Read an Excerpt
Thin Is a State of Mind
Even when I was little, I was big.
—William “Refrigerator” Perry, Chicago Bears defensive tackle, on his weight, quoted in Life, January 1986
Fat is not our destiny or our destination, but for many of us it feels like it is. I should know. I was 75 pounds overweight and struggled with food for the ﬁrst twenty years of my life. It was an endless and losing battle of trying to gain control over what I was eating and how I was eating it. I now know that I was not alone. Nor are you. According to the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics, more than 66 percent of Americans are overweight. And about half of this group have graduated to qualify as obese. (1) In 2005, 112,000 people died due to a poor diet and inactivity. (2) In fact, being overweight or obese is the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States. (3) And more than 50 percent of U.S. adults did not engage in physical activity at the minimum recommended level. (4)
These are big numbers, but nothing like the whopping $30 billion the American Obesity Association reports that we Americans annually spend on weight reduction products, services, and programs to try to get help. (5) Clearly, the struggle to gain control over our expanding waistlines is huge—economically, mentally, physically, even spiritually.
To make matters worse, gaining weight is incredibly easy. Just add a Starbucks Venti Caffè Mocha Espresso, which is 290 calories (with low-fat milk and no whipped cream), to your daily intake for twelve days and you can gain a pound. (6) But burning the necessary 3,500 calories to lose this pound is hard work. The average person would have to rigorously walk for twelve and a half hours to burn these twelve mochas off.
And, as you know, there are tens of thousands of diet books, programs, philosophies, tapes, and camps that promise to help people lose weight. But, as you also know, these programs and books rarely, if ever, work to achieve healthy, safe, and long-term weight loss. In fact, hundreds of studies by venerable institutions such as the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Association of Attorneys General have shown that 95 percent of people who use weight–loss programs—from books and tapes to medical approaches—with some success can’t keep the weight off for more than a year. And the 95 percent who gain the weight back, more often than not, gain back more than they lost. (7) The truth is, not one single diet, diet book, diet program, diet tape, or diet camp does for the overweight person what he or she really needs to do: establish a different relationship with food.
Why don’t these programs work? Because they deal only with the food we’re eating, not the person eating the food. They don’t address the hardwired psychological desire to overeat, the cravings for “feelgood” foods, or the urge to snack when there’s no real need for actual sustenance. If eating were just a biological matter of fueling our bodies the way we fuel up our cars, we’d all be thin. But for most of us, eating to supply our bodies with energy is secondary.
* Eating is a cultural event. We go out to eat, seeking new and unusual experiences.
* Eating is social. It’s an arena where we relate to others and they relate to us.
* Eating is psychological. It’s a way for us to relax, soothe, and reward ourselves for a job well done or another day survived.
* Eating is pleasurable. It’s an instant jolt to the brain’s pleasure center, which for many of us is powerful, bordering on addictive.
As a result, many of us wind up eating more than we need to, and we gain weight. Then we try to lose it. If we do lose it, most of us gain the weight back. And then we try to lose the weight again…This psychological relationship with food choreographs an endless and tortured dance in which food is our friend, then our enemy, then our friend, and on it goes. According to the American Obesity Association, 40 percent of American women and 25 percent of American men are actively trying to lose weight at any given time. (8)
The Solution to Our Weight Problems Lies in Our Minds
As a visiting scientist and guest lecturer at Columbia University Medical School’s Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, I have the unique opportunity to view the working human brain as it thinks. After studying thousands of brains and the way they process thoughts, I can say with conﬁdence that the answer to the struggle with food and weight lies between our ears. The answer to our fat problem? Rewire our brains. We get fat because our minds think fat.
In our evolved society of social and psychological eating, our subconscious mind has been conditioned (like any muscle or organ in our body) to tell us to eat more than we need to. Our brains have been supersized. So we overeat, crave foods, and snack unnecessarily. And if our subconscious mind has been trained for this behavior, no matter what diet or exercise regime we embrace, the subconscious mind will always override our conscious, logical desire to be thin.
