Can hypnosis help you lose weight?

Can hypnosis help you lose weight?

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Tanya Edwards, M.D.
ABOUT THE EXPERT

Tanya Edwards, M.D.

A family physician, Dr. Tanya Edwards is passionate about using nutrition for the prevention and treatment of chronic illness.  She... Read more

As compared to other approaches, such as dietary supplements and acupuncture, hypnosis appears to be the most effective complementary medicine technique for weight loss. However, it’s important to point out that the clinical research involving hypnosis and weight loss amounts to a few small studies. These concluded that when hypnosis is used in addition to diet and exercise, study participants lost an extra five to 10 pounds over roughly six months.

What’s the connection? Essentially, the conscious mind throws up a lot of barriers that can keep you from reaching your weight loss goals. Hypnosis enables you to bypass those barriers. For example, the conscious mind is really, really good at reasoning and excuses: “But I’m eating really well.” “It must be my metabolism.” “I’m stressed out.” “I’ve got so many things going on -- this is the best that I can do.” Meanwhile, the subconscious mind has a list of other reasons. Maybe you had a traumatic experience as a child and you learned to associate eating certain comfort foods, like ice cream or french fries, with feeling better. These subconscious thoughts will be revealed during a hypnosis session.

This is done by putting you into a super relaxed state, through breath work, say, or talking to you in a meditative voice. This allows the therapist to tap into your subconscious mind (as opposed to talk therapy, where you are engaging the conscious mind) and reveal inner thoughts and behaviors. Contrary to the Hollywood version of hypnotism, a person undergoing a treatment doesn’t go into a catatonic state and forget the whole experience afterward! During hypnosis you are actually fully aware of what’s happening and can recall everything. Once the therapist has the information, she can help you get better through understanding and awareness, and she can make suggestions that help you reverse negative behavior and thoughts. So instead of you using food as a salve to treat emotional wounds, the therapist uses hypnotism as a tool for helping you come up with a way to better recognize feelings of satiety so you can stop eating when you get to that point. You will also learn other ways to soothe yourself that don’t involve overeating. If salt or sugar is your addiction, the therapist can work on decreasing your cravings for a particular food, and she may even help you train your mind to think these foods don’t taste very good.

When seeking out a therapist, make sure she or he is certified by a group like the National Board of Certified Clinical Hypnotherapy. Typically, it’s recommended that you go once a week for about an hour, for at least two to five sessions. After this point, see how you’re responding and if the therapist suggests maintenance sessions to help reinforce what you’ve learned.

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