastric band" to help her lose 10 kilograms. The technique aims to help people change the way they think about food and how much they need to feel satisfied.
The effects were immediate, Cadman said. She ended up losing 25kg.
"I wanted healthier food, I wanted smaller portions, I wanted fresh stuff."
Today she weighs 66kg and has been able to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Cadman, from Auckland, is among a growing number of men and women turning to hypnotherapy for weight loss.
English pop star Lily Allen famously dropped from a size 12 to size 8 using hypnotherapy, but a Kiwi addiction expert is skeptical of its long-term success.
British hypnotist Sheila Granger developed her own "virtual gastric band" method five years ago.
Twenty hypnotherapy practitioners in New Zealand had completed Granger's two-day training, she said.
About 1000 people in eight countries are certified to offer the programme.
Cadman's hypnotist, Avril Carpenter, works full-time and has had nearly 500 clients in three years.
Her typical client wanted to lose 30-40kg, but others wanted help to maintain a healthy weight, she said.
"I think it's increasing because people are so tired of diet failure."
A few clients had turned to "virtual gastric band" hypnosis as an alternative to real bariatric surgery, Carpenter said.
Others had tried the programme after real weight-loss surgery had failed.
In addition to the hypnosis, clients are instructed to listen to a CD with positive messages once a day.
"That's where it is very different to other weight loss programmes – I am not going to tell them what they should [weigh], it's about what they want."
Addictions expert Professor Doug Sellman said good scientific research had shown hypnosis with behavioural cognitive therapy (CBT) was more effective in helping people with obesity to lose weight than CBT alone.
Long term evidence was more important, he said.
"I'm not aware of any long term follow-up of hypnosis treatment for obesity, so I actually remain somewhat sceptical about it," Sellman said.
Christchurch man Jim Searle, 38, weighed 126kgs and was considering bariatric surgery when he decided to try virtual gastric band hypnosis two years ago.
At the time he was living in Reefton on the West Coast. He lost about 10kgs in the first two weeks, he said.
"It was really interesting, I almost thought I had one [gastric band] in there, I could feel it in my stomach."
After the programme he continued losing weight and got to 96kgs, but said he has since put on weight and returned to his "old ways".
Searle said he wasn't sure why the programme had not continued to reap results but said he would try it again.
"Everyone told me it was a bit silly, it sounds quite dodgy but the results were instant so I was quite impressed with it."