Weight Loss Wednesday: Dieting through thinking?

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by Meg Farris / Eyewitness News mfarris@wwltv.com

wwltv.com

Posted on January 25, 2011 at 5:49 PM

NEW ORLEANS -- When most people finish a diet, they gain more weight back than before. But now a British doctor says he's found the answer to solve that problem.

His solution? Reprogramming your brain.

He's become famous in the U.K. and now the U.S., selling his book 'I Can Make You Thin' and hypnosis CD. It's the best selling self-help book in British history. Millions in 42 countries have watchedDr. Paul McKenna's TV shows.Now his weight loss psychological techniques are on DVDs, showing what he says is a proven solution that works for more than 70 percent of his audience.

"It has the highest statistical success rate in the world," McKenna said.

He tells an overweight woman in his audience to think about something she doesn't enjoy eating, like beans, then visualize theminside of her chocolate.

He says forget about ever dieting, good and bad foods, portion size and calories - all those are external. What he works onis an internal approach to recalibrate your brain chemistry.

"That's why I am recommending a psychological behavioral approach to weight loss. I'm saying forget about the food.All the naturally thin people eat chocolate chips, pizza, cheese, all of the forbidden foods, they just don't eat them to excess. Why is that? It's because they feel in control around the foods," McKenna said.

He works with the current science that now shows the brain causes the behavior to overeat.

"All of your decisions about what you eat, when you eat, how much you eat, all take place in your mind, and your mind is rather like a computer," he adds.

If your brain is programmed by genetics to cause you to overeat, can practicing his hypnosis and behavior modification help you,not fix,but manage the primal urges to overeat?

"Absolutely. There will be a chemical imbalance in a proportion of people that are addictive. So having said that, can you alter your dopamine and serotonin levels by psychological means such as, you know, hypnosis or visualization techniques? Yes, yes, yes." McKenna said.

Dopamine and Serotonin are those powerful brain chemicals of craving, desire, satisfaction, driving behavior, for you to act and act now.

So to manage that, he's packaged a system of golden rules: 1. When you are hungry, eat. That's because skipping meals puts you in a fat storage mode. 2. Eat what you want, not what you think you should.Forbidden foods make you overeat them. 3. Eat consciously and enjoy every mouthful. For example, just eat, don't also watch TV. 4. When you think you are full, stop eating.

He says he can stop your cravings, citing thatsugar is like a drug, reprogram your mind, teach you the secrets of naturally thin people, supercharge your metabolism, make you love your new body and help you get rid of emotional eating.

"Everybody these days is changing how they feel by some external means, drinking, drug taking, gambling, sex, shopping, television, and of course, food. Food's really the western world's drug of choice right now," heexplains.

"Overall, this gentleman used some really savvy marketing to give the same messages to people who want to control their weight that all of the scientists and clinicians that I know in this country, around the world, have been giving for years," said Dr. Melinda Sothern ofLSU Health Sciences Center. "It's the same messages."

Sothern isa nationally recognized weight-loss expert and researcher. She said the techniques McKennauses, in general,are based on scientific evidence.

"Anytime, I think, someone can translate what the scientists know to be working in a way that's really simple, you know, and people can follow it and get positive results, I'm all for that.I think that's wonderful," she said.

She said she has used similar techniques to help overweight children

"What we like to tell our students is the first bite and the last bite tastes the same. So if you can just have one bite to ease your craving, then you only eat six to 10 or 12 calories," said Sothern Sothern, one of the authors of "Trim Kids."

Dr. Henri Roca an LSU, Yale, and Greenwich integrative medicine specialist, said these techniques are very common psychological interventions.

"All of this is very straight forward, mind-body medicine, stress management tools. It's becoming mindful. It's becoming aware and then in the second, controlling your emotional eating," Roca said.

McKenna uses proven techniques.One is chewing your food a long time so that your stomach hormones have time to tell your brain you are full.

But there is one concern. Science shows that group intervention and support, like Weight Watchers or Overeaters Anonymous use,is much more successful than individual behavior modification.

"There really is no science to suggest that if you just read these principals that you're going to change your behavior," Sothern said. "Perhaps if you go to a class that includes specific strategies that you do over and over again, once a week, for six months, you then actually have a process of behavior change."

And if you can learn daily strategies to reprogram your brain to manage the urges to overeat, imagine the freedom in looking at food but being able to take it or leave it.

Studies show that just diet and exercise alone will not work for long-term weight loss without behavior modification.

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