However, top surgeons have warned that, in their opinion, giving customers the impression they will see the same results as gastric band surgery is wrong.
The surgical procedure, which costs about £6,000, involves doctors implanting an inflatable band around the top of the stomach to create a small pouch, so patients feel fuller quicker.
Well, the cynic in me would say that the surgeons have 6000 reasons to say that, but on balance the reality is that McKenna stands to make a small fortune with the app.
I have to agree with the sceptics for a couple of specific reasons. When we first developed the hypnotic gastric band at the Surrey Institute of Clinical Hypnotherapy, it was most definitely a marketing gimmick. In fact, we actually developed it in a marketing course for hypnotherapists.
The idea was to use it to attract people to a stall in a shopping centre with the slogan “A hypnotic gastric band at a tenth of the cost and no pain or risk”. However, what we discovered was that it actually had “some” merit.
Because it was a gimmick, we just put something in the second hypnotherapy session about feeling full (the Christmas feeling, i.e. when you’ve overeaten and feel bloated) when they were half way through their plate and that feeling became full on by the time they got to the three quarters point of their plate.
What we discovered was that the clients that we did this with all found that they started to have difficulty if they tried to overeat.
But, we also found that just doing the hypnotic gastric band on its own was a complete waste of time. Firstly, obviously it can only work if the client is an overeater (bad portion control). If they are a grazer, then it is completely pointless. Secondly, without significant behavioural change (which hypnotherapy is great at helping the client to achieve), it simply does not work.
Some 6,500 weight-loss procedures were performed in 2013. These included fitting a gastric band, and gastric bypass.
Paul McKenna says that hypnotherapy is, as a matter of scientific fact, a proven means of weight loss. His spokesman explains that the gastric band hypnotherapy app is ‘merely an innovative variation on a scientifically tried and tested means of weight loss’.
He specifically points to a 1985 trial which showed 109 hypnosis patients lost significant amounts of weight, and continued to do so over a two-year period, when used alongside other ‘behavioural’ treatments, compared with patients who only had behavioural treatment.
Currently, patients must have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or above, or 35 or above with a serious health condition, to meet the criteria to have weight-loss surgery on the NHS.
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Gastric band hypnotherapy can safely assist those people who have struggled to lose weight, but only if they need help to manage portion size. At the Surrey Institute of Clinical Hypnotherapy we would not install a hypnotic gastric band in isolation. We would also address things like motivation, self-confidence, behavioural change, motivation to exercise and healthy eating within the treatment.
My thoughts are that the cost to the NHS for those 6,500 weight-loss procedures that were performed in 2013, at best (ignoring complications) would be £39 million. The hypnotic gastric band treatment for all 6500 would cost just under £3 million (with us, the complete programme costs around £350). Even if just 20% were successful that would be a saving of £5.5 million and would save 1300 people from having potentially life threatening surgery. Further, even the ones that did not lose enough to avoid surgery, at least they would be in a better place physically and mentally, which should help the success rates of the surgery.
By using hypnotherapy to lose weight, the worst that can happen is “nothing”. The same cannot be said for surgery. In the main, our clients get significant weight loss and a real long term change in their behaviour around food.