Tim Brunson DCH

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Losing it: Dateline ultimate diet challenge

Six alumni pursue different diets before High School reunion

By John Larson NBC News - Updated: 4:42 p.m. ET Jan. 5, 2004

** This submission is edited to focus on Marc's journey during this time and how hypnotism was effective. If you made a New Year's resolution to lose weight and already you've blown it, here is some inspiration to help get you back on track. A year ago, we met six members of the class of 1978, all wanting to shed pounds before their 25th high school reunion this past fall. We offered to help them. Each was given a radically different weight loss plan.

Our volunteers could pick one of six weight loss methods -- from Atkins, Weight Watchers or SlimFast to intense exercise, having your own famous weight loss guru -- even hypnotism.

For the Dateline Diet Challenge, the ladies man back in high school, Marc Merlis chose hypnotism. When Marc's wife saw Dateline's letter she quickly picked up the phone and turned in her husband. And for good reason. His wife is worried. Marc is a baker by trade with a weakness for food. His weight is serious problem. His father died of heart disease at 50 and now Marc's cholesterol and blood pressure are dangerously high. So Marc has agreed to let a hypnotherapist help him focus on his weight and more importantly, his health.

Marc: "I remember how I felt when my father died. I was 20, you know? I would hate to have my kids go through that." Marc tips the scales at 245. His task is even greater, to lose 50 pounds. During his first hour-long session with Boston hypnotherapist Tom Nicoli, he received suggestions on healthy eating and lifestyle. The session left Marc reeling.

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

Don't laugh. Suddenly Marc started exercising and eating well. Three weeks later the hypnotist told Marc everything he'd learned will be reinforced by the color red. Tom Nicoli: "Brake lights, tail lights, lipstick, fingernail polish, clothing. Anytime you see the color red consciously or unconsciously."

Two months in, the man who originally couldn't get into his varsity jacket, now can't be held back. Marc was steadily working with a fitness trainer and he was religiously listening to his tapes of his hypnotist. After three months under hypnosis, his wife had a nickname for him. Incredibly, "droopy drawers" had lost the most so far, a staggering 40 pounds.

Smoking Success: That's when droopy's wife got in on the action. She went to Nicoli to quit smoking. And guess what? Smoke free, fat free. Five months in, for the Merlis's things couldn't be better. And at their son's bar mitzvah this May, lifting Marc was a piece of cake.

In late June, there was trouble in hypnosis paradise. It had been six months since Marc had seen the hypnotist. He'd blown off exercise, stopped listening to his tapes and now he was sneaking food and lying about it. By August he'd gained back 15 of the 40 pounds he'd lost. There was only one thing left to do: go back to the hypnotist, who had a lot to say. After a 30-minute tune-up, presto, Marc was back at the gym, listening to tapes and eating healthy again.

When we caught up with everyone in September, Marc was once again doing great.

Reunion time October 2003, 10 months into the diet challenge and 25 years since they graduated high school, the night finally arrived. Our ladies man, Marc Merlis, using hypnotism had a total loss of 35 pounds.

Tom Nololi, BCH, CI is a regular contributor. You can visit him at www.TomNicoli.com

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