Monday, November 29, 2010

Hypnotize your stomach into believing you've had bariatric surgery?

Sadly the commercial weight loss industry in Canada is a wholly unregulated one and consequently anyone can put up a weight loss shingle.

Anyone including a Halifax based hypnotherapy office that's promoting what they're calling a, "virtual gastric band".


"This treatment uses hypnosis, NLP and powerful imagery, along with behavioral modifications, to convince your unconscious mind that you’ve had gastric band surgery."
According to the site, the "virtual" gastric band treatment was pioneered by a UK Clinical Hypnotherapist who claims on her website that 99% of patients in her two "trials" were successful in losing weight.

Quite the surprise that those trials weren't published. It would certainly be a boon to medicine to have a 99% effective weight loss treatment. That's better than actual bariatric surgery. I guess they're too busy curing people to be publishing.

So how awesomely successful is the procedure?

Well according to the BBC news report posted on the founder of this procedure's cite, one of her 99% successful trials had 25 people losing "14 stone between them".

Sounds impressive, no?


In pounds 14 stone over 25 people translates into 8lbs a piece.

Also in the generally positive news report? A spokesperson from the UK's Hypnotherapy Association explains that the only evidence to suggest hypnotherapy is effective for weight loss is subjective in nature.

The worst part of this story?

The fact that the BBC decided to run a lengthy and generally positive story on a treatment backed up only by subjective evidence where even the subjective outcomes are awful.

[Hat tip to Dr. Michael Vallis, a Haligonian that I imagine is not referring his patients for this "virtual" procedure]

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  1. Yoni,
    Sorry to go off topic, but it would be interesting to read your thoughts on the recent Weight Watchers points system overhaul.

    (like most CNN articles, the comments are quite mind-numbing)

    I was at one time employed in a municipal health promotion program and was able to help dozens of municipal employees make excellent progress in reaching long term fat loss goals. I am currently completing a professional masters degree in an allied health field. I have long considered weight watchers to be one of the more sound weight loss programs out there; it educates people about reducing calories, making healthier choices, and promotes long-term lifestyle changes rather than 'dieting'.

    Overall, the changes look good and in some of the examples given they make perfect sense. However, does the shift of focus to macronutritients and removing point values from fruits and vegetables take away from the fact that fat loss is ultimately about calories in vs. calories out? Aren't current diet recommendations for fruits and vegetables (i.e. 10 servings) a little over-inflated? I'm aware that the weight watchers points system in the past has allowed for some unhealthy eating behaviours, so is this change a good balance between calorie reduction and healthy eating? I've been reading your blog for quite a while now and have respect for your knowledge and experience, so your insight here would be valuable to me and influence the advice I provide to others in the future.

  2. Roger Holmes5:54 am

    Another one:

    Would indeed be interesting to see RCT. N=1 success stories are to be interpreted with caution. The positive side of undergoing hypnotherapy could well be that by doing so the patient better prepares for actual bariatric surgery: getting prepared emotionally, accumulating social support, considering the implications of the surgery, preparing for the post 'intervention' period by considering coping mechanisms and preparing for making lifelong lifestyle changes to physical activity, nutrition, and other health related behaviors.

  3. Kudos as well to Dr. Ellsmere, the surgeon at the QEII WLS Program in Halifax.
    I am a bariatric patient in the the midst of losing my weight. 79lbs down. I just wish I hadn't waited so long.

  4. This may be a very old listing but the first time I've seen it.
    As the Halifax Virtual Gastric Band Practitioner, my results have been very positive with weight reduction averaging 1.25 lbs. per week on average over 1 year. This is obviously not the rapid change that actual surgery produces but the cumulative effect is similar.

    Sheila Granger, the developer of this program reports: Provisional arrangements are now underway for a pilot study to be carried out this October in the UK, together with the Humberside Obesity, Nutrition, Education and Innovation Centre. The partners of this organisation include The University of Hull, Hull and York Medical School and several members of the pharmaceutical industry.
    There are a large number of Youtube videos containing anecdotal testimonials and these hypnosis techniques have also recently been featured on television programs like Dr. Oz, Fox etc.