Unconventional Ways to Lose Weight… Maybe

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America’s quest to lose weight continues. As a nation, we’re heavier than ever and just as eager to shed those pounds quickly and painlessly. More than 30% of US adults are obese; this statistic is the same as it was 10 years ago, so things aren’t getting much better. There’s a clear link between being overweight or obese and Type 2 diabetes, and excess weight is linked with many other health conditions, as well.

Losing weight is hard and keeping the weight off is harder. And while the concept of being “fit and fat” has taken hold, the reality is that obese people who are deemed to be “metabolically healthy” still have a higher risk for heart disease and death than their thinner counterparts. We also know that there’s no one reason Americans are overweight or obese. It’s complex, and that’s why there’s no one right “diet” or approach that’s going to work universally. Still, we keep hoping.

There’s a cosmetic and skin care company that makes a product called “Hope in a Jar.” Wouldn’t it be great if the answer to weight issues resided in a little jar? Most of us know that there’s no “magic pill” for weight loss, but there are methods, pills, and other approaches that are constantly touted as the answer to weight woes. Somehow, against our better judgment, we wonder if maybe it just might work. Some are downright crazy (like having a patch sewn on to your tongue so that all you can consume is liquids), while others (like taking probiotics) possibly have merit. Let’s take a look at a few.

According to the American Psychological Association, hypnosis is “a cooperative interaction in which the participant responds to the suggestions of the hypnotist.” Being under hypnosis means that you’re in a state of highly focused concentration. Despite all of the offers and claims on the Internet, there isn’t all that much research that’s been done in the area of hypnosis and weight management. However, participants who received hypnosis as part of a behavior modification program lost weight, albeit a small to moderate amount.

Experts believe that hypnosis is a procedure that can be used to facilitate certain treatments, and it may be effective for some people, particularly those who are open to the concept. If you are feeling negatively about hypnosis or are resistant to it, it’s highly unlikely that it will work for you. About 30% of the population is resistant to hypnosis. What hypnosis may be able to do is help you be more receptive to making lifestyle and behavioral changes that are needed for weight loss. If you’re interested in trying this, it’s important to find a qualified hypnotist. There’s a board for that: the National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists, which can be found here.

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine based on the theory that energy, or chi, flows through and along your body on paths called meridians. Illness occurs when something is blocking that chi. Inserting very thin needles into certain points on the body is thought to help unblock the chi and restore balance and health. Acupuncture may provide pain and symptom relief from conditions such as fibromyalgia, migraines, back pain, nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy, and arthritis.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, studies don’t support acupuncture as being beneficial for weight loss. However, a small Korean study published last year involving 58 subjects showed that those who received acupuncture in their outer ear lost more weight than those not getting acupuncture. So there may be some promise, but it’s too soon to know if acupuncture is an effective weight-loss method in and of itself. You can find a qualified acupuncturist through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental medicine here.

Probiotics are live organisms (usually bacteria) that are thought to promote health. While probiotics are usually thought of as promoting digestive health, there’s some evidence that they may also help with weight loss. In a study published recently in the British Journal of Nutrition, half of the participants (overweight men and women) were given two pills of Lactobacillus rhamnosus probiotics every day for 12 weeks. The women who took the probiotics lost 4.4 kilograms (about 9.7 pounds) compared to the placebo group, who lost 2.6 kilograms (about 5.7 pounds). The men did not lose weight. After 12 weeks, the women in the probiotic group continued to lose weight; after 24 weeks of the study, the probiotic women lost twice as much weight as the placebo group.

Why? The researchers think that the probiotics affected the permeability of the intestinal wall, perhaps preventing inflammatory substances from getting into the bloodstream that, in turn, may lead to Type 2 diabetes and obesity. It’s too soon to say yet that probiotics lead to weight loss, so it’s not a good idea start popping probiotic capsules. But stay tuned as we learn more about the role of these organisms on health.

The above approaches are just three of many that are out there. Hypnosis, acupuncture, and probiotics may be helpful for some people. But it’s wise to check with your health-care provider before trying any of them. And don’t forget that health insurance may not cover these services (it likely won’t cover the cost of probiotics) so do your homework before you try them out.

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