By JILL PARKIN
Last updated at 09:05 13 March 2007
It sounds too silly for words, but a hypnotherapist is convinced it's true. Now, her satisfied clients say they are living proof it works. So ...
This is the news no plastic surgeon wants to hear: you can make your breasts bigger just by thinking about it. Was that the noise of a thousands scalpels falling from trembling hands? Perhaps you'd better sit on that box of silicone implants, doctor, because we're talking whole cup sizes here.
The secret - so we're told - is hypnotherapy. If you're not a plastic surgeon, by now you're probably falling about with laughter at yet another crackpot alternative health idea.
It's the sort of story that makes a sceptic out of all of us, but not 21-year-old Nicole Edmondson. She has three reasons for her faith in the idea: a pair of C cups where she used to have modest AAs, and a burgeoning career as an underwear model.
"I was pretty unconvinced initially - wasn't sure if there were any real signs - and then one day I went to get in the shower and realised that they had just appeared," she says. "It was the strangest thing looking in the mirror and seeing them."
Nicole's special delivery came after a few weeks of treatment from Lancashire therapist Lesley Graves, a softly spoken former beauty therapist who trained in hypnotherapy after years of listening to her beauty clients' problems and wondering if she could give them more than a sympathetic ear.
"People don't realise the power of the mind, so I'm used to a bit of laughter about breast enlargement," says Lesley, who uses regression techniques in her consulting room in Clitheroe to take her clients into their past.
"I take a person's mind back to the time of puberty when they were developing physically. For some reason, that development stopped.
"Usually something emotional has got in the way - one of my clients was badly bullied at school, for example. A mental blockage can manifest itself physically.
"My clients have often got stuck at a certain stage because of blocks in their mind. Once those blocks have been removed, the mind can move on and the body follows. The body has always known how to grow breasts. It's just a question of stimulating the mind so that it remembers how to get going."
Whether you see some sense in this argument, or dismiss it as utter bunkum, there are certainly some women who have been convinced by the effect on their own bodies.
We're not talking clients who want breasts like Pamela Anderson or Dolly Parton, but women who feel flat-chested and are smaller than they think they would have been if they'd developed normally.
In the case of hairdresser Nicole, who was a 32AA, her small breasts were holding her back from modelling. She heard about Lesley's therapy when another of Lesley's clients turned up in her salon and showed off her own newly acquired cleavage.
"I was never tall enough to think about catwalk modelling," says Nicole, from Waddington, Lancs, who models bridal lingerie at wedding fairs. "But I really thought I might make it as a catalogue model. But having a small chest took away my confidence.
"I'd been thinking about having breast enhancement when a woman I know, Claire Llewellyn, came into the salon and said Lesley was looking for people to take part in the hypnotherapy. I said: "I'll be up for that"."
Claire, a 29-year-old gym instructor, knew exactly how Nicole felt because she used to be flat-chested, with barely enough to put in an A cup. She had hopes of a change when her son was born four years ago. Suddenly, she had a full bosom, but it disappeared completely when she finished breast-feeding.
"I knew I wanted them back," says Claire. "Though I'd always been fit and healthy, even as a teenager I felt that my body was out of kilter because I'd simply failed to develop a proper bust. I was always so nervous of meeting new boyfriends and having them find out about my padded bras. It was a real worry for me and made me feel very self-conscious.
"Then when I had my son and was breast-feeding I had great big breasts. It was awful when I stopped and they went back to nothing."
Claire had been looking into the option of surgery when Lesley came into the gym where she worked and asked if anyone would be a test case for her hypnotherapy. "I'd been put off by the health implications of surgery, so I jumped at the chance. It was obviously worth a go.
"My family teased me and said: "You'll only think you've got bigger boobs." I was used to that - I have two older sisters and a brother and they've always teased me. They've shut up since I've gone up to a B cup, or even a C depending on the bra."
Lesley doesn't mesmerise her clients with a swinging pocket watch like a corny stage hypnotist. What she does is talk them into a state of absolute relaxation where they can be led back to puberty.
"At first, I was nervous because I didn't know what to expect, but Lesley made it easy," says Nicole, who has a three-year-old daughter.
"When I started, I didn't really feel relaxed. I didn't really know much about hypnosis, so I didn't go very deep. After a few sessions, I found I could actually go to sleep, which I think Lesley feels works best of all.
"She sometimes tells you you're in a beautiful old house and she describes it very accurately, down to the photos on the wall. Then she tells you you're at the top of a flight of stairs and as she counts you down the stairs, she says you're getting more and more relaxed. In your mind, she'll take you out into a garden and maybe down another flight of stairs out there.
"I would go so deeply down that I couldn't always remember what she said after that, but I remember the time she told me to imagine I was with a breast surgeon who was going to insert implants that would make me feel full-breasted.
"It sounds really strange, but I actually felt warm sensations as if I was getting bigger.
"Sometimes she'll tell you you're on a warm beach and there's a mirror there. In it you can see yourself as you'd like to be, with fuller breasts or whatever. While that's happening there are physical sensations in the breasts - warmth and tingling.
