According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a survey in 2016 found that more than 1.9 billion people over the age of 18 were overweight, of which over 650 million people were obese (1).
Excess body weight is a major concern as it can cause diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, sleep apnea, arthritis, and even cancer (2).
Though various weight loss programs and treatments are becoming increasingly popular to assist people in weight loss, reports suggest that the long-term success rate of weight loss programs is only about 20% (3).
In weight loss hypnosis, patients are essentially taken to a trance-like state, where the mind is more open to receiving feedback and accepting suggestions. This concept has created a buzz globally, creating an interest among researchers to establish the facts and verify its efficacy with scientific evidence. Let’s look at this in detail.
Table Of Contents
What Is Weight Loss Hypnosis?
To understand weight loss hypnosis, we need to learn about hypnotherapy. According to the American Psychological Association, hypnotherapy, also known as hypnosis, is a procedure in which therapists aim to relax people and help them focus better (4).
Many people find this technique questionable, but researchers have proven the authenticity of this practice. As hypnosis increases inner concentration attained by a highly relaxed state, participants become more focused (5). It is when the subconscious mind is active and the conscious part is at ease.
Hypnotherapy is popular among clinicians to help patients change habits, control anxiety and mood disorders, avert depression, quit smoking, and relieve pain. Moreover, patients can also learn and perform self-hypnosis to help themselves.
Inspired by the positive results in the successful application of hypnotherapy, medical practitioners are now exploring ways to utilize the benefits of hypnosis for weight loss.
In this process, a patient’s subconscious mind is awakened. It is important because research shows that it is the subconscious mind that influences decision making (6). Therefore, what seems difficult or unachievable in normal circumstances becomes easy to solve when a person is hypnotized.
Hypnosis allows patients to identify key areas hindering their success and encourages them to act on them with determination. This is when the patients themselves are ready for change without external pressure. They make better food choices, quit harmful habits, and follow a healthy routine. This is how weight loss hypnotherapy aims to address the issue.
Is Weight Loss Hypnosis Effective?
While the common perception about hypnosis involves staring at swinging pendulums and casting sleepy spells, hypnotism is based on science, and so is weight loss hypnosis.
Combined with dietary advice, physical exercise, and better lifestyle, weight loss with hypnosis is very much possible. To support this statement, we have discussed some major research results on the efficacy of weight loss hypnotherapy:
- David N Bolocofsky, the psychologist, and coauthors published a study report on behavioral weight management through hypnosis in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. The study involved 109 patients aged between 17 to 68 years and was conducted over a period of nine weeks.They divided the participants into two groups. One group received only dietary guidance with recommended exercises to lose weight. The second group, in addition to exercise and dietary support, also received hypnotherapy.
After nine weeks both groups showed significant improvement in terms of weight loss. But after the first and second follow-up after eight months and two years respectively, the second group that received hypnotherapy continued to lose weight (7).
- A study by Cochrane and Friesen included 60 female candidates for the evaluation of hypnosis on weight loss. They interviewed the participants and stated that the subjects were not involved in any other weight loss treatment. They split the group into those who received hypnosis and others without hypnosis. Both groups received counseling and behavioral treatments.
The study was concluded with interesting results. The scholars did a follow-up once the treatment ended and again after six months. Patients who were hypnotized lost an average of 17 pounds compared to half a pound in the non-hypnosis group in six months (8).
- In another clinical trial, scholars from Italy tested two types of hypnosis – one was by self (self-hypnosis), and the second was regular or habitual hypnosis. Every individual received exercise and behavioral recommendations including dietary help.
At the end of the study, it was proved that the outcome from habitual hypnosis showed more weight loss and reduced caloric intake. Self-hypnosis also helped improve quality of life and satisfaction among participants (9).
- A controlled trial of hypnosis in treating obesity among patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea yielded positive results. According to J Stradling and colleagues at Chest Unit, Churchill Hospital, Oxford, UK, the group that received hypnotherapy with stress reduction showed small yet notable weight loss than patients who received dietary advice alone (10).
- In yet another clinical trial involving 60 female candidates, the researchers noticed that both (i) hypno-behavioral therapy and (ii) hypno-behavioral therapy with energetic psychotherapy, i.e. hypno-energetic therapy, significantly helped to control body weight, eating disorders, BMI, and elevated the overall body concept (11).
Now, we get to the science of weight loss hypnosis.
How Does Hypnosis For Weight Loss Work?
