By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor
Visitors to the Niagara Falls Hypnosis Center who visit Cris Johnson in his office can see what he looked like 50 pounds, and a whole different mindset, ago.
Using hypnosis, a new way of critical thinking and a healthier eating regimen has made all the difference, he said.
“I no longer look at losing weight as a temporary goal. I’ve changed my relationship with food.”
Johnson is among a number of people in the weight loss ranks I’ve talked with during the last year who blame giant food manufacturers for manipulating salt, sugar and fat – especially sugar – in processed foods designed to turn on the pleasure center in our brains.
The manipulation, he maintains, drives us to our food engorging “bliss point,” and shuts off the “I’m full” message center.
“When I go shopping, I try to stick to anything that’s not in a box,” he said. “I try to shop the perimeter for fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Johnson will host a free seminar entitled, “The Hidden Factors of Weight Gain, and Weight Loss Secrets,” at 7 p.m. Monday at his center, 7820 Porter Road, Niagara Falls. Seating is limited so those wishing to attend must reserve a seat by calling 940-8963.
Johnson, 41, grew up in Jamestown and started doing stage hypnosis shows while a young adult in Pittsburgh.
He is certified by the National Guild of Hypnotists.
He met and married a woman from the Falls and moved to the Cataract City a little more than a decade ago. He put up his hypnosis center shingle three years ago, next to a hair salon owned by his wife, Lois.
It’s been a welcome change.
“Life on the road is a little exhausting,” he told me.
He still does his stage show a few dozen times a year. He performed last weekend at Syracuse University, several weeks ago a teen leadership conference at the Buffalo Convention Center, and the day after the president spoke at the University at Buffalo last fall. “I told the students President Obama opened up for me,” he joked.
Here are some excerpts from our interview.
How does the mind work?
The reality is that people make decisions emotionally and then we justify them with logic. So when we go shopping and we want to buy a Jet Ski to make us feel good, we then have to be able to say, ‘I can afford it because I can get six months financing.’ We make a justification in our minds.
Why did you decide to do hypnosis?
I started out as a stage magician and still do some stage shows now. A friend of mine from Texas learned hypnosis and said, ‘This is amazing, you’ve really got to learn this.’ I took the classes, and people started asking me after my shows, ‘Can you help me stop smoking? Can you help me lose weight?’
That, and the whole idea of getting off the road, really motivated me to learn the clinical aspects of it. (Johnson said he also has learned to use hypnosis to help people better manage stress and anxiety.)
Does the hypnosis process you use involve more than weight loss?
What people started requesting the most was, ‘Can you help me lose weight? I’m addicted to sugar.' I use a combination of hypnosis, reconditioning of the mind and NLP, which is neuro linguistic psychology, to help people.
Weight loss itself is very complex. Some people might be addicted to sugar, and sugar is a very real addiction. It’s one of the most addictive substances on the planet. … People have withdrawal from it.
For others, it may be an aspect of their childhood. I’ll give you an example: Someone might say, ‘When I was growing up, my parents would say, ‘Clean up your plate, there are starving children in China.’ The parent was intending to teach the child the value of money, the value of food, and they didn’t want their child to go hungry. But very few people understand how small the stomach is. Parents were encouraging their children to eat past the point of feeling full. That process is repeated several thousand times and we’re conditioned, just like we learn the alphabet, how to learn the English language, the process has taught us to eat past the point of feeling full every day.
For other people, the food may be an emotional thing … ‘Johnnie, have a piece of cake, you’ll feel better.’ Or it’s celebratory: ‘You did a great job on that test junior, so let’s celebrate and have a piece of cake.’ So we learn through repetition and the inexperience of youth to link food with positive or negative emotions. So a person learns, ‘If I’m feeling bad, I can eat some food.’ … The food is a temporary fix (that gets repeated over and over). And then processed food is designed to create food addiction, to manipulate the salt, sugar and fat combination so people literally don’t want to stop eating them.
What is neuro linguistic psychology?
Essentially, a waking hypnosis, a hypnosis without the need for a formal trance state. So I use a combination of that and hypnosis and reconditioning through repetition to help people learn to live life in a new way, to change their relationship with food … to listen to that full feeling in their stomach.
What foods do you enjoy?
I love Asian food – Thai food, Chinese. About the only thing I need out of a can when I make Chinese food is coconut milk. I minimize the use of rice.
What would a typical Saturday dinner be like?
This past Saturday, I made a chicken lo mein dish that had snow peas in it, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, green peppers, garlic, a little bit of soy sauce, ginger, and whole wheat pasta, and I made my own egg rolls to go with it. … Some Wegmans egg roll wrappers, then some cabbage, some ginger, some garlic, soy sauce, then I rolled those suckers up and baked them instead of frying them.
The foods you can’t resist (or hypnotize away)?
The thing I struggle with a lot is when I’m on the road. I try to make a healthy choice, but sometimes the only (healthy) thing I can find on the road is a Subway, so I try to make the best choice possible. In the summertime, I do admit I indulge in more ice cream than I should. The occasional cheesecake, too. Fortunately, the Cheesecake Factory is about a good 40-minute drive, so I don’t get that too often.