Your eyes get heavy. . . your body gets lighter

From The Lawrence Eagle Tribune: Monday, May 13, 2002
By Rosemary Ford Eagle-Tribune Writer

About a year ago, Michael Couture was at the end of his rope when it came to losing weight. He tried everything from Slim Fast to prescription diet pills, always regaining the few pounds he took off. Today, he’s at the end of his belt. The 30-year-old Methuen computer technician lost more than 120 pounds this year, by eating well, exercising and receiving help through hypnosis.

Couture’s been overweight all his life. At his heaviest, he estimates he was 350 pounds. He doesn’t know for sure because he couldn’t find a scale that went high enough to weigh him.

Looking for a solution, Couture met with Haverhill hypnotist Addie Kania. She helped him develop the mental resolve to take the weight off. “It’s nothing like you see on television,” said Kania, who describes hypnosis as a deep relaxation tool to reach the unconscious mind where memory and habits are stored. “This is not magic.” Couture wasn’t so sure about what he was getting himself into before seeing Kania. He met with her four times and returns to see her monthly for reinforcement. “I didn’t think it was going to work,” said Couture, who found Kania through a flier on a street sign.

“But I have thrown my money away on more foolish things than that. … I didn’t know how it would work, or if it would work or if it could work. I thought, What’s the worst that could happen?”

A certified hypnotist for more than 10 years, Kania says she helps people gain control of their eating. “They usually end up as a last resort with me,” says Kania, who helps clients develop healthy eating and exercise regimens. Kania likens her work with hypnosis to reprogramming the brain with healthier habits. “Diets alone don’t work,” said Kania, citing the often quoted statistic that 95 percent of the people who lose weight regain it all in four years. “We are not only what we eat. We are what we think.” Dr. David Spiegel, who works in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, says hypnosis is a highly focused state of attention. He likened it to getting caught up in a movie. He said not everyone is hypnotizable. About 70 percent of adults are somewhat hypnotizable and 10 percent very hypnotizable. “Most children are hypnotizable,” said Spiegel, who said that adults lose the ability as they mature. “We don’t know why.” Spiegel has done studies using hypnosis as a means to develop the mental resolve to lose weight. He found it effective for people who wanted a modest weight reduction. “Anything that works even a little bit is worth considering,” said Spiegel. “I am surprised there is such a good result for someone who had to lose that much weight.”

Couture doesn’t know exactly what Kania has suggested to him to help him lose the weight. He does know he passes on some unhealthy foods he could never pass on before and he thinks twice before eating something calorie rich and nutrition poor. “What does she say to you that makes you so successful? I don’t know,” said Couture. “That’s the whole thing — I don’t know. It’s not like I am standing in a buffet line and I hear her voice in my head.” Both Kania and Spiegel say the public seems to have some unnatural fears about hypnosis. Both say under hypnosis, no one can do something completely uncharacteristic, though inhibitions are lowered. “I think people are far more afraid of it than it warrants,” said Spiegel, who advises people to find a licensed practitioner with psychological training.

Couture learned to balance his diet, eating heavier meals earlier in the day. He also plans out what he eats before work, and often brings a lunch. “After a month of following that, it became second nature,” said Couture, whose health has improved drastically since losing the weight. “Now it’s been so many months, I don’t even look at it as a diet anymore.”Couture still plans to lose another 30 pounds. The biggest change he’s noticed is in his attitude. “I am always in a good mood. Before, I was always mopey,” said Couture. Kania’s work with Couture and other clients to lose weight grew out of her work to help people stop smoking. She found most clients resumed the habit when they gained weight after stopping.

Food is a drug. When you abuse food, it is used as a drug,” said Kania, a former addictions counselor. “If it’s not an addiction, it’s an obsession with the idea of being thin. In this country we are being hypnotized into thinking being thin means being loved and being successful.”