A possible scientific explanation for such an overwhelming response to weight loss hypnosis can be found in the way the brain functions during hypnotism. Neuroscientists and scholars in the field of cognitive science have revealed interesting facts on how our brain responds to hypnotism (12).
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine conducted brain scans of 57 individuals who were hypnotized under guidance (13). They noticed three major changes in the brain during the process:
- Decreased activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate. According to David Spiegel, the study’s senior author, this happens because during hypnotism, the mind stops worrying about everything else.
- Connections between dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the insula increased. Spiegel explained this as brain-body connection, where the brain knows and controls what happens to the body.
- Disconnection of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex with posterior cingulate cortex and medial prefrontal. In simple words, it represents disassociation between an action and its reflection. This makes it possible for the patients to actually listen to the suggestions and follow them.
The science sure is appealing. Weight loss hypnotherapy is of different types. In the following section, we will explore each.
Types Of Hypnotherapy
Depending on external and internal factors, hypnotists can decide on the type of hypnosis that is the most appropriate for a candidate for weight loss.
Here, we have discussed some common types of hypnotherapy:
1. Cognitive Hypnotherapy
This type combines cognitive therapy and hypnotherapy to help patients overcome post-traumatic stress and psychological disorders and enhance their lives (14).
2. Psychodynamic Hypnotherapy
Psychodynamic hypnotherapy aims to study human functioning influenced by the unconscious mind and personalities.
3. Ericksonian Hypnotherapy
This type of hypnotherapy is developed by Milton H. Erickson and is an indirect process. Unlike other types of hypnosis, therapists using this approach employ storytelling and suggestions as indirect methods.
4. Solution-Focused Hypnotherapy
This is client-oriented hypnotherapy. In this process, the patient expresses the desired goals to be achieved, and the therapist frames questions to the patient to uncover solutions (15).
Who Can Try Hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy is used to help patients in several ways, including behavioral changes, better quality of life, quitting addiction, post-traumatic stress management, depression, anxiety, and pain management.
In most cases, hypnotherapy is used as a supplementary therapeutic process. Hence, it is better to consult your doctor who would assess the case and may recommend hypnotherapy.
Adults, teens, and children (pediatric hypnosis) can participate in hypnotherapy, depending on the reason and requirement, as long as they are in a position to understand and respond to the process. If you are unsure about who can try this, you could visit your doctor and seek medical advice.
If you are looking for hypnotherapists for weight loss, it is always recommended to visit and consult medically certified or approved therapists for best results. This way, you can avoid any unpleasant experiences.
Your therapist may ask you certain questions before the therapy begins. It will help them determine your eligibility, health conditions, hypnotizability, duration of the therapy, and appropriate type of hypnosis among other factors.
Self-hypnosis is also possible in certain cases. In this process, the patient can learn to practice hypnosis on self and attain results. Once again, before doing this, you must always consult your doctor or therapist and learn about the process and seek advice on eligibility to perform self-hypnosis for weight loss.
How Long Does It Take?
The duration of the therapy is case-specific.It is not the same for all. It can take weeks or months to years to reach your goal. Your therapist can also suggest a follow-up from time to time to understand the effect of weight loss hypnosis.
The clinical trials we discussed earlier not only conducted studies for a set time period but also followed up with patients after a certain duration. This was done to ascertain the long-term benefits of hypnosis on weight loss.
Your hypnotherapist will decide the duration of the process and what needs to be done throughout the session. They will also decide if a follow-up is required. In fact, if the therapist finds it fit, they may also tell you ways to practice self-hypnotism.
In most cases, four to six sessions are recommended for achieving the goals. However, the therapy can stretch to 12-24 sessions if a chronic disease is involved.
Another issue to consider is the duration. If hypnotherapy is provided as supportive treatment, the duration may vary. For example, if a person is already receiving simultaneous treatment for any other medical or psychological conditions along with hypnotherapy as a supplementary treatment, the overall duration of weight loss hypnosis may change.
What Is The Cost Of Hypnotherapy?
The average cost of hypnotherapy can be anything between $75 to $180 per session. However, the actual cost of hypnotherapy is decided by the professional and can vary. The therapist may also offer a package inclusive of all the sessions.
It is a good approach to contact the hypnotherapist in person and discuss in detail. Ask about the duration of each session, cost per session, how long the treatment would go on, if there is a package, and whether any follow up would be required in future.
Downsides Of Hypnosis For Weight Loss
So far, there are no reports against hypnosis for weight loss. In fact, it has more benefits than downsides.
However, researchers have established through studies that:
- Hypnotic suggestions can immediately modify the perceived color of objects (16).