"You can take yourself back to that place in your mind later by relaxing and using her technique of pressing your finger and thumb together to give your mind an anchor back into the mental state you had during the session. I tried to do that when I had a quiet spell at home.
"I know it might sound barmy, but it does work. She talks through your childhood by asking you to pretend you're in front of a TV and that the screen is blank because you're winding back the video of your life to your childhood. Then you play it forward and remember things you thought you'd forgotten.
"I remembered the time that I was on an activity holiday with school. Everyone else was given ponies to ride, but because I was so tall I was given a great, big horse. I didn't think I minded at the time, but now I think perhaps I did. Lesley is looking for things that might have stopped your physical development."
So could the wrong-sized horse really have stunted poor Nicole's teenage figure? Either way, regression appears to have done the trick. Only a few months into the treatment, she noticed a distinct change.
"I don't really know how it works, but it certainly does. When the breasts come, it happens quite suddenly. I went up from an AA to a B and eventually a C - something I thought was impossible without surgery. I am so chuffed with the results and I can still hardly believe what's happened.
"There were times when I thought nothing was changing, but when it did I was on cloud nine and things have just kept getting better.
"My boyfriend noticed it first. "Something's definitely happening there," he said. It just kept coming and I had to buy new bras.
"I'll never forget the reaction I got from friends in the summer when I wore tight tops. They couldn't believe the difference."
Both Claire and Nicole say they were surprised by the memories of childhood that came up during hypnosis, though neither remembers a great trauma that could have hindered their development.
They had around 20 weekly sessions each and at first simply noticed that they felt happier and more relaxed. Claire, too, had a surprise around five months after starting treatment.
"I was just beginning to become disheartened with it all when one day I was standing naked brushing my teeth in front of the mirror and they had just sort of popped up.
"At first they seemed to develop at the side and one was bigger than the other for a while, but things filled out and evened up, and they have stayed full and gorgeous.
"I must admit I was anxious initially about agreeing to be hypnotised, and in the early days I didn't think it was going to work. But it's totally changed my life.
"I used to wear really thick, strapped tops and would never go without a bra, but now I feel very sexy and womanly and wear strappy vests with no bra," says Claire, who boasts a cleavage that doesn't disappear when she lies down. "And nowadays I'm generally more relaxed and happy."
There's something about the idea of "hypno-boobs" that sounds more California than Clitheroe, and sure enough one of the best-publicised practitioners in the world is Wendi Friesen, from the golden state. She claims a real following for her CDs and hypnosis sessions, and says she can help your breasts reach their full potential with growth of between two and four inches.
"Your muscles are melting ... relax ... melting down now ... let go ... breathe ... deeper now," she whispers on her website. Her CDs teach you how to master "deep cellular communication" and she says some people have found that talking to their breasts helps them grow. Whether you do left then right, or whether they listen together she doesn't say.
"Every thought we think has an effect on our cells,' claims Wendi, who also offers something called the Zen Of Thin on CD.
Those of us who decide to think very hard abut our waists and talk to our stomach cells should presumably be careful not to use the same chat-up lines as those that swell your breasts.
Back in Lancashire, Lesley and her girls are concentrating on making those cups overflow. When she gives her clients what she calls "an anchor", by pressing their finger and thumb together and relaxing, they can take themselves back into the hypnotherapy state they were in during sessions with her and concentrate on their breasts.
A quiet time each day for anchoring with Lesley's voice on a CD releases energy, she says. The result is warmth, tingling, and a feeling of movement in the area.
Lesley, who is married with a 15-year-old son, is quite happy with the size of her own breasts, saying they suit her smallish frame and are in proportion. She had one client who abandoned the therapy because it had made her so much happier that she no longer felt she needed an enlargement.
Though Lesley is reticent about the cost of her treatment - she did her first clients free of charge - she says it's less than half the price of a surgical job, which usually costs around £4,000.
"I'm not just interested in growing their breasts. I'm interested in making them feel happier," says Lesley, whose husband is a transport manager.
"So many women, especially those who are quite young, suffer with terrible body image problems and more and more are turning to cosmetic surgery to sort them out. But this is not getting to the root of why they feel so negative about themselves."
Lesley trained as a beauty therapist, and for years she felt her job was beauty and counselling combined. "You build up an intimate relationship with your clients and they tell you their problems."
Having taken a hypnopsychotherapy course, she set up her own practice, and became fascinated by the effect hypnotherapy could have on sports injuries.
"I worked with two football teams to help players get over their injuries. The results were incredible and proved to me that the mind was capable of much more than I had realised. Then I started looking at breast enhancement.
"When people say "It's all in the mind", they're right. But there's no need to worry - if you get depressed, your breasts aren't going to disappear again.
"The results with Nicole and Claire came after several months and have been astonishing - not just physically, but in terms of feelings of self-esteem."
So, an uplifting story indeed, however barmy it might sound. And perhaps in a funny way it's proof we all were on the right track when we were teenagers and stood in front of the mirror, elbows pumping to the mantra: "I must, I must, I must increase my bust."