Losing weight through hypnotherapy
October 5, 2012 (WPVI) -- Anyone who wants to lose weight can choose from literally hundreds of plans and these days, many turn to surgery. But what if you just thought you had surgery?
Judy Seward thinks she's finally on the road to a healthy weight.
Her struggle is a familiar one.
Growing up in the south, food was part of every life event.
"When I'm sad, when I'm happy, no matter what, I turn to food and that's not a good thing," Seward says.
Her cravings sent her straight to fast food, sweets, and salty treats.
Her weight loss efforts came and went, but never brought lasting results and those extra pounds have really taken a toll on her health.
"Having trouble walking, I have high blood pressure now, borderline high cholesterol, and diabetes is next," Seward said.
In April, 100 pounds over her healthy weight, Judy decided the solution to taking better care of her body was through her mind.
Instead of undergoing gastric bypass, as her doctor suggested, she signed up for a session with hypnotherapist Rena Greenberg.
Greenberg says hypnosis isn't about controlling Judy's mind, rather replacing her obsessive, addictive thoughts about food with positive, healthy ones.
"So when the old thought comes in, we have a new thought that overrides it that says, 'no, I don't want that. I don't need that,'" Greenberg said.
In private sessions - which run from $297 to $1,099 - Greenberg also adds this twist: convincing Judy that she's had surgery to apply a band around her stomach that physically limits her food intake.
3-and-a-half months later, Judy says she loves eating healthy foods like fruits and vegetables and says the indulgent tastes she once craved now turn her off.
"Just the smell of fried foods after that session, I could not stand it or the sweet smell as well," Seward said.
She's lost 30 pounds, a third of her goal, even being out of action for three weeks because of foot surgery.
"I've been surprised at how easy it's been," Seward said. She exercises regularly with computer dance programs and listens to CDs to refresh Greenberg's positive messages.
Dr. David Sarwer, who runs Penn Medicine's Weight Management Program, discounts the role of hypnosis in Judy's progress.
Sarwer says 30 years of research haven't turned up evidence that it's effective for many people, especially that simulated weight loss surgery.
"It might work for a small subset of individuals, but its' hard to imagine that it would work for the masses for a sustained period of time," Sarwer said.
Instead he credits Judy's lifestyle change. She's eating healthier and exercising more.
While he says the CD's are providing positive feedback, motivational messages like that are a big part of most lifestyle modification programs without the added expense of the hypnotherapy session.
special reports, alicia vitarelli
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