Hypnosis for Weight Loss
Hypnosis has come a long way over the years, and though some people still associate it with stage performers who trick audience members into clucking like a chicken, more and more people are turning to hypnosis (also known as hypnotherapy) to help them lose weight.
Can hypnosis work for you? Here’s what you need to know.
Does Hypnosis Work for Weight Loss?
When it comes to weight loss, studies suggest that hypnotherapy can help. Researchpublished in the 2014 issue of The International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis found that hypnosis helped obese women improve weight, BMI, eating behaviors, and body image, for example.
Unlike stage hypnosis, hypnotherapy is an adjunct form of therapy that’s used alongside other forms of psychological or medical treatment to help you create healthy behavior changes that bring you to your end goal.
With hypnotherapy, you’re guided into a trance-like state of focus by a clinical hypnotherapist, who helps bring your subconscious, or inner voice, to the forefront.
“What we’re doing with hypnosis is we’re turning up the volume on your inner voice, the one that keeps you from driving off a bridge when you’ve had a really bad hair day, and we turn down the volume on your emotional waking mind,” says Valorie J. Wells, PhD, a certified hypnotherapist in Kansas City, MO.
Consider your emotional waking mind the voice that tells you not to bother with your exercise routine that day because:
- You got a paper cut
- Your boss yelled at you
- Any other rationalizations that pop into your mind
With hypnotherapy, you can rewrite this and other unhealthy go-to scripts that keep you from reaching your weight loss goal.
So, when you have a stressful day at work:
- Your emotional voice urges you to grab some candy bars from the vending machine.
- Your inner voice reminds you: “Bingeing on candy sounds like a great idea now, but you will feel worse later.”
“Really what we do with hypnosis is reinforce everybody’s heart’s desire,” Wells says. “Most adults today know what they should and shouldn’t eat, what exercises they should and shouldn’t do, so we come back to, ‘Okay, what are you willing to do now to at least get started?’ And we’ll work up to those ideals, instead of saying, ‘I can’t run, so I’m not going to do anything.'”
How Effective Is Hypnosis For Weight Loss?
Keep in mind that it may take a few sessions to see the effects of hypnotherapy. The number of sessions you’ll need depends entirely on:
- How much weight you want to lose
- How ready and willing you are to make changes
- What issues you’re currently facing on your weight loss journey
People who need to lose 20 pounds or less typically begin to lose weight by their third session, Wells says. A professional hypnotherapist will be able to give you a more personalized timeline.
What Does It Feel Like to Be Hypnotized?
Wells compares hypnosis to staring into the flames of a campfire and feeling intensely relaxed and focused. So focused, in fact, that even if a friend offered you a drink, you wouldn’t want to break your state of relaxation to accept it (although you could if you decided to). Similarly, you could end the process of hypnosis at any time; you’re always in control of your thoughts and actions.
Can I Hypnotize Myself?
It may be tempting to try to self-hypnosis for weight loss, and there are certainly plenty of resources out there that can teach you the process of self-hypnosis. However, you’ll likely get better results by seeking help from a professional.
“Let’s say you want to see the sunset at the Grand Canyon: Are you going to have as good a time if you were the driver as you would if you were the passenger with a camera?” Wells says. If you do self-hypnosis, you’re stuck in the role of both driver and passenger and may be too distracted to truly relax.
On the other hand, self-hypnosis may be a helpful tool for reinforcing thoughts and behaviors. Ask a professional hypnotherapist for guidance.
Who Shouldn’t Try Hypnosis?
In general, hypnotherapy is appropriate for anyone interested in behavior change (ex. weight loss, smoking cessation), though there are exceptions.
If you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or a seizure disorder, you may need to talk with your doctor or psychiatrist before trying hypnotherapy.
In addition, hypnosis only works if you’re willing to be hypnotized, and you feel comfortable with both the process and the therapist. If you’re uncomfortable, you may be unable to relax enough for the process to work. A certified hypnotherapist can talk through your concerns with you, or refer you to another hypnotherapist.