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Hypnosis could be an alternative to gastric bypass surgery

Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and runs the popular health and fitness website of the same name, where she tries out a new workout every month, specializing...

One woman lost 140 pounds with the controversial new technique

You're getting sleeeeepy, very sleepy! And also maybe thin? Gastric bypass hypnosis is the latest weight loss trick to hit the market. While hypnosis as a weight loss tool has been around for decades, it seems hard to believe that you can really talk yourself into believing you've had major surgery. And yet, Julie Evans says she used the controversial technique to shed an amazing 140 pounds.

Julie says she initially became overweight thanks to a combination of "pregnancy weight, a bit of depression and a whole lot of negative self-esteem." (As a mom, that sounds very familiar!) Being a stay-at-home mom of two young kids with a husband who traveled a lot helped pile on the weight until she was almost 300 pounds. She wanted to lose the weight, but wasn't sure how — until her mother started working with a Florida-based certified hypnotist, Rena Greenberg, who was pioneering the gastric bypass hypnosis program. Julie jumped onboard once she saw how much it was helping her mom.

Traditional gastric bypass surgery involves anesthesia, an operating room and a whole lot of people in masks holding sharp instruments. They then carve up your stomach into two pouches, which cuts your stomach capacity, forcing you to eat less and thereby lose weight. And while the surgery has been life changing for many people, it's also understandable why a girl would want to explore other options.

Hypnotic gastric bypass, however, works by putting the patient into a deep hypnosis. And then, over the course of six to eight sessions, walks them in detail through the process of prepping for, having and then recovering from the surgery. No scalpel required! Julie says the hypnosis made her mind believe that her stomach was smaller, decreasing her appetite and shrinking her physical capacity for food. One hundred and forty pounds gone says she might be right.

"It's about changing the way you think about food subconsciously," Dr. Greenberg told CNN. "And it's great for people who hate dieting, since they don't feel like they're giving up food."

Also similar to real surgery, the gastric bypass hypnosis seems to work quickly. Julie says she immediately craved spinach, and the day after her first session she began to feel full after eating just a quarter of her usual diet. "I physically couldn't eat as much as I had been, and I only wanted really healthy things," she said. "I haven't had a soda since that day, whereas before, it was every day."

And just like the real surgery, the success comes not from the actual procedure or technique but from learning new healthier habits. Julie says the hypnosis inspired her to not only eat less and eat healthier foods but also start exercising. It took her two years to take off the weight and she's kept it off for three years.

Some doctors are skeptical of the new technique, saying that since it doesn't cause any real biological changes, it doesn't have the power to induce long-term change. In the meantime, though, it seems to fall under that category of "it can't hurt to try" — unlike other weight loss methods, like surgery, which have long lists of potentially life-threatening side effects.

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