- Hypnotic suggestions may generate visual hallucinations (17).
- Auditory-visual hallucinations may also occur where subjects, based on hypnotic suggestions, can hear and see suggested sounds and objects (18).
- Participants may experience temporary posthypnotic amnesia (19).
For weight loss hypnosis, once again, there is no evidence of disadvantages. Remember, weight loss hypnosis is no miracle. It is a scientific therapy, and you cannot expect to lose weight overnight. You must be patient and consistent throughout the process to achieve the desired goals.
What Are The Other Benefits Of Weight Loss Hypnosis?
Hypnotherapy not only helps you lose extra weight but also imparts higher self esteem, confidence, satisfaction, acceptance, and self-control.
A research group led by M. Volery and other French scholars emphasized on hypnosis, psychotherapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy in managing excess body weight, anxiety, and depression associated with psychological difficulties (20).
In addition to aiding weight loss, this specific form of hypnotherapy also helps in other ways.
1. Helps Manage Anxiety And Stress
- Corydon Hammond, in Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, noted that self-hypnosis is an inexpensive and effective way to treat anxiety and other stress related issues (21).
2. Can Aid Diabetes Treatment
Weight management is an important factor in diabetes. Studies show that hypnotherapy helps improve metabolism, lowers blood sugar levels, and regulates weight in individuals with diabetes (22).
3. Regulates Dietary Intake And Treats Eating Disorders
Dietary habits influence body weight. Research shows that cognitive-behavioral hypnotherapy (CBH) may help control food cravings and discourage binge-eating (23).
4. Reinforces Self Control
Abstaining from the junk and controlling your temptations is not easy. But hypnosis can increase self-control and help you avoid foods that add extra calories.
5. Aids In Long-Term Weight Loss
As we have seen, hypnosis not only helps one lose weight but also encourages them to maintain it. It truly helps one focus on long-term gains (7).
Weight loss hypnosis has a number of benefits. It boosts confidence, makes patients disciplined, and aids weight loss. Remember, hypnosis is more effective when used in addition to a proper diet and exercise and an improved overall lifestyle.
If you are undergoing or planning to try hypnosis for weight loss, follow the instructions of your therapist and be patient. It cannot make you lose weight overnight.
Have you tried hypnosis for weight loss? We are eager to know your experience. Why don’t you share it with us by leaving a comment in the box below?
Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions
Does hypnosis work to curb overeating?
Yes, according to reports, hypnosis helps to control the urge to eat excess food (23).
Is it okay to fall asleep during hypnosis?
Hypnosis does not necessarily make you fall asleep. The body feels lighter and the mind is relaxed. But there is a tendency among some patients to fall asleep during hypnosis sessions; and it is absolutely okay. Your therapist should be able to guide you better.
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- “Overweight and obesity” US Department of Health & Human Services.
- “Long-term weight loss maintenance” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
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- “Effects of Self-Conditioning Techniques (Self-Hypnosis) in Promoting Weight Loss in Patients with Severe Obesity: A Randomized Controlled Trial” Obesity, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
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- “Obesity and Overweight” World Health Organization.
“Hypnobehavioral and hypnoenergetic therapy in the treatment of obese women: a pragmatic randomized clinical trial” The International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, US National
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- “New directions in hypnosis research: strategies for advancing the cognitive and clinical neuroscience of hypnosis” Neuroscience of Consciousness, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- “Study identifies brain areas altered during hypnotic trances” Stanford Medicine.
- “Cognitive Hypnotherapy” American Psychological Association.
“What is Solution-Focused Hypnotherapy?” The Association of Professional Hypnosis and Psychotherapy.
- “A Preconscious Neural Mechanism of Hypnotically Altered Colors: A Double Case Study” PloS One.
- “A Hypnotic Suggestion Can Generate True Hallucinations” University of Turku.
- “Hypnosis, Suggestions, and Auditory-Visual “Hallucinations”: A Critical Analysis” Origin and Mechanisms of Hallucinations, Springer Link.
- “Hypnosis, memory and amnesia” The Royal Society Publishing, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
“Obesity psychological treatment: beyond cognitive and behavioral therapy” Revue Medicale Suisse, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- “Hypnosis in the treatment of anxiety- and stress-related disorders” ResearchGate.
- “Changing the mind: hypnosis and diabetes” Revista Latino-Americana De Enfermagem, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
“Efficacy of hypnotherapy in the treatment of eating disorders” International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Taylor & Francis Online.
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