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Losing It - Weight Loss and Hypnosis

Losing It: The Ultimate Diet Challenge

Dateline NBC New - 2004 January
by Paul L. Cerrato

They're six members of the class of '78, looking forward to their 25th high school reunion this fall. The problem is that they all need to lose weight. What might work for them? The class secretary is going to try and extreme exercise program, the class flirt will visit a hypnotist, and the math whiz gets her own personal exercise coach. They and the others will each have a different weight loss plan, and they are all in it together. Who will go to the head of the class?

Meanwhile, the lady's man back in school, Marc Merlis, tips the scale at 245 pounds. His task is even greater, to lose 50 pounds - which might be tough, given his occupation. He's a pastry chef with a major weakness for good food.

What's happened to Marc is that around the time he had kids, his exercise fell off and he developed poor eating habits. Today his cholesterol is 322 and according to his doctor, dangerously high.

Marc agreed to let Boston hypnotist Tom Nicoli help him. At his first session, the hypnotist takes Marc up and imaginary flight of stairs. The journey lasts a half an hour. The goal is to revisit his thinner days and envision a healthy lifestyle.

The next day back at work, Marc is reeling from the experience.

Marc: "And the strangest thing, I see this big belly - the belly button was a big red hole with fire coming out of it."

Don't laugh. After one week under hypnosis, are you ready? Marc lost 13 pounds.

Over at the Merils household, someone's happy with the hypnotist.

Cheryl Merlis: "Did you tell him your wife's all excited 'cause now she can run up, she can actually jump on you and wrap her legs right around you?"

Now, the man who couldn't get motivated can't be held back. Marc's got himself a fitness trainer, religiously listens to tapes made by the hypnotist, and all he wants is healthy food. For lunch he's having a black bean burger, asparagus and a salad.

In January, Marc wouldn't even get into his varsity jacket. Now his wife has a nickname for him: Droopy Drawers. After only three months under hypnosis, Droopy Drawers has lost the most so far, a staggering 40 pounds.

Results from the Ultimate Diet Challenge

1st Place

All of it seems to help. He says his gut is gone, and are you ready? After three months on Atkins, the former football tough guy has lost more than anyone - 50 pounds, a third of the way toward his goal.

2nd Place

The pastry chef lost the second-most - 40 of his 50-pound goal - with the help of hypnosis.

3rd Place

With the help of her own personal coach. And our homecoming queen Kathy is next, almost halfway home, down 18 pounds on Weight Watchers.

4th Place

Maybe the only surprise is that Lynne Frank, training hard for the marathon, has almost lost the least - only 14 of her 35- pound goal. But remember, Lynne is replacing fat with heavier muscle.

5th Place

And finally, there is Gio, the injured athlete, who of all six, can exercise the least. On Slim Fast, he's lost 10 of the 35 pounds he wants to shed.

That's progress all around, but remember, their reunion is six months away. That's plenty of time to lose more weigh - or gain it all back. "Dateline" has been with these dieters since January, and we'll continue to check in with them over the next few months. We'll also take you to their 25th reunion in October, to see the results of the Ultimate Diet.

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