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Healthy Monday: Upstate humorist Jeff Kramer gets serious about his health

Jeff KramerWith my hands extended in front of me, the hypnotist asks me to imagine that they are magnets. You might notice that they start moving slowly together, he says.

Sure enough my hands start moving slowly together.

When my hands are about eight inches apart, the hypnotist casually notes that many people feel warmth or tingling in their hands as they get closer.

Immediately I feel warmth and tingling.

Once my hands have joined, the hypnotist suggests I might have difficulty separating them. Try as I might, my hands will barely come apart.

No wonder why our home is littered with useless TV infomercial products. I‘m a slave to the power of suggestion.

All this is prelude to the real reason I‘m getting hypnosis therapy. I‘ve asked Ran Anbar MD, an Upstate pulmonary pediatrician and nationally regarded expert in hypnotism, to brainwash me into believing I‘m a big fat tub of goo so I won‘t get complacent during this, the season of eating. I‘ve come too far to blow it now. I‘m down almost 60 pounds since June 5. My pants are falling down in a healthy, socially appropriate manner. People tell me I look great.

This is when I need a skilled hypnotist to counteract the destructive positive feedback and help me defy holiday temptations. I‘m particularly terrified of my sister in-law‘s homemade peanut butter pie, which is so decadent that on my daily bike rides I‘ve taken to girding myself for its arrival by chanting:

Me-o. Me-o. Me-o. My.

Amy‘s pie will make me die.

Anbar, whose lean frame belies his own dramatic “weight correction” journey, has told me two things at the outset of our visit.

  1. He won‘t take me on as a patient. (This disarms me into believing nothing important will happen, which ironically makes me more receptive to hypnosis.)

  2. He won‘t hypnotize me into believing I‘m fat. Bad idea, he says. “We tend to become what we believe we are.”

Then Anbar, president of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, engages me in a lengthy chat about food, weight and related attitudes. Not once does a sparkly object sway from a string. Instead, streams of positive reinforcement hit me from all directions:

Weight piles on easily and incrementally, Anbar says, but the good news is that it comes off the same way. Small changes in one‘s diet can yield huge results. Maintaining a dramatically lower weight will be easy: A 200-pound man needs just 300 fewer calories per day than a 300-pound man.

His recommendation is that I focus on the success I‘ve had and will continue to have. As for holiday foods, they makes us happy so we should enjoy them, he says. But we only need a little.

At one point in my relaxed-but-non-trance-like state, I experience a flicker of recognition.

“This is hypnosis, isn‘t it?” I say.

“Of course it is,” Anbar replies. He quotes a highly regarded hypnotist, some guy whose first name is Milton, who maintains that all powerful conversation is hypnosis. Works for me.

Then comes a shocker.

“You look good at 250,” Anbar tells me. “You‘ll look terrific at 200.”

200 pounds? Now who‘s in an altered state? I haven‘t weighed 200 pounds since 10th grade. My dream weight is 230, but even that seems a reach.

Undaunted, Anbar consults an on-line BMI calculator. According to those infernal (and sometimes misleading) formulas I‘m still obese at 250. Even at 230 I‘d be “overweight.” Yet Anbar is matter-of-factly positive. The same methods I used to lose the first 10 pounds will get me to 200 if that‘s what I want, he says. “You decide how much you‘re going weigh.”

The full impact of the session hits me later. I‘m still not sold on 200 pounds as a goal, but something powerful has registered. The 230-pound plateau has shifted in my head from a “maybe” to a certainty. More immediately, any apprehensions I had about an eating relapse are gone. Thanks to Anbar, I‘m confident I can manage anything that comes my way during the holidays.

Well, almost anything.

Me-o. Me-o. Me-o. My.

Amy‘s pie will make me die.

Me-o. Me-o. ...

Learn more about Ran Anbar, MD

More on Anbar's personal weight loss journey.

Read why Jeff Kramer decided to get healthy.

Read Jeff Kramer's November column.

Calculate your body mass index.

Journalist Jeff Kramer‘s humor column appears on this blog the first Monday of every month. His work also appears in the quarterly Upstate Health publication.