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Everything You Need to Know About Hypnosis for Weight Loss

Hypnosis may be best known as the party trick used to make people do the chicken dance on stage, but more and more people are turning to the mind-control technique to help them make healthier choices and lose weight. Case in point: When Georgia, 28, decided she needed to lose the 30 or so pounds she put on after foot surgery in 2009, the dieting veteran turned to hypnosis. The mind-control technique had helped her overcome a fear of flying in the past, and she hoped it would help her make healthy eating habits as well.

At first the self-proclaimed foodie was surprised by her hypnotherapist’s recommendations. ” four simple agreements to which I would need to adhere: Eat when you’re hungry, listen to your body and eat what you crave, stop when you’re full, eat slowly and enjoy every mouthful,” Georgia explains. “As such, no foods were off limits and I was encouraged to eat everything in moderation-music to my ears!”

Who Should Try Hypnosis

Hypnosis is for anyone looking for a gentle way to lose weight and make healthy eating into a habit. One person it’s not for? Anyone interested in a quick fix. Reframing problematic thoughts about food takes time – Georgia says her hypnotherapist eight times over a year and it took a month before she started to notice a real change. “The weight dropped off slowly and surely, without huge changes to my lifestyle. I was still eating out numerous times a week, but often sending plates back with food on them! For the first time ever, I was really tasting my food, spending time to take in flavors and textures. Almost ironically, it was as if I had recommenced my love affair with food, only I was able to lose weight doing so,” she says, adding that in between appointments she worked hard to maintain her new healthy habits.

How to Use Hypnosis to Lose Weight

Hypnosis isn’t meant to be a “diet” but rather one tool to help you be successful with eating nutritious food and exercising, says Traci Stein, PhD, MPH, a health psychologist ASCH-certified in clinical hypnosis and the former Director of Integrative Medicine in the Department of Surgery at Columbia University. “Hypnosis helps people experience in a multi-sensory way what it feels like when they are strong, fit and in control and to overcome their mental barriers to achieving those goals,” she says. “Hypnosis can specifically help people resolve the underlying psychological problems causing them to hate exercise, experience intense cravings, binge at night, or eat mindlessly. It helps them identify the triggers and disarm them.”

In fact, it’s helpful to not think of hypnosis as a diet at all, says Joshua E. Syna, MA, LCDC, a certified hypnotherapist at the Houston Hypnosis Center. “It works because it changes their way of thinking about food and eating, and it allows them to learn to be more calm and relaxed in their lives. So instead of food and eating being an emotional solution, it becomes an appropriate solution to hunger, and new patterns of behavior are developed that enable the person to deal with emotions and life,” he explains. “Hypnosis works for weight loss because it enables the person to separate food and eating from their emotional life.”

For people with no other mental health issues Dr. Stein says using at-home self-guided audio programs produced by a qualified hypnotist (look for an ASCH certification) are fine. But beware of all the new apps in the online market – one study found that most apps are untested and often make grandiose claims about their effectiveness that can’t be substantiated.

What Hypnosis Feels Like

Forget what you’ve seen in movies and on stage, therapeutic hypnosis is closer to a therapy session than a circus trick. “Hypnosis is a collaborative experience and the patient should be well-informed and comfortable every step of the way,” Dr. Stein says. And for people worried about being tricked into doing something strange or harmful, she adds that even under hypnosis if you really don’t want to do something, you won’t. “It’s just focused attention,” she explains. “Everyone naturally goes into light trance states several times a day – think of when you zone out while a friend is sharing every detail of their vacation – and hypnosis is just learning to focus that inward attention in a helpful way.”

Dispelling the myth that hypnosis feels weird or scary from the patient’s side, Georgia says she always felt very lucid and under control. There were even funny moments like when was told to visualize stepping on the scale and seeing her goal weight. “My overly creative mind had to first imagine myself removing all clothes, every bit of jewelry, my watch, and hair clip before jumping on in the nude. Anyone else do that, or is it just me?” (No, it’s not just you Georgia!)

The One Downside of Hypnosis for Weight Loss

It’s not invasive, it works well with other weight loss treatments, and doesn’t require any pills, powders or other supplements. At the very worst nothing happens, putting it in the “might help, can’t hurt” camp. But Dr. Stein acknowledges there is one downside: Price. Costs per hour vary depending on your location but it ranges between $100-$250 dollar an hour for therapeutic hypnosis treatments and when you see the therapist once a week or more for a month or two that can add up fast. And most insurance companies don’t cover hypnosis. However, Dr. Stein says if it’s used as part of a larger mental health therapy plan it may be covered so check with your provider.

A Surprising Perk of Weight Loss Hypnosis

Hypnosis isn’t just a mental thing, there’s also a medical component, says Peter LePort, MD, a bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Center for Obesity in California. “You must deal with any underlying metabolic or biological causes of weight gain first but while you’re doing that using hypnosis can kickstart healthy habits,” he says. And there’s another healthy perk of using hypnosis: “The meditation aspect can really help reduce stress and increase mindfulness which in turn can help with weight loss,” he adds.

So Does Hypnosis Really Work for Weight Loss?

There is a surprising amount of scientific research looking at the effectiveness of hypnosis for weight loss and much of it is positive. One of the original studies, done in 1986, found that overweight women who used a hypnosis program lost 17 pounds, compared to 0.5 pounds for women who were just told to watch what they ate. In the 90’s a meta-analysis of hypnosis weight loss research found that subjects who used hypnosis lost more than twice as much weight as those who didn’t. And a 2014 study found that women who used hypnosis improved their weight, BMI, eating behavior, and even some aspects of body image.

But it’s not all good news: A 2012 Stanford study found that about a quarter of people simply can’t be hypnotized and contrary to popular belief it has nothing to do with their personalities. Rather, some people’s brains just don’t seem to work that way. “If you’re not prone to daydreaming, often find it hard to get engrossed in a book or sit through a movie, and don’t consider yourself creative then you may be one of the people for whom hypnosis doesn’t work well,” Dr. Stein says.

Georgia is definitely one of the success stories. She says it not only helped her lose the extra pounds but also helped her keep them off. Six years later she has happily maintained her weight loss, occasionally checking back in with her hypnotherapist when she needs a refresher.

  • By Charlotte Hilton Andersen @CharlotteGFE

Abigail Rogers is a Solution Focused Clinical Hypnotherapist at Bristol Hypnotherapy. She explained: ‘SF Hypnotherapy for weight loss is all about helping clients change the unhelpful patterns of behaviour which prevent them from reaching their ideal weight.

‘Often there are deep-seated emotional reasons for struggling with our weight; habits that have become ingrained over time or behaviours that we’ve learned. SFH helps you imagine your future without those barriers and helps “rewire” the brain so you can start responding differently for a positive outcome.’

Rogers also explained that underlying mental health issues may need to be tackled. ‘We work on reducing general anxiety, which helps enormously with the body’s response to food,’ she said. ‘When we produce less of the stress hormone cortisol, we have much more control over cravings, we behave much more logically, and even store less fat!’

Registered nutritionist mBANT and creator of the 7 Day Gut Reset Anna Mapson agrees: ‘When we’re stressed our body raises cortisol, our stress hormone, and puts us into a fight or flight mode. This hike in cortisol means we often crave sugary foods, as the body needs a quick fix of glucose.

‘Any relaxation techniques that reduce stress around food may help to beat those cravings for cakes and biscuits.’

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Does hypnosis for weight loss actually work?

There’s no guarantee that hypnotherapy will work wonders, since it very much depends on the individual. However, Rogers said: ‘Aside from the obvious benefits, I often find people feel much calmer and more in control of their thoughts and lives in general – this can have a huge impact on everything from success in relationships, to better self-confidence, to suddenly being able to deal with things they haven’t felt able to tackle for years.

‘Most people find their sleep really improves, too!’

And sleep is important – if you’re not getting enough, you could be gaining weight.

