Maxine Gordon reports on the York therapist who plays mind games to beat the battle of the bulge.

DR ATKINS encouraged us to curb the carbs and WeightWatchers tells us to count the points, but for one York woman losing weight was down to mind over matter.

Lisa Clifford is a professional life coach, hypnotherapist and a master practitioner of something called neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). Her job is to help people make the most out of their lives and overcome habits such as smoking and over-eating or phobias such as fear of flying.

Lisa says she knows her techniques work because when she wanted to lose weight, she used the methods on herself.

"Since April, I've lost two stone and managed to keep it off," said the 36-year-old, who describes herself as a "comfortable size 12/14".

Lisa used hypnosis and visualisation techniques to change her attitude towards food and exercise and encourage a more healthy lifestyle.

"I put myself through detox, but also did goal setting and positive visualisation, which is what I do with clients," said Lisa. "In the first month, I lost a stone, by six weeks, I'd lost 23 pounds."

Lisa, who grew up in York and lives in Dringhouses, said we all use self-hypnosis on ourselves at times, sometimes with negative outcomes.

"You find yourself telling yourself off when you've done something stupid. It's an internal dialogue that's sending instructions from your mind into your system.

"Or you might tell yourself you'll never be anything. Your unconscious mind then thinks you don't want to be anything instead of thinking yeah, I can do that'."

Just as negative thinking can produce negative results, putting positive thoughts in your mind can turn things around.

In Lisa's internal dialogue, she told herself she only wanted to eat healthy food and that it was something she could do easily and it would be worth the effort. And it worked.

"If I knew that a certain food wasn't good for me or can't give me energy then I told myself it wasn't necessary," said Lisa.

To help overcome cravings, she used an NLP technique. "NLP is the study of the language of the brain. It helps to free people from the barriers that hold them back in their lives," Lisa said.

She used a visualisation technique known as "swish pattern"; literally swapping the image of a glass of wine with one of walking her dog. So whenever she wanted a glass of wine, she would go and walk the dog instead.

Lisa insists her programme is not a diet, more of a lifestyle change. "Diets don't work. With most diets you can lose weight, but put it back on. I give people a healthy way of living that they can adapt to have in their life."

True to her word, Lisa has conditioned herself to eat fruit, vegetables and fresh meat, and to limit alcohol. She is a lot more active too, and walks for miles most days, often with her Golden Retriever, Lucy.

While healthy food and exercise is the key to successful weight-loss, Lisa says she has had a client who was unable to exercise but still lost weight using the techniques.

Lisa learned her skills from the best in the business. "I trained with Paul McKenna and Richard Bandler, who invented NLP; it was like being taught by God."

She gave up a high-flying career in the hotel trade to retrain in her new profession.

"When I was 18, I joined the Royal York Hotel as a general assistant," she said. "I remember writing in my application: After two years I want to be a sales executive'. It's amazing, isn't it, the confidence young people have. It took me five years to achieve that goal, but it proved to me that if you have a goal and want it enough you can achieve anything."

Lisa added that people who use her services are not necessarily trying to overcome problems but are positive go-getters who want to squeeze the maximum from life.

She said: "My catchline is inspiring excellence'. I work with people who want to enhance their lives on any level."

Lisa's weight-loss programme involves six sessions and costs £300. For more information, email or phone 07795 634671.