A paid for Facebook ad, for Clear Minds Hypnotherapy, seen on 21 December 2022, stated “We currently have our ‘Hypnotic Gastric Band Program’ on special offer. Our Hypnotic Band has been used by thousands of people worldwide. It provides the perfect solution for people who are not able to exercise or do not want to forbid certain foods from their diet”, “Order now and have it to use whenever you are ready to make your hypnotherapy weight loss journey” and “95% Success Rate”. It featured before and after photos of a woman who was visibly slimmer in the second image and the claim “Virtual Gastric Band 3 week program. 3 weeks is all we need”.
The complainant challenged whether the claim that using the "Hypnotic Gastric Band Program" had a 95% success rate and the suggestion that using it for three weeks resulted in the amount of weight loss shown in the ‘before and after’ pictures were misleading and could be substantiated.
Pure Clear Minds Ltd t/a Clear Minds Hypnotherapy, said they offered a course of self-hypnosis which encouraged customers who wanted to lose weight to change their behaviour around, and attitude towards, food. Customers received recordings of hypnotherapy sessions to listen to over 3 weeks, along with worksheets to complete and a timetable to follow. The hypnosis sessions were intended to change long standing habits and encourage healthy food and lifestyle choices, in order to achieve weight loss goals. They said that, through deep relaxation, the subconscious would be receptive to the suggestions, so the customer would believe that the stomach was reduced in size and they would therefore be satisfied with less food. The sessions sought to lead customers through that process.
They said that other sessions dealt with changing customers’ perceptions of food and encouraged healthier choices, meaning they were satisfied with smaller portion sizes; although they did not prohibit foods like some diets. Clear Minds Hypnotherapy believed that it was well known that many people who struggled with weight loss were emotional eaters and anxious, and they also included sessions about relaxation and stress reduction. They said the ad offered a three-week programme of hypnotherapy and did not claim that all the weight loss would be achieved in that time. They also sent copies of posts from their online emotional support group and a recent Trust Pilot review.
The ASA considered the claims “Hypnotic Gastric Band”, “the perfect solution for people who are not able to exercise or do not want to forbid certain foods from their diet”, “Virtual Gastric Band 3 week program. 3 weeks is all we need”, “95% success rate” and the before and after photos would be understood by consumers to mean that the hypnotherapy offered by Pure Clear Minds Ltd would result in noticeable weight loss within three weeks.
The CAP Code stated that any claim made for the effectiveness of a weight-reduction method must be backed, if applicable, by rigorous trials on people, and that testimonials that were not supported by trials did not constitute substantiation. Because we had not seen evidence that the advertised product acted like a gastric band, had a 95% success rate or would result in noticeable weight loss within three weeks we concluded the ads breached the Code in that regard.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 13.1 (Weight control and slimming).
We told Pure Clear Minds Ltd not to claim or imply that the advertised product would have the same impact as a gastric band or that it would have a noticeable impact on weight within three weeks or state a success rate unless they held evidence to support these claims.