Dr Guy Meadows told Cosmopolitan UK that not getting enough sleep each night actually has a link to having a higher body fat percentage.

‘Sleeping less than 7-8 hours per night is linked to higher percent body fat. Research suggests that people who average 6 hours per night are 27% more likely to be overweight,’ he says. ‘Those who average 5 hours per night are 73% more likely to be overweight,’ the doctor adds.

Mapson says that keeping in control of emotions where possible will be beneficial: ‘If you were rewarded or comforted with food as a child you may have learnt to associate food with positive feelings and then when you need emotional connection you reach for the ice cream. But in reality the food doesn’t actually provide the emotion, so we crave more chocolate.

‘Breaking the habits and associations between food and emotions can be a powerful tool in weight loss.’

Are there any side effects?

Aside from a dent in your bank balance? You’ll be fine. Rogers explained: ‘There are no negative side effects because we can only ever change things you really want to change – a hypnotherapist can’t make you do anything against your will and you are always completely in control.

‘Being in a hypnotic “trance” is just the therapist using their skill to bring you to an altered state of awareness – much like a guided relaxation or meditation. Clients often fall asleep as they’re so relaxed, but your brain is always listening and always able to respond to look after your best interests.’

Does hypnosis for weight loss work for everyone?

Short answer: no. Rogers said: ‘I’d say it’s very successful but at the end of the day there’s no “magic wand” – nobody can just change you without your input.

‘Good hypnotherapy is all about working in partnership – if you have a good relationship with your therapist and are keen to make changes in your life, then there’s every reason for you to succeed.’

The NHS advises that you don’t use hypnotherapy if you have psychosis or certain types of personality disorder, as it could make your condition worse. Check with your GP first if you’ve got a personality disorder.

When looking for a hypnotherapist, they suggest:

  • choose someone with a healthcare background – such as a doctor, psychologist or counsellor
  • if you have mental ill health or a serious illness (such as cancer), make sure they’re trained in working with your condition
  • if you’re looking for a therapist for your child, make sure they’re trained to work with children
  • check they’re registered with an organisation that’s accredited by the Professional Standards Authority

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Abigail Malbon Abbi is a freelance journalist for various magazines and websites.

Perhaps you’ve seen this scenario on TV: An entertainer—a self-proclaimed hypnotist—stands on stage, arms open, and invites people from the audience to join him in the spotlight. The hypnotist then takes out a pocket watch and slowly oscillates it in front of the volunteers’ eyes. “Sleepy…you’re getting v-e-r-y sleepy,” he says.

Minutes later, he snaps his fingers. One person starts barking like a dog. Snap! Another starts unbuttoning her pants. The audience laughs as the group on-stage gets sillier and sillier.

This is, of course, the stereotype of hypnosis, which is why using it for something as serious as weight loss might sound far-fetched. But believe it or not, many people have sought out hypnotists to help them adjust their relationship to food and fitness. And many people have found great success.

It begs the question: When this technique is facilitated by a medical professional, like a psychologist or psychiatrist, does it look like what we see on stage?

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Answer: Nah. “People often confound hypnotherapy with stage hypnosis for entertainment, and in reality, the two have very little to do with one another,” says Samantha Gaies, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist at NY Health Hypnosis and Integrative Therapy, who works with individuals who want to lose weight or heal eating disorders.

Here’s what clinical hypnosis is really about—and how it can help you change your lifestyle for the better.

How does clinical hypnosis work, anyway?

When someone is trying to make a major change in their life, like overcoming obesity, there can be a lot to think about: What foods you should be eating, how you should exercise, and where you’ll feel safe enough to exercise, for example. Certain judgements or fears might get in the way of forming long-term habits that could transform a person’s health.

“I usually describe hypnosis to my patients by likening their current minds to a hamster wheel,” says Dr. Gaies. “There’s nonstop movement or thinking, yet that thinking doesn’t typically get them very far when it comes to making impactful changes.”

So, what a clinical hypnotherapist aims to do is guide their patients into a relaxed state— yes, called a trance—using a number of techniques that vary from deep breathing to visualization.

Contrary to popular belief, a trance won’t have you trudging around like The Walking Dead. In fact, most of us enter a trance when we are daydreaming or doing a routine task. In these moments, our “hamster brain” stops spinning and we become less focused on our to-do list or daily stressors. Once in that trance state, Dr. Gaies walks her patients through series of exercises to help them get in tune with their desires to change.

In hypnosis, you’re really trying to motivate the brain to make changes.

“Hypnosis is effective because it allows people the opportunity to slow down the analytical and intellectual chatter in their minds to more easily access and focus on what is deeper down and most important to them,” says Dr. Gaies.

In other words, hypnosis can help people tap into their subconscious brain, which largely influences our habits.

“The subconscious brain is where a lot of our behaviors and motivations are,” says Tony Chon, M.D., a certified hypnotherapist and general internal physician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. “In hypnosis, you’re really trying to motivate the brain to make changes.”

Does hypnosis help people lose weight right away?

Hypnosis is not a magic bullet, so don’t walk into a hypnotherapy session and think you’ll start shedding pounds at the snap of a finger. As Dr. Gaies says, hypnosis is a tool that can help break patterns of thinking that prevents someone from developing healthier routines. It’s those lifestyle shifts that will lead to weight loss over time.

Most people who approach hypnotherapy are already preparing themselves to make lifestyle adjustments, such as altering their food choices or buying a gym membership, says Dr. Chon.

“Oftentimes people who are struggling with weight loss or eating disorders tend to feel stuck in a cycle of overindulging or being sedentary, which is then followed by self-blame and shame,” says Dr. Gaies. “This type of pattern is usually fueled by other emotions or experiences, so we tend to explore those aspects of their life within the context of a session. Diet and exercise then tend to come more easily to those who engage in hypnosis since they have shifted their underlying thoughts and feelings to more helpful patterns of thinking.”

But if someone is entirely depending on hypnosis to achieve their weight loss goal, “that might be a little more difficult,” Dr. Chon says (putting it nicely). To see lasting results, Dr. Gaies recommends multiple sessions. “As you learn how to go more deeply down, you’ll feel more in touch with your wants and needs, which creates a more heightened sense of autonomy and independence.”

Who is hypnosis for?

While there are studies that claim some people are less “suggestible”, or more resistant to hypnosis, Dr. Gaies says that everyone has the potential to benefit from this type of therapy.

“As long as someone is open to the idea that a deeper state of relaxation is possible and they are willing to let go, hypnosis is a fantastic tool,” she says. “One fact that often interests people is that individuals who are more creative and score higher on intelligence tests can more readily reach a hypnotic state.”

Hypnotherapy can be helpful not only for people who want to those weight, but also for those who want to quit smoking, ease chronic pain, treat mental illness, or overcome phobias.

Are there any negative side effects?

For most people, there are no negative side effects. If anything, hypnotherapy might not work and the most negative thing you’ll experience is disappointment.

However, some doctors warn that hypnosis can be dangerous if you’re suffering from a serious psychiatric condition. If you are suffering from psychosis, an organic psychiatric condition, or an antisocial personality disorder, it’s best to consult with a psychiatrist before trying hypnotherapy.

What does the research say?

Multiple studies show that hypnosis has helped people achieve moderate weight loss.

In 1996, researchers at Oxford found that patients who received stress reduction hypnotherapy lost more weight than a control group that only received dietary advice. In 2014, scientists in Italy studied the effects of hypnobehavioral and hypnoenergetic therapy on women suffering from obesity. Both treatments improved their weight, BMI, and eating behaviors.

While you can find many success stories in literature, remember that most of the individuals who made strides incorporated other weight loss strategies like consuming less calories.

If you’re considering hypnotherapy:

Do your research. “You have to be careful in terms of who you are working with,” says Dr. Chon. “Know in your state exactly how hypnotherapy is regulated because it can get kind of murky.” And in booking someone, aim for a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist. Without trust and expertise, hypnosis could be a waste of your time, money and emotional investment.”

