Can your brain be trained to simulate the effects of gastric band surgery? Sinead Corcoran finds out.
Just like real gastric band surgery, Virtual Gastric Band (VGB) hypnosis claims to help people lose weight by convincing them that their stomach is full, even if they've only eaten a tiny bit.
Hypnosis for weight loss surged in popularity after English pop star Lily Allen used it to slim down from size 12 to a size 8. Can it work on me, a size 12 regular person?
Virtual Gastric Band is a weight loss hypnosis programme created by Sheila Granger.
"With zero risk - it doesn't require a person to follow a liquidised diet and involves no invasive surgery," she told The Yorkshire Post in 2010.
"The benefits are greater than with the surgery, as the hypnotherapy provides psychological support to stop cravings, it doesn't just apply a physical block within the stomach."
Using hypnosis for health and wellbeing benefits kicked off in the early 20th century, when Sigmund Freud experimented with it on shell-shocked WWI victims.
Today, it's still commonly used to treat PTSD, plus a raft of bad habits such as smoking and nail-biting.
In 1996, a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found people who combined hypnosis with cognitive behavioural therapy lost more weight than people using cognitive behavioural therapy alone.
Using clinical hypnotherapy, VGB involves clients being taken through deep relaxation and focusing exercises that work to subdue the conscious mind so it takes a backseat to their subconscious. It's in this state that a hypnotist will work to retrain a person's brain to be satisfied with smaller portions of food.
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Auckland hypnotherapist Avril Carpenter told the Herald in 2012: "It helps clients deal with cravings, lack of motivation to exercise, eating smaller portions, making smarter choices over a four to six-week period, all without having to 'white-knuckle' it with willpower and gritted teeth."
To set the scene, before I tried VGB I was a size 12 and weighed 74kg.
I've never been "fat" but I've always had a curvy Kate Winslet body type, which means I try to avoid making eye contact with bread, and 90 per cent of my wardrobe is Trinny and Suzanna-approved "flattering wrap tops".
Pre-VGB, in a typical week I'd drink smoothies for breakfast, eat big salads for lunch and dinner, and treat myself to wine and chocolate after work if it had been a "Tough Day".
In a shocking plot twist, come 5pm every afternoon I'd deduce it had indeed been "A Toughie".
Like my Tindering, my gym attendance was sporadic at best, half-hearted at worst. Plus, weekends would often be a "You've Earned It", rosé-soaked, Uber-eating write-off.
For my VGB sessions I saw Richard Kellow, a handsome British man who runs Auckland Hypnotherapy in Ponsonby, and was highly recommended by a friend of a friend.
Every Monday for a month, Kellow hypnotised me to regain control of my food cravings, portion sizes and bad food habits. Then he'd send me on my merry way with an audio hypnotherapy file to listen to through the week, until our next session.
Though he didn't ban me from eating anything at all, he helped "reprogramme" that terrible habit that was drilled into us during childhood – that we need to finish every last bite on our plates because what about children starving in Africa?
For the next month, I ate palm-sized meals but constantly felt as full as a bull – honestly. My new portion sides ended up being a third of the size they used to be, and I stopped snacking in between meals entirely. It was like my body subconsciously knew my next meal was only a couple of hours away at the very most, so why would I need a snack?
I lose 9kg in a month. Amazing, right?
BUT, full disclosure – my VGB did coincide with a breakup. This means that we need to take into account the fact that I was going to the gym every day a la Khloe Kardashian Revenge Body, and I'd also stopped taking the pill, which turns me into a ravenous, rabid hyena.
Nonetheless, I now fit into my flatmate's size 8 jeans and they don't even do that thing where you take them off at the end of the day and have that furious red welt line across your stomach.
If you can afford it, I'd 10/10 recommend Kellow's VGB treatment. It's not a diet, it's not a get-thin-quick scam, it did completely reprogram my brain to realise how much food I actually need and want to eat (she says smugly, wearing size 8 thin Lily Allen jeans).