More than one-third of US adults are obese according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The growing problem means more Americans are going under the knife to lose weight.
Now, a new hypnosis procedure may allow Americans to get the benefits of bariatric surgery without the risks.
"The virtual gastric band is an imaginary process which walks people through a very simple surgery, a gastric band surgery," said Marc Carlin, director and primary hypnotist at the Hypnosis Center in New York City.
Carlin has been performing hypnosis for over 15 years and trains others around the world in the virtual gastric band technique.
The technique uses hypnosis to make patients believe they’ve had the physical weight loss surgery.
“On an unconscious, subconscious level, what they are experiencing is tightness in their stomach,” he said. “Not a physical tightness, but they just might feel fuller quicker when they start to eat.”
Barbara Pertchik, a virtual gastric band patient, went to Carlin in 2013 desperate to lose weight.
“I tried everything else, I was exercising, and I just couldn't get my head into it,” she said. “I needed something and I didn't want any medication."
In six months, Pertchik lost 50 pounds and kept the weight off.
"The weight fell off me, I wasn't on a diet, it fell off me,” she said. “I lost all my desire for sweets. I was eating and eating well."
At the beginning of each session, Carlin takes notes about what is motivating the patient to overeat. He uses that information during the hypnosis session.
Once the patient is in a trance state, Carlin talks the patient through the surgery, from rolling into the operating room on a gurney to surgeons placing the band on their stomach. He also makes the experience more life-like by using sounds and smells.
"People lose weight right away, that's the main thrust of the program. When they lose that kind of weight, they are motivated to continue with the program," Carlin said.
He emphasized that the treatment isn’t for everyone and works best with patients who are 100 percent committed to weight loss.