A quick glance around the mall should show you that obesity is a serious problem in the UAE. But a new hypnotherapy technique, where your brain is said to be tricked into thinking a gastric band has been fitted, is helping to treat overweight people. Could something so simple actually work?

For thousands of UAE residents who struggle with their weight (blame the brunches, blame driving everywhere, blame whatever you want, but it’s a lardy epidemic in this part of the world), losing the kilos isn’t as simple as putting the Pringles down. Many of us battle not only the bulge but the psychological issues that started us reaching for the junk food and the remote in the first place, plus the subsequent lack of motivation to lace up the trainers. No one wants to be the fattest kid in the gym.

Whether you’ve tried every diet in the book and have seriously considered surgery to reduce the size of your stomach, or have simply lost control of your portion sizes and are at your heaviest, a technique called Gastric mind Band (GmB) might be the solution, with the likes of Sophie Dahl, Geri Halliwell and Lily Allen singing its praises. Devised by British therapists Martin and Marion Shirran, GmB requires four sessions over four days and leaves clients feeling like their stomachs are smaller can hold less food. Martin himself lost five stone using the method, and Dubai-based therapist Anna Yates is now leading the slinky-hipped charge here in the UAE. And she is reassuringly slim.


  • Drink a glass of water before meals to quell hunger
  • Use a small blue or black plate to make your food look less appealing
  • Wait 20 minutes before ordering dessert or going back for seconds
  • An extra 135 calories per day adds up to 6kg in weight gain over a year, so watch the extras
  • A pound of fat contains 3,500 calories, so to burn a pound in a week you need to eat 500 calories fewer per day
  • Watch out for empty calories in alcohol and hidden calories in juice
  • Lack of water (not food) is the number one cause of daytime fatigue, so stay hydrated
  • Don’t feel pressure to clear your player. Stop eating when you’re not hungry anymore


Ready for the science bit? It’s actually not that technical. Your first session involves a few hours of ‘data gathering’ and answering questions so Anna knows where your weaknesses lie, be it eating out of boredom, lack of education on healthy eating or bad habits you’ve picked up over the years (mid-afternoon Twix anyone?). She is then armed with information to personalise the hypnotherapy, with you relaxing in a reclining chair and guided through visualisation exercises full of suggestions for changing eating patterns and how you’ll look at your goal weight.

The second session reinforces messages on portion sizes, with useful visuals and some impressive before and afters, plus hypnotherapy at the end to plug into your subconscious. She also explains the principles of Pause Button Therapy, where you are encouraged to stop before making food decisions – do you want that doughnut more than you want to be slim? Anna also provides CDs of hypnotherapy for you to listen to while you sleep or relax (not recommended while driving).

The third appointment with Anna is perhaps the hardest-hitting, with a weigh-in, serious talk about the consequences of remaining overweight, and a close look at your motivations for losing the fat, be it being able to buy those Rag & Bone jeans or to avoid heart attacks, diabetes, strokes and cancers associated with obesity. Softly softly it ain’t. But Anna’s background in therapy means you leave with some useful tips instead of feeling so depressed you drive straight to Spinneys and buy cookies. As Anna says, “Don’t give up if you have a bad day – if you scratched your car you wouldn’t drive it into a wall.”

It’s the fourth session where the ‘operation’ takes place. But first you need to know what a real gastric band operation looks like. Hint: not pretty. And it costs around Dhs50,000. A video of surgeons placing the band on (after navigating fistfuls of fat), followed by a chat about post-op life, during which you have to consume only liquids for six weeks then chew food to a pulp lest you ‘burp’ it up spontaneously, means you’re fully, alarmingly well-informed. Then it’s time to go under. With Anna’s voice guiding you from relaxation to imagining you’re being wheeled into the operating room, your senses are in overdrive, peaking when Anna places a golf ball in your hand telling you that it’s the same size as your stomach, as you feel your abdominal contract.

Upon waking, instead of being in a recovery room, you’re ready to go home. And instead of living like a recluse so you don’t burp up your food in public – never ideal – you leave armed with books, self-hypnosis CDs and a toolkit of useful items to keep you focussed, including a golf-ball key-ring, Pause Button card, wristband on your dominant hand to stop you opening the fridge, and even a little bottle of fake fat.

All in all it’s a sobering experience, and one that forces you to focus on the emotional reasons behind your weight problem. Is it a quick fix? Does it
do all the work for you? No and no, but with the right level of commitment and reminders of the ‘new’ size of your stomach, you could be shedding some major kilos. Just remember to keep a pair of old jeans for a comedy ‘after’ photo.

Anna Yates, Elite Mind Solutions, Dubai
Tel: (050) 6512145.
Dhs5,000 for four sessions.

This article first appeared in What’s On in January 2013