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Adele Jackson-Gibson Senior Editor Adele Jackson-Gibson is a certified fitness coach, model, and writer based in Brooklyn.

Hypnosis for Binge Eating: Overcoming Food Addictions with Hypnotherapy

What is hypnosis for binge eating? And does it actually work for unhealthy and overeating?

Do you ever feel like your life revolves around food? From holidays and birthday parties to dinnertime with the family, food is a big part of our lives every day.

Yet, often, we’ve been conditioned to have an unhealthy relationship with food. We’ve learned to crave junk, and many of us crave sugar. Some, for instance, use food for comfort during times of stress – they’re emotional eaters. Others constantly fight cravings to overindulge. And some turn to food when they’re bored.

The reason is simple: Our subconscious has been conditioned to use food as a safety blanket.

That’s right. Our subconscious – that large repository of information that controls 85-95 percent of our thoughts – wants us to feel safe. The fight or flight response is a natural subconscious defense mechanism; it keeps us safe when we’re in danger.

Those times when we’re giving in to the temptations of sugar, the subconscious is in defense mode when we’re actually safe. That’s why we’re automatically compelled to reach for snacks or overeat. Our subconscious has learned that sugary snacks or that feeling of being overfull equates to “safety.”

In other words, overcoming food addiction requires something more than willpower. Yes, you heard that right, you DO NOT need willpower to overcome food addiction. You simply need to retrain your subconscious mind to support and release those automatic cravings.

That’s why hypnosis for food addiction can be so helpful.

Hypnosis allows us to access the subconscious. And when we talk directly to the subconscious, we can begin releasing bad habits and retraining our subconscious to be a supporter. It’s actually a lot easier than it sounds.

You may be wondering, “How does hypnosis for food addiction work?” You can think about it like this: Hypnosis opens a direct line of communication with the subconscious. We can speak directly to it and feed it positive affirmations and new information to use. Thanks to hypnosis, we can reprogram our consciousness.

Food Addiction: A Closer Look

Food addiction has many clinical names, and people can have any number of unhealthy relationships with food.

Binge Eating Disorder, for example, occurs when people plan to eat an excessive amount of food regularly. A binge eater tends to eat thousands of calories in a short amount of time, often mindlessly, and these binges have serious health implications. The urge to binge is often irrational – hypnosis helps us manage and get these urges under control.

Compulsive overeating, on the other hand, is similar. Compulsive overeaters are often overwhelmed with cravings – for sugar, dairy, or carbs, most commonly. And they feel a lack of control over their cravings, according to the National Centre for Eating Disorders. Hypnosis teaches us to recognize cravings, and reprograms the subconscious to be more supportive in helping to overcome urges to overeat.

Finally, some people call themselves sugar addicts or carb addicts. Their cravings are for a particular food, and they can’t seem to kick their cravings for these unhealthy options. Hypnosis for sugar addiction, for instance, can help us reframe how the subconscious views sugar, and in effect, that can help us to release our cravings.

Regardless of the type of addiction, many food addicts experience similar symptoms:

  • Eating quickly
  • Continuing to eat even when full
  • Eating even when not feeling hungry
  • Secretly eating
  • Feeling guilt or remorse for overeating
  • And feeling compelled or “driven” to eat

So what causes this unhealthy relationship with food? Overwhelmingly, the root causes of our food addictions lie in the subconscious mind. We’ve been conditioned to attach positive associations with certain types of food, or overeating or binging, for example, and these associations are rooted deep in the subconscious.

How Our Thoughts Reinforce Food Addictions

Overeating, binging or intense cravings aren’t the problem – the issue is the negative thinking patterns that drive us to make unhealthy eating choices.

Unfortunately, these associations are deeply ingrained. We’ve spent our lifetimes conditioning ourselves to eat unhealthily.

Parties, weddings, baking cookies with Grandma – we’ve learned that sugary snacks and fatty foods are our friends. Many of us use them to reward ourselves, cure boredom or anxiety, and some of us eat when we feel stressed.

And very often, our cravings are triggered involuntarily. We experience stress and BAM! We reach into the cabinet and eat without really considering why.

We often don’t even consider our subconscious minds – that area where research suggests 85-95 percent of brain activity lies. And this is the area of the brain where food addiction lives.

Our subconscious thoughts are automatic, and they’ve been reinforced by a lifetime of experience. For example, after a traumatic childhood event, we may have found comfort in food, learning that food helped to numb feelings of pain or shame. As you can see, we turn to food for comfort!

Positive events can also be tied to our cravings. Imagine this: , Someone may associate sweets with baking with grandma. In turn, sweets are associated with love and safety in their subconscious. That’s why so many of us turn to food in emotional situations or when we’re stressed – we want to be comforted!

The good news: The subconscious can be retrained. Hypnosis helps us retain the subconscious naturally and effectively. And it’s been shown to help with many conditions that are caused by unhealthy thinking patterns, like anxiety and stress.

Hypnosis can help us be hyper-aware of our cravings. We learn to recognize them. So often, they happen automatically, and without thought; however, when we learn to recognize them, we gain power over our cravings.

Additionally, we can use hypnosis to access the subconscious and provide this incredible repository of information with new, more helpful information. Think of it like pulling weeds in order to plant new, healthy seeds. For example, we might reframe how we think about junk food and encourage the subconscious to seek out and crave healthier options.

Hypnotherapy for Food Addiction: How It Can Help

By now, you have an idea of how hypnosis helps: It empowers us to be conscious of our cravings and reteaches the mind how to think about food. But how exactly does that work?

Here’s a look at some of the finer points of hypnosis for food addiction, and some of the many ways it can empower us to lead healthier lives.

  • Mindful Eating: Almost all food addictions share a similar symptom: We often overeat without thought. It’s become a compulsion, and something that we don’t think consciously about. With hypnosis for mindful eating, we can teach the mind to be more aware of our cravings, of how full we feel, and of the actual act of eating. Hypnosis for mindful eating allows us to recognize cravings and physical feelings of hunger, and to be thoughtful of eating. We gain power over food and our cravings.
  • Breaking Habitual Thoughts: All too often, habitual thinking becomes reactionary and negative. And often, our cravings or overeating is triggered by these thoughts. You might experience a stressful situation at work, and rather than taking a breath and saying everything will be OK, you start to think you’re underqualified, or the stress turns to anxiety. Without eliminating these spiraling thinking patterns, we can’t release our food addictions. Hypnosis empowers us to regain control of our thoughts, and turn our subconscious into a powerful ally.
  • Repairing Underlying Conditions: Food addiction can be perpetuated by any number of conditions: Depression, anxiety, a lack of self-love, to name a few. Hypnosis can empower us to manage and move past these conditions.
  • Restoring Confidence: A lack of self-confidence or love can prevent us from taking action. If we don’t have confidence in ourselves, or we don’t love ourselves, we may allow our bad habits to continue. Hypnotherapy is a powerful tool for gaining confidence and learning to love ourselves more. This is important for food addictions. When we love and believe in ourselves, we’re much more likely to face cravings and work toward making healthier lifestyle choices.

Self-Hypnosis for Releasing Bad Eating Habits: What You Will Do

People have a few options when it comes to hypnotherapy: One-on-one sessions with a hypnotherapist, listening to hypnosis recordings , and self-hypnosis. Self-hypnosis is one of the most convenient, because you can use it in the comfort of your own home or at the office.