The only way to break any habit is to have both the conscious and subconscious minds agree to do things differently. Until our conscious desire is reﬂected by the subconscious mind, our two minds will remain in conﬂict and the habit will remain unbroken. But when the conscious and subconscious minds agree, the conscious desire becomes subconscious action. There is no conﬂict and no ambivalence. What we think we want to do becomes what we actually do more easily.
This is why using talk therapy alone to address issues such as overeating or smoking rarely works. While talk therapy is extremely valuable, helping the client to consciously understand why he or she has a habit and that the habit may be hurtful, it rarely speaks to or changes the subconscious mind. The conscious and subconscious minds remain in conﬂict and the habit remains unbroken. The key, therefore, to changing any unwanted habit—from nail biting to overeating—is to rewire the subconscious mind to agree with the conscious mind’s desire. Both sides of our head have to be on the same page.
After generations of research, study, and experience, many scientists, doctors, and therapists agree that medical hypnosis is the most effective and permanent method for helping their clients reframe the unhealthy habits and behaviors that are wired in their subconscious mind. An astounding 96 percent of my clients have successfully used medical hypnosis and changed their subconscious mind’s unhealthy picture of food to mirror their conscious mind’s image of healthy eating and lost weight—without restrictions, often without exercise, and without the struggle and deprivation associated with dieting. (*)
The Alpha Solution
Contrary to popular understanding, hypnosis or trance is a naturally occurring state. Scientists call it the alpha state, where our brains cycle at a rate of 8—14 times per second, which is slower than our normal functioning rate, but faster than the sleep rate. Daydreaming, the tranquil feeling we have just before and as we fall asleep, meditation, or being mesmerized by a movie or a long stretch of highway are all examples of natural hypnotic states where our brain has slowed down and we feel completely at ease and very relaxed. We feel good in this state because our body’s stress hormones are signiﬁcantly lower.
Scientists have proven the healing powers of this alpha state. Because of the decrease in stress hormones, the alpha state facilitates the body’s ability to lower its blood pressure and blood sugar levels. So for more than ﬁfty years doctors and scientists have been capitalizing upon the alpha state’s natural healing abilities, using meditation and medical hypnosis to treat high blood pressure and diabetes. And because of the increased endorphin levels that often accompany this state, scientists and doctors have also used medical hypnosis or meditation to treat depression, anxiety, pain, and chronic diseases such as heart conditions, high blood pressure, and the side effects that accompany AIDS and cancer. Some of the most compelling evidence of the power of the mind and its role in health and healing has been found by researchers at the Harvard Medical School Mind-Body Institute, where I do ongoing postdoctoral training.
In 1971, expanding on the work of Swiss Nobel laureate Dr. Walter R. Hess, Dr. Herbert Benson and his colleagues at Harvard documented the opposite of the ﬁght-or-ﬂight (stress) response. They called it the Relaxation Response. The Relaxation Response is induced by focusing on the breath. They say, “This results in decreased metabolism, heart rate, blood pressure, and rate of breathing, as well as slower brain waves.” (9) Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, it gets even better. The Relaxation Response has also been shown to increase fertility, appease chronic pain, and strengthen the ability to cope with stress. (10)
But beyond using the alpha state to address and treat our physical ailments, scientists, doctors, and therapists also induce the alpha state using medical hypnosis to treat unhealthy subconscious thought patterning—from attention deﬁcit disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder to overeating. The alpha state is like a corridor between our conscious and unconscious minds. At the end of this hallway is the door to the subconscious. And, as you know, when we have access to something, we can talk to it and change it. In other words, unlike any other state in the human experience, the alpha state provides us with the opportunity to change our subconscious thought patterns. This means we can use medical hypnosis to change any unwanted behaviors—from performance anxiety to overeating. In fact, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), scientists see a difference in a person’s brain after just minutes of experiencing the meditative/hypnotic state.
While our feelings about food may be complicated, the process of changing our fundamental food habits using medical hypnosis is not.
Because all hypnosis is self–hypnosis, when clients come to see me, I tell them that I am not going to do something to them. I am not a magician. I cannot make anyone change or control anyone’s mind. The only person I can change or control is myself, and this goes for everyone. As a medical hypnosis practitioner, I am essentially a trainer. I train people how to use their minds in an empowering way. I teach people how to induce the alpha state and use suggestion to change their unhealthy subconscious thought patterns. I am constantly telling my clients that the work we do in my ofﬁce is almost irrelevant to their healing process. The healing comes from their use of the tool of hypnosis to change the environment in their minds. This is why I can talk to someone on the phone and teach that person how to use medical hypnosis even if he or she is halfway around the world. This is why I can teach someone how to use medical hypnosis for weight loss and control in a book.
For the last twenty–ﬁve years, I have used medical hypnosis to help thousands of people—from barely educated to overeducated, from ﬁnancially struggling to wealthy, from Arizona to New Zealand—change their subconscious minds and lose weight. Medical hypnosis has facilitated my clients’ conscious desire to be thin, ﬁt, and healthy by drawing a new “food blueprint” in their subconscious mind to reﬂect their conscious picture of healthy eating. I have found that this method permanently changes a person’s relationship with food so that the problem foods and behaviors–from chocolate to binging–are either erased or modiﬁed. My clients no longer have the conscious/subconscious conﬂict that prevents them from losing weight. With medical hypnosis they change the “fat thinking” to “thin thinking” and the weight comes off.
For example, one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers came to see me a few years ago. She was 50 pounds overweight. As you know, being even 5 pounds overweight in Hollywood is a sin. But what was even worse was that her husband had started to make jokes about her weight. When this happened, she was devastated. Even her home had become a hostile environment, a place of humiliation.
Fortunately, after spending thousands of dollars on diet programs, fat farms, and low–carb food delivery services with no success, she heard about another approach: medical hypnosis. Two of her aunts and her grandfather had been to see me. All of them had changed their relationship with food and had lost the weight they wanted to lose. She got my number from one of her aunts, called my ofﬁce, made an appointment, bought a plane ticket, and ﬂew across the country to see me the following month.
On her ﬁrst visit, we talked about her life. She told me that she usually had three or four TV shows and movies in production at any given time. And when she wasn’t hanging out on freezing sets in the middle of Alaska, eating and drinking to keep warm and calm her nerves, she was in LA having breakfast, lunch, and dinner with agents, producers, directors, and actors. She told me that some days, she felt like she was going from plate to plate.
She also told me that the craft trucks on the sets were her own personal hell. She could not resist the high–carbohydrate, high–fat, high–sugar foods—danishes, donuts, mochas, pizza, pasta, macaroni and cheese, chocolates—that were perpetually on display and available for the working crews. Just thinking about a craft truck made her hungry.
We did two medical hypnosis sessions in the space of a week where I taught her how to use the alpha state to draw a new food blueprint in her mind. In the year that followed, the producer lost 45 pounds. Four years later, she is now 55 pounds thinner and ﬁt, has no struggle with food, can walk by a craft truck and feel nothing, and—most importantly—does not use food to manage her stress levels, a behavior that was actually creating more stress!
Throughout this book, you will hear dozens of success stories like this one: The woman who gained her college freshman 40 because of a serious peanut butter habit and used medical hypnosis and lost the weight. The high-ﬁnance banker who ate his way through stressful deals and lost 100 pounds with the help of medical hypnosis. A mother who couldn’t get a grip on snacking to lose 10 post-pregnancy pounds and ﬁnally did with medical hypnosis. The psychiatrist who had tried everything from Atkins to analysis to kick his four–bagel–a–day habit and ﬁnally tried medical hypnosis and lost 60 pounds. They are just like you, and you can be just like them if you let the Alpha Solution work for you.
From the Hardcover edition.