It’s also highly recommended for food addictions. Check out this video to learn how to use self-hypnosis from Grace. As you can see, the process is simple. . Here’s are some points you may want to keep in mind:

  • Note Your Well-Being: How are you feeling? It’s helpful to assess how you feel, so you can reassess it at the end of the session.
  • Guided Breathing and Visualization: Deep breathing signals to the body and mind that it’s time to relax. Visualization is another method for initiating relaxation.
  • A Guided Countdown: You may choose to countdown from 10. This helps the mind enter into a state of hypnosis.
  • Positive Affirmations: Once you’re relaxed, you can speak directly to the subconscious. Offer it affirmations, positive suggestions designed to recondition the mind. For example, with food addiction, you might repeat something like: “I am free from overeating. I listen to my body to know when to eat. I choose to eat healthy foods in perfect portions. I avoid sugary foods. I feel healthier everyday. .”
  • Visualizing the Change: After you’ve given your subconscious positive suggestions, visualize how you will follow the healthier path. See yourself living with a healthy relationship to food. This reinforces the idea and enables it to take hold and sustain.

Aversion Therapy and Hypnotherapy: Reframing the Mind

Sweet, salty or fatty foods carry a number of side effects. Overindulgence is linked to obesity, diabetes, a lack of energy, and even depression. This leads to losses in productivity, a lowered sex drive, and anxiety, to name a few. But yet, we’re still compelled to eat these foods.

What if we could help the mind to stop craving unhealthy foods? What if when we saw a brownie or chocolate cake, the mind didn’t say I want to eat a lot of that?

Well, aversion hypnosis is one strategy that trained hypnotherapists offer that can help us to do just that. It’s not always necessary, but for food addiction, it’s often one of the most effective solutions.

Truth be told, we’re not big fans of aversion therapy for most topics (we’d much rather have our clients focus on what they want, like a slim healthy body, than on a negative version of what they don’t want, like a cake covered in ants), however, when it comes to food and sugar we find that aversion therapy can be so helpful in tipping the scales for clients that we had to include it here as a possible solution.

Aversion therapy allows us to create negative associations with something, while creating positive associations with the better option. A hypnotherapist may start by saying that food is life. Food is natural and that it comes from a nature.

Then, they might create a negative association for junk food (i.e. that it’s harmful to us, or even that it’s poison for our bodies).

Remember: The subconscious wants us to feel safe. So when we eat sugary, fatty snacks and those reward centers light up, the subconscious thinks it has done us a favor. But it hasn’t.

Why not it simple for the subconscious?Retrain the mind not to think of junk foods as a reward, or as a security blanket – but as a harmful and unhealthy option.

Does Hypnosis for Food Addictions Work? What the Research Says

Most of the research into hypnosis for food addiction or hypnosis for quitting sugar has been conducted around weight loss. And the research is crystal clear. Hypnosis has been shown to be a powerful tool for helping people lose weight.

In fact, one study found that, on average, people who used hypnosis lost 20 percent more than those who did not. Additional studies have found hypnosis for healthy eating contributes to longer-term results, as well.

Hypnosis Has Significant Impact on Weight Loss

In 1986, researchers explored how hypnosis could help 60 participants lose weight. Hypnosis was used to help participants with ego-strengthening, decision-making and motivation. The group that used hypnosis – they lost 30 times more on average – or 17 pounds to just 0.5 pounds. (Check out our blog on weight loss hypnosis to learn more!)

Hypnosis Subjects Lost More than 90 Percent of Others

A meta-analysis of weight loss hypnosis research examined 18 studies comparing cognitive behavioral therapy – i.e. relaxation training and guided imagery – vs. those same therapies complemented with hypnosis. The results: Hypnosis helped people lose more weight and keep the weight off. Hypnosis subjects lost more than 90 percent of the non-hypnosis group and kept it off for two years.

Long Term Weight Loss with Hypnosis

One study examined how hypnosis supplemented a behavioral weight-management program. In the study, 109 participants completed a behavioral program with or without hypnosis. After 9 weeks, both groups had lost significant weight. But at the 8-month and 2-year follow-ups, the hypnosis group continued to lose significant weight, and continued to maintain their weight goals.

Start Your Hypnosis Journey Today

Want to overcome your cravings and stop overeating? The Grace Space app, our most popular product, offers several ways for you to get started. It’s like having your own virtual hypnotherapist available to you at all times. Start with self-hypnosis now, or try a food addiction hypnosis recording. Of course, you can always schedule a private, one-on-one session, as well.

Can hypnotherapy cure binge-eating?

“You’re not a binge-eater, are you?” my colleague asked when I announced I was off to try hypnotherapy for binge-eating.

“Well, kind of, yeah,” I replied. “I find it hard to stop eating once I start and I think about food ALL the time!”

“Yeah, but so do I,” she said.

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In fact, most of my friends would admit they constantly think about food, especially the female ones. But does that mean it’s normal or healthy?

Given the fact that I am neither obese nor super thin, most people wouldn’t suspect I have any issues with food.

Whilst I’d never want to be someone who only eats to stay alive and sees food as fuel, I have for years wished thoughts about the food I consume didn’t so consume me too.

My weight fluctuates all the time – I’ll probably be three different dress sizes over the course of a year – because I can’t keep a stable relationship with food.

Once I start saying yes to chocolates as they go round the office, I’ll fall into a downwards spiral and my weight will balloon until I reach a point where something snaps. Then I tend to go on a mission to lose the weight again, but it’s not easy.

Having such an up and down relationship with food is not rare and there are various approaches for tackling it, one of which is hypnotherapy. I was keen to give it a try.

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Many people have claimed hypnotherapy has mended their broken relationships with food and cured them of eating disorders, but I for one was sceptical.

I headed off to see Bonita Rayner-Jones of Harley Street Hypnotherapy Associates. On the company website, they say: “Binge Eating Hypnotherapy will work on increasing self-esteem, eliminate ‘trigger’ times so when you are in situations where you may have binged in the past you find you don’t.

“We will also work with the ‘unconscious’ mind to remove any positive connection it has with binge eating, breaking this connection to allow you to feel in control and move forward in life.”

It all sounded great but I hadn’t a clue what it meant.

After arriving at a grand building home to various medical organisations and spending a few minutes in a waiting room full of women and just one man, I make my way up to Rayner-Jones’ office.

I sit down in an armchair across from Rayner-Jones who, with her sing-song voice and long blonde hair, somehow wasn’t what I was expecting.

My hypnotherapy session lasts about an hour and a half. For the first hour, we simply talk about me, which feels rather self-indulgent but enjoyable.

It’s all about reaching ‘psychological well-being’, Rayner-Jones tells me, which is where we have a clear state of mind, no addictive habits and good mental health. For some people this takes multiple sessions, for others one is enough.

Shape Created with Sketch. Six healthy breakfast recipes to try

Show all 6 left Created with Sketch. right Created with Sketch. You will need: 1 onion, 1 red pepper, 1 stick of celery, 1 cup of mushrooms, 4 to 6 eggs, 1 habanero chilli (optional), 1 tablespoon of oil, 25g of grated low-fat cheese, 150 ml of skimmed milk, 50g of turkey breast. Add some spinach for an extra boost.

Method:

1) Cook your turkey breast so that it’s ready to add to the mix later on. Best to grill it and then chop it up as it’s healthier than shallow frying. 2) Meanwhile, heat the oil and add your onion, pepper, chilli, mushrooms and celery to your pan. Cook these for around five minutes until your veg is nice and soft. 3) Whisk your eggs and milk together in a separate bowl, seasoning with salt and pepper. 4) Add the egg mixture, veg, cooked turkey and cheese to a high-sided baking pan or tin and cook in your oven for around 15 minutes at 170C. DW Fitness Clubs

2/6

Be careful when you buy your porridge, as some brands will cram a lot of sugar in there. Porridge is a good breakfast option as it is renowned for releasing energy slowly, which means you can get to lunch without suffering from a lull. A great source of fibre, potassium and vitamins, bananas are always a good accompaniment to your morning oats. DW Fitness Clubs

3/6

Ingredients: 2 full eggs, 3 egg whites, asparagus, peppers, 50g of smoked salmon

Method

1) Boil your asparagus in water for around five minutes. 2) Meanwhile, mix your eggs and egg whites in a jug, and add a splash of skimmed milk. Chop some peppers up and throw them in too. 3) Once your asparagus is cooked, drain it and chop into smaller chunks. Add these to your egg mixture. 4) Whisk your mixture and season with salt and pepper. 5) Pour the mix into a hot pan with a small knob of butter or a teaspoon of quality olive oil. 6) Cook the omelette for around 90 seconds to two minutes. 7) Once the bottom is cooked, take the pan off the hob and place under the grill for another 30 seconds to a minute in order to cook the top. 8) Serve with your smoked salmon. DW Fitness

4/6

Greek yoghurt has vast nutritional benefits. Regardless of where you stand on the superfood debate, Greek yoghurt’s credentials speak for themselves. A good source of potassium, protein, calcium and essential vitamins, this food forms an ideal base for a healthy breakfast, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. DW Fitness

5/6

Eggs Florentine is not only a tasty breakfast, it also carries a hefty nutritional punch, particularly when you throw some spinach into the equation. DW Fitness

6/6

So fast and easy to make, yet so effective. Wholemeal toast can be a good breakfast choice, as long as you are sensible with your toppings. Peanut butter is perfect. A good source of “healthy fats”, as well as protein and Vitamin E among other nutrients, a liberal spreading of peanut butter can set you up for the day. DW Fitness Eggs Florentine is not only a tasty breakfast, it also carries a hefty nutritional punch, particularly when you throw some spinach into the equation. DW Fitness So fast and easy to make, yet so effective. Wholemeal toast can be a good breakfast choice, as long as you are sensible with your toppings. Peanut butter is perfect. A good source of “healthy fats”, as well as protein and Vitamin E among other nutrients, a liberal spreading of peanut butter can set you up for the day. DW Fitness

80 per cent of clients that come to Rayner-Jones for binge-eating in particular are women, she tells me. I’m not surprised.

We talk about why I want to stop binge-eating, she asks questions that make me think and are hard to answer, and she leaves me to talk. There are silences that make me feel uncomfortable, which I then fill.

Rayner-Jones tells me she’s not a “positivity guru” but people do tend to leave feeling more positive. “It’s got to be a motivation for the self,” she says.

“When we’re grounded and our heads aren’t so clogged with the self, our minds become clearer and we feel more free in what we can do. That’s confidence.

“When we’re more settled in ourselves, we get a better feeling of what we actually fancy eating. Having a quiet, clear mind is what hypnosis originally came from. That’s where people make sense of life.”

And when we have a clear mind, we’re more susceptible to being guided to a goal, she explains.

I realise I definitely do not have a clear mind. My head feels cluttered, busy and constantly whirring at a million miles an hour. Could this be affecting my eating habits?

Rayner-Jones tells me we need to think about eating like we do about going to the toilet – we only go when we feel we need to, and sometimes that urge comes but actually it’s not convenient, so we don’t act on it.

And apparently that’s how we should eat too. But for me – and many people – the trouble is that eating is so damn enjoyable, unlike going to the loo.

We talk about my upbringing, my relationship with my mother (classic) and how my attitude to my body has changed over my life.

I tell Rayner-Jones that I consider myself to be a generally very happy person so don’t think I’m comfort-eating to cheer myself up.

She seems to imply this constant happiness isn’t real and that I should allow myself to feel grumpy, sad and angry. “Don’t worry about having to be positive all the time. LIfe isn’t always positive. It’s more about what’s real,” she says.

I explain how I don’t feel good when I try on clothes in shops because I don’t like how they look, and Rayner-Jones tells me that this is getting real with myself.

“You only ever live in the feeling of what flows through your mind – don’t be afraid of any experience you have,” she says. “Don’t be afraid of looking at a scale and seeing what the number says.

“Getting more real will be really helpful for you. It’s OK to see things as they are and not through rose-tinted spectacles. Healthy individuals function when they’re not afraid of any experience.”

She explains that I need to change my relationship to my thoughts. If I have negative thoughts, I need to stop worrying about them.

“Somebody’s going to feel good being slim if they have thoughts that being slim is good. Somebody’s going to feel good being a medium-weight if they have thoughts that being a medium-weight is good. And the same goes for being bigger.

“It’s a subjective thing. It’s not reality. It’s just a body that has more fat than another. Generally, people have fewer health problems around a medium-weight. The rest is just crap we’ve made up from culture and our upbringings.”

I agree with this perhaps more than anything Rayner-Jones has said so far.

Shape Created with Sketch. William Doan’s art tackling mental health

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10/13

“It’s about getting happy with looking like you. Dissatisfaction kicked in at some point for you and it’s become a permanent state.”

Brutal, but probably true.

And this is where we move on to the hypnosis part of my session.

Rayner-Jones passes me a foot-rest and a blanket to put over my lap. I put on some headphones, and close my eyes.

A soundtrack of calming music plays that both reminded me of being in a spa and of a sci-fi film. Over the top of that, Rayner-Jones speaks to me.

She’d told me that some people go into a deep trance, others just a light one. To be honest I don’t think I went into a trance at all. I felt weird and very conscious the whole time.

I definitely felt relaxed and a little woozy, but I was always aware – of the sound of the cars outside, of how I was sitting, of whether I should be perfectly still or move a bit. I wanted to open my eyes but I didn’t.

The hypnosis started with Rayner-Jones instructing me to make every part of my body – starting from the top and working down – feel heavy and relaxed. I was then told to imagine being somewhere relaxing, like I was floating, before a situation was created that saw me finding a stone inscripted with the word ‘confidence’.

Rayner-Jones then went on to talk about how I’d soon find I just didn’t want to overeat because it was almost too much effort.

Shape Created with Sketch. Extreme Diets: The Eating Habits of the The A-list

Show all 16 left Created with Sketch. right Created with Sketch. This golden oldie has been around since the 1930s and was a favourite among classic Hollywood stars, like Marilyn Monroe. It involves eating half a grapefruit before every meal and is based on the idea that grapefruits contain a fat-burning enzyme that boosts the metabolism. Rex

2/16 The Air Diet

Based on the French concept of breatharianism, the idea that air alone can keep our bodies active, the air diet involves sitting in front of food, placing a piece onto a fork, holding it up to your mouth… But not eating it. Instead, you are to subsist on water and salt soup only. Madonna is apparently a fan of pretend eating.

3/16 The ‘Liquids Only’ Master Cleanse Diet

She did look good in Dream Girls, didn’t she? But the lengths Beyoncé went to to achieve her svelte frame were a tad extreme. Instead of solid foods, she survived on liquids – famously a mixture of lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water – for 14 days. Apparently, this helps to detoxify the body (a process it actually does every day, naturally and unaided by weird diets) and stimulates tissue growth. The dieter is also encouraged to drink laxative tea twice a day. Glamorously. Reuters

4/16 The Ice Diet

Renee Zellweger apparently fills up on ice to stop her piling on the pounds from non-water based foods. Which is, of course, totally ridiculous. Getty

5/16 The Watercress Soup Diet

Liz Hurley once revealed that she regularly subsists on a six-cup-a-day diet of watercress soup when she wants to lose weight for a role. The low-calorie leafy green is also a diuretic, helping to combat water retention. It’s also a completely mental thing to do. Getty

6/16 Placenta Pill Diet

When January Jones gave birth to her son Xander, she had her placenta dried and crushed and stuffed into pills, that she then took as a supplement to lose weight. No idea if it worked or not, but it successfully made us feel queasy reading about it. Getty

7/16 The Victoria’s Secret Angel Diet

If you’re crazy – and, you know, called Adriana Lima or something – then this diet, usually undertaken nine days before a runway show, is for you. It involves omitting all solid foods entirely and subsisting only on protein shakes, supplements and vitamins. You also have to work out twice a day, consult a nutritionist, and, 12 hours before a show, stop drinking liquids entirely to drain the excess fluids from your body and dehydrate as much as possible. Getty

8/16 The Five Hands Diet

Victoria Beckham apparently adopted the Five Hands Diet technique after she gave birth to baby Harper. That means eating only five handfuls of high energy and protein foods a day. So, nuts then. Getty

9/16 The Baby Food Diet

Yep. No real food. Just baby food. And 14 jars of the pap a day at that. Jennifer Aniston loves it. Allegedly. As (also allegedly) does Reese Witherspoon. BANG

10/16 The Drunk Diet

This was invented by Lady Gaga, who once eschewed her evening meals for a swig of whiskey – but adhered to a strict exercise plan, even when hung over. Getty

11/16 The Apple Cider Vinegar Diet

Drinking apple cider before every meal seems like a terrible idea. But Megan Fox does it as a metabolism booster, which helps to rid the body of excess water weight and burn calories faster. Apparently. Getty

12/16 The Hard Boiled Eggs Diet

Nicole Kidman was asked to shed as much weight as possible for her role in Cold Mountain, so she went on the Hard Boiled Eggs diet: That’s an egg for breakfast, and two or three for dinner. And that’s it.

13/16 The Seven-Day Colour Diet

This diet, apparently beloved by Christina Aguilera, at least has some nutritional merit. In order to get the correct balance of nutrients, eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables across the colour spectrum is a wise idea. But the Seven-Day Colour Diet says you should only eat one colour of food per day of the week. Monday = white food. Tuesday = red food. Wednesday = green food and so forth. Bonkers. Getty

14/16 The Cabbage Soup Diet

Does what it says on the tin. You can apparently consume unlimited supplies of cabbage soup (lucky you), as well as some low calorie fruit and vegetables. Sarah Michelle Gellar is apparently an advocate. Getty Images

15/16 The Grapefruit Oil Diet

Not to be confused with The Grapefruit Diet, this involves sniffing grapefruit oil in the vain hope that the aroma alone might trigger liver enzymes into calorie-burning, detoxifying gear. Jennifer Lopez is rumoured to partake in this lunacy. Getty

16/16 The Macrobiotic Diet

Gwyneth Paltrow’s love of all things Macrobiotic is well documented. It involves a strict, mostly vegetarian plan with grains as the staple food, avoiding highly processed or refined foods and most animal products. She also has a 21-day GOOP cleanse, that involves eating just one meal a day and chewing each mouthful at least 13 times. Getty Renee Zellweger apparently fills up on ice to stop her piling on the pounds from non-water based foods. Which is, of course, totally ridiculous. Getty Yep. No real food. Just baby food. And 14 jars of the pap a day at that. Jennifer Aniston loves it. Allegedly. As (also allegedly) does Reese Witherspoon. BANG This was invented by Lady Gaga, who once eschewed her evening meals for a swig of whiskey – but adhered to a strict exercise plan, even when hung over. Getty Gwyneth Paltrow’s love of all things Macrobiotic is well documented. It involves a strict, mostly vegetarian plan with grains as the staple food, avoiding highly processed or refined foods and most animal products. She also has a 21-day GOOP cleanse, that involves eating just one meal a day and chewing each mouthful at least 13 times. Getty

But my mind drifted and I found myself thinking about what I wanted for lunch afterwards.

I’m not sure if it was obvious that I hadn’t fully relaxed and gone into a trance, but Rayner-Jones gave me a recording of the hypnosis and instructed me to listen to it every day for a week.

For the rest of the day and a few days afterwards, I did make better food choices. But before long I’d slipped back into my old ways.

This may be partially because I didn’t actually find time to listen to the recording every day for a week and it was harder to relax at home – on one occasion my flatmate started building shelves in the room next to mine, which really was not conducive to being hypnotised.

So unfortunately my eating habits haven’t really changed as a result of my hypnotherapy, but I certainly came out of my session with a briefly improved mindset.

I imagine that for someone as wrapped up in her own head as I am, it would take rather a lot of hypnotherapy to make a real difference, but if someone was really open to the prospect, it might just work.

Until that day, don’t pass the biscuits. (But really do.

Stop Binge Eating

When you experience the symptoms of binge eating you can often feel helpless and unable to believe that you will ever be able to control your eating habits. Using this app you will help you to resolve the underlying cause of your binge eating and change your eating habits so that you feel good about yourself.

Listening to these powerful hypnosis sessions will help you to stop binge eating and feel more in control around food. As your urge to binge eat reduces you will good about yourself and your self-confidence and belief in yourself will grow. Imagine how good you are going to feel in just a few short weeks.

As you listen to your hypnosis sessions you will find that you gain more self-control and you begin to make healthier food choices. Taking back control over your relationship with food and making healthier food choices is hugely empowering. You will soon be on the road to becoming a slimmer, fitter, happier person with a much healthier relationship with food.

Everyone who purchases this ‘Binge Eating’ app can join our free ’12 Weeks to Wow’ app support group on Facebook. Come and join in with like-minded, positive people who will support you and celebrate your successes with you. Plus of course, you will be able to offer others your support too. It’s a closed group so only other group members can see and comment on your posts.

You’ve tried dieting, along with every form of exercise that even remotely breaks a sweat, but still can’t ditch the weight. You’ve hired trainers, doctors, nutritionists. But there may be another professional you’re overlooking—one who holds the key to keeping your weaknesses from winning: a hypnotist.

You’re probably skeptical. That’s because Hollywood has given us a very specific, and very inaccurate, portrait of what a hypnotist does and is capable of doing. “You won’t turn into a zombie or cluck like a chicken,” says Valorie Wells, Ph.D., a clinical hypnosis practitioner in Kansas City, MO. “Hypnotherapy is really just you telling yourself how you want you to be, whether it’s to sleep better, to lose weight, to drive on a highway at full speed between two trucks.”

And while research is scarce, what we do have says hypnosis works surprisingly well. Early studies found that people who used hypnosis lost more than twice as much weight as those who dieted without the therapy. A study in International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis found women who underwent hypnobehavioral therapy lost weight, improved their eating habits, and improved their body image. Meanwhile, a meta-analysis by British researchers found hypnosis can actually help regulate the release of peptides that control how hungry and full you feel.

Who Should Try It?

Emotional and unconscious eaters are prime candidates for hypnotherapy—the therapeutic use of clinical hypnosis. “By the time a patient comes to me, they’ve usually tried every weight-loss plan on the planet,” says Wells. “They know what they should and shouldn’t eat. They just don’t have the willpower to follow it.”

This is key, because the heart of why hypnosis works is because it teaches you to have more willpower. “People who see me for weight loss, food has taken the wrong place in their mind,” Wells explains. The goal of hypnotherapy is to rewrite this association. “We want to re-integrate the idea that food is fuel.” (Speed up your progress towards your weight-loss goals with Women’s Health’s Look Better Naked DVD.)

How It Works

No, there’s no watch-waving, no “You are getting very sleepy.” Wells explains that her typical session looks like this: The patient and hypnotherapist have a conversation about what the patient’s goals are, what their triggers are, what food plans do and don’t work for them, and what their body type is. “The suggestions I then make under hypnosis will cater to this,” Wells explains.

Wells adds that nothing she does is scripted and, other than the message that food is fuel, the hypnotic suggestions are customized based on this initial conversation.

After the chat, you move into the hypnosis session, which lasts about 20 to 25 minutes. “What I’m doing is helping this person balance the voices in their head,” Wells explains.

We all have a healthy subconscious—the gut reaction that keeps you out of danger or guides good decisions. “That inner voice is the one that keeps us from acting solely on emotion. During hypnosis, all I’m doing is turning the volume up on that inner wisdom and down on the emotional part,” she explains.

What does that actually sound like? Wells says an example of a hypnotic suggestion might be: “You will reach for fresh fruit. You will recognize sweets are too heavy for you and that fresh fruit will make you feel satisfied and nourished.”

Hypnosis isn’t teaching you to never have cravings, but it’s training your brain to hear, “Man, I’d love something sweet,” and follow with, “No, I probably don’t really want that.” “It’s about recognizing that while we feel like doing something, we don’t have to act that out,” she adds.

Related: ‘The Advice My Trainer Gave Me That Helped Me Lose 80 Pounds In One Year’

No, You’re Not Totally Zonked Out

“Someone under hypnosis can hear everything; they’re still in full control,” Wells assured. It’s kind of like when you fall asleep with the TV on—you’re vaguely aware of a hum but not actually tuned in to the dialogue.

And if you’re worried about a nefarious hypnotist training your brain to do weird things, keep in mind your subconscious never turns off. “If a hypnotist were to inadvertently give a suggestion against your moral fiber, your subconscious would bring you out of hypnosis. It’s just like how you can pick out a real, alarming scream among a chorus of kids squealing. Your subconscious overrides the blur of the background,” Wells adds.

Check out some of the weirdest weight-loss trends through history:

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How Long Does It Take?

Most hypnotists will want you to come in for about half a dozen sessions total, but you should start to see changes in your automatic thinking after just two. Wells says if her patients don’t see improvement after three sessions, she re-evaluates with them because their issue is probably one hypnosis isn’t going to resolve. If your food issues actually stem from, say, a childhood phobia, hypnosis is the wrong tool to remove that roadblock.

Related: 5 Morning Habits That Are Making You Gain Weight

Why It Doesn’t Work For Everyone

A study out of Stanford found that one-quarter of people can’t be hypnotized because of how their brains are wired. And if you don’t truly want to lose weight—if you’re, say, just considering this avenue because your doctor suggested it—hypnosis isn’t going to work either, Wells says.

Other folks who hypnotherapy might not be right for: anyone with a mental health disorder that is based on a brain-pattern change, like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. “Going into deep hypnosis can actually trigger a cycle, so I wouldn’t treat someone with this kind of disorder without approval from their psychiatrist first,” Well says.

Related: ‘The One Change I Made To Bust Through My Plateau And Lose 94 Pounds’

How To Find a Hypnotherapist

Because hypnotherapy doesn’t require a license, anyone who can wave a watch can claim to be a hypnotist, Wells points out. Find a local practitioner through a reliable database, like the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis or the National Guild of Hypnotists. Can’t find someone in your area? A lot of hypnotists, including Wells, can conduct sessions over the phone.

Try It At Home

If you can’t afford hypnotherapy, or just aren’t comfortable working with a hypnotherapist, you can perform hypnotherapy on your own. “On a scale of one to 10 effectiveness, with guided hypnosis being a 10, self-hypnosis is probably a three,” Wells says. “It’s like taking a vacation when you’re the driver as opposed to the passenger. You still got a break but you don’t come home quite as relaxed.”

Still, it’s better than not taking a vacation at all. And we actually self-hypnotize all the time without realizing it—we just call it “zoning out” or being “in the zone,” she points out. Put purpose behind it, though, and you may be able to break bad habits.

Here’s how to do it: Look at your bad habits and write out two to three affirmations for each, she advises. Your statements should be positive, actionable, and walk through the specific habits that need to change.

If you’re trying to lose weight through better sleep, write something like, “I will have my teeth brushed and be in bed by 10 p.m. I will choose not to watch TV to fall asleep. I will enjoy the comfort of nestling into my pillow as my eyelids grow heavy. I will rest soundly.” If you want to eat more veggies, write something like, “I will eat a vegetable with every meal. I will enjoy their bright colors, flavors, and how they make me feel.”

Then, pull up a calming soundscape (Wells recommends the background from a meditation app like Calm). “So many of us are used to multimedia nowadays, music can help get you in the zone,” she adds. Open a voice recorder on your phone and read your affirmations aloud.

Once you have your audio recording ready to go, listen to it every day in the morning and and at night when you’re getting ready for bed. “These times are ideal because you’re typically on autopilot, so your mind isn’t otherwise engaged,” Wells says. The recording should just be background noise—you don’t have to be actively listening since your mind will play along subconsciously.

After a week or two, the statements you’ve been listening to will start to change the chatter in your head and ideally help you make healthier decisions with less of a conscious struggle, Wells says. On to the next recording!

Rachael Schultz Rachael Schultz is a freelance writer who focuses primarily on why our bodies and brains work the way they do, and how we can optimize both (without losing our sanity).

Hypnosis and weight loss

Looking for other weight loss options? See our fitness tracker reviews and our guides to gym memberships, personal trainers and home gyms.

Fake it ’til you make it

Gastric band hypnotherapy works by putting the client under hypnosis, and with the use of suggestions and sometimes a soundtrack of hospital noises, suggests to the person that they’ve undertaken an actual lap banding procedure. This is designed to help them manage portion control in the conscious state.

According to many of the experts we spoke to, while hypnosis for weight loss is nothing new, the virtual gastric band approach is growing in popularity with some hypnotherapists charging more than $1000 for weekend group sessions.

So what’s it all about? Does it work? And if you’re interested in trying hypnotherapy how you do navigate a largely unregulated industry without getting ripped off?

In this article:

  • What is hypnosis?
  • Can hyonosis really help with weight loss?
  • The multi-pronged approach
  • Choosing a good hypnotherapist
  • Case study: Sally’s hypnotherapy experience

What is hypnosis?

Hypnosis is the process of going into a state of deep relaxation (almost like a trance) and being given suggestions while in that state. There’s nothing new about it, in fact there’s evidence many cultures have used similar techniques for thousands of years.

These days it’s usually called hypnotherapy and is used to treat conditions including anxiety, phobias, panic attacks, addiction, sleep problems and weight problems by changing ways of thinking and behaviour.

Despite some perceptions (not helped by trashy TV shows) the person being hypnotised is completely in control. Hypnosis can’t make people do things against their will nor can it force them into a hypnotic state if they aren’t agreeable to it. It’s a voluntary state.

Can hypnosis really help with weight loss?

According to Mailin Colman, president of the Australian Hypnotherapists Association (AHA), hypnosis can work well for clients seeking help with weight loss, however, she points out that the virtual lap banding option isn’t suitable for everyone.

“(Virtual lap banding) has been around for a few years and can work well on some people, but weight loss is complex and people’s motivations and triggers for eating or overeating can be very different. That’s where a good hypnotherapist will work with the client to work out where their issues lie.”

Lyndall Briggs, President of the Australian Society of Clinical Hypnotherapists (ASCH), says she has also had good success over the years with hypnosis for weight loss with her clients, but concurs that the one size fits all treatment is not a good one. “Different approaches work for different clients,” she says. (See Sally’s story below.)

Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) spokesperson Professor Clare Collins says there is surprisingly little research into hypnosis and weight loss, which she attributes to “a disconnect between the science and the practice”. She says studies in the past have had mixed results, and that they’re hard to do because you can’t blind-test subjects.

She adds that a comprehensive review produced by Liverpool John Moores University in 2014 examined previous studies and the results. What the review found overall was that some people will benefit from hypnosis for weight loss when it’s used in conjunction with traditional weight management strategies and is used on a continuing basis (not just a one-off session). However, the review found that hypnosis was not effective on all people, and only worked well on those who were considered hypnosis-friendly and open to suggestion.

Collins says for those who do respond well, hypnosis can deal with negative self talk and shortcut self sabotage when it comes to diet, and it can help people who are overweight as a symptom of a past trauma.

Before we all rush off to make an appointment, though, Collins stresses that hypnosis alone is never going to be enough. “There may be other cognitive behavioural treatments that are more suitable for the individual (than hypnosis), and then there’s the same old advice; knowing what is healthy eating, changing food habits and exercise. You can’t just pin your hopes on hypnotism.”

A multi-pronged approach is best

According to Collins, the best approach to weight loss and the equally important challenge of keeping the weight off long-term requires a number of different therapies, practices and professionals being used collectively.

She says many people looking to lose weight tend to bypass a full assessment by a dietitian, which is an important first step, and head straight for what looks like a quick-fix solution.

“Weight loss is so complex, but so is maintaining weight loss, and you need to approach the whole thing from different aspects to make it successful. There is diet and exercise but there are also the psychological aspects that are important. Working out what the triggers and motivations are for being overweight are equally important,” she says.

Collins adds that seeking out counselling with a psychologist who can incorporate practices such as relaxation, mindfulness and hypnosis, can all be part of the solution. “Even for patients who decide to have real lap band surgery – there is often a waiting list – so while they wait, I always suggest trying out these other options as they may help to ensure success.”

Keen to give it a try?

In an industry that’s largely unregulated, where anyone can set up shop calling themselves a hypnotherapist, it’s important to know what to look for before you make an appointment.

Here are some tips from the experts:

  • Check the hypnotherapist is a member of an association. The two largest are the Australian Hypnotherapy Association and the Australian Society of Clinical Hypnotherapists, both require members to undergo supervision, regular training and have minimum requirements of training and on the job experience.
  • The above associations also accredit members according to their experience and studies. For example the ASCH professional members are practicing as medical professionals, psychologists, dentists, chiropractors or are theologically trained as well as being trained in hypnotherapy. The AHA registers members at a number of levels including student, professional or clinical. Clinical members have completed a minimum of 500 hours of time with clients.
  • Check that your practitioner has a first aid qualification, has completed a police check and has public indemnity insurance.
  • Many of the private training facilities where hypnotherapists study are government accredited – you can check the details at training.gov.au.
  • Look for a hypnotherapist with other skills – many have studied and worked as counsellors. Some are registered psychologists who use hypnotherapy among other techniques.
  • Search the registers – the AHA and the ASCH list hypnotherapists by state and you should be able to check their individual qualifications from there. If you have any doubts call the therapist in question and ask about their training and experience.
  • Some health funds will offer rebates for hypnotherapy for certain therapists, so be sure to check if you’re eligible before you book.
  • Arrange to see or speak to the hypnotherapist by phone before making an appointment for a paid consultation. This allows you to double-check qualifications as well as getting a sense of the therapist themselves to see if you’re well matched personality wise.
  • Be price aware – while there is no formal schedule of fees adhered to by practitioners, the ballpark figure is $100–250 per session. Colman says she believes anything over $250 a session is too high and should be a red flag to potential clients.
  • How many sessions? This can be like asking how long a piece of string is, as the answer is dependent on what you’re being treated for. However, our experts say if you don’t feel any rapport with your therapist on the first session it’s time to look for someone else. When it comes to seeing results, Colman says by three sessions the client should be making headway.

Case Study: One size does not fit all

Sally* from Queensland says she was attracted to the concept of of virtual gastric banding as it seemed like a less ‘drastic’ option than genuine gastric banding.

She says she has been struggling with her weight and weight gain for some time and was considering the option of gastric lap band surgery. While she was researching she says she came across sites offering the hypnosis version instead and decided to give it a try.

Sally says she contacted a hypnotherapist in her local area who said he did virtual gastric banding and made an appointment. However, she says she didn’t have any idea about what to look for in terms of qualifications when choosing a practitioner and didn’t check before her first session.

For a $200 fee she says the hypnotherapist sat her in a comfortable chair with a blanket and started the process of putting her under, speaking over a soundtrack playing the beeps and noises of an operating theatre.

Sally, who is a nurse, found it almost impossible to get into a relaxed state as the hospital soundtrack wasn’t quite right. “I kept lying there thinking that’s not the right noise or the right machine, it was very hard to get into a relaxed state.”

She also said that the therapist seemed to be reading from a script, which felt very generic. She was also surprised he didn’t talk to her before the hypnosis about her personal situation. “At no point did he ask me anything about myself, my weight loss issues, my job. He really asked nothing at all.”

At the end of her session Sally was given a CD of a follow up soundtrack to listen to at home and was told to come back for more sessions. She says she chose not to as “essentially I felt no different and didn’t feel like it had helped me at all”.

For $200 she says she’s disappointed that the therapist didn’t display any ability to tailor his approach to suit her specific needs. “When the gastric banding approach wasn’t working he should have tried something else with me… it just felt very one size fits all.”

*name changed by request

Sam, an administrator, 46, lives in Manchester with her children Georgina, 19, and Bobby, six. She says:

During all the years I spent on a diet, trying everything from Atkins and Weight Watchers to living on vats of cabbage soup, I never imagined that a 10-minute hypnosis recording could be the key to a slimmer and happier me.

I was a chubby child even though the rest of my family were always slim and healthy. Then when I gave up gymnastics at the age of 13 the weight really started to pile on.

I loved sugary snacks and could polish off a packet of biscuits in one sitting. My main problem was the fact I ate all the time. While I usually cooked healthy meals, I snacked on endless rubbish in between.

When I was younger my mum had a rule that we were only allowed three biscuits and I used to sneak more. I was always naughty where food was concerned and this habit followed me into adulthood when I would secretly snack.

By my mid-20s I was a size 20 and tipped the scales at 16st, seriously overweight for my 5ft 3in frame. I was heavier than my now ex-husband Lee which really depressed me.

Photo: Getty Images

I could fill an entire book listing, in chronological order, my failed attempts at weight loss. Instead, I’ll just offer some highlights: Seven halfhearted rounds of Weight Watchers; two days each of every crash diet you can think of; two juice cleanses; training for and running three half-marathons; and diet pills that were basically prescription meth and made me such a raging lunatic my now-husband threatened to call off our wedding if I didn’t stop taking them.

Sure, I’d lose three pounds here and seven there — except for those diet pills; I looked damn good on those — but I always ended up where I started, or heavier. Slowly, those extra 15 pounds I’d never been able to shake turned into an extra 20, then an extra 25.

Friends, family, and even some doctors had told me to stop worrying and accept my body the way it was. And maybe I didn’t need to lose it — not everyone needs to lose weight. But my issues went beyond the scale. It was clear I had a complicated, if not clichéd, relationship with food.

Growing up, my family was on food stamps and I was a free-lunch kid, so whenever I was around good food I made sure to eat as much as I possibly could. And it only took a few therapy sessions in college to admit that I didn’t ever really feel love from my mother, so I ate until I didn’t feel anything but full.

After more than ten years of working in the industry, I started to wonder if I had become a food writer and stylist to camouflage, or at least lean into, a food addiction. So, at 15 pounds over my oh-shit weight, I started attending Overeaters Anonymous meetings. Based on AA, the program has helped lots of people lose impressive amounts of weight. To my surprise, I was able to get past the religious aspect, and even the hand-holding and chanting. What I couldn’t get over was the overarching theme of coming out of the program “a different person” than the one who first walked through the door.

“But I don’t want to be a different person,” I’d tell my sponsor. “I just want to be a version of me who doesn’t eat an entire jar of peanut butter in two days.”

Pregnancy was a great way for me to slip out of OA. I knew that if I tried to stick to any sort of regimented diet or eating plan while growing an entire human inside me, I’d fail and feel even worse. So I tacked on another 40 pounds throughout my pregnancy — not an insane number, but I’d hoped to gain no more than 25, the recommendation for overweight women.

And, I quickly learned I’m one of those unlucky mothers who doesn’t lose weight nursing. Eight months postpartum, and weighing 209 pounds (my heaviest non-pregnant weight ever), I was feeling down and desperate. I didn’t even want to be skinny-skinny — my happy weight still has me firmly in the “overweight” category on the BMI scale. I just wanted to fit back into my size 10 jeans without a muffin top.

Getting there, I knew, would take a major mental shift.

My brief stint in OA made me realize I’d already accepted (if not overcome) the emotional issues of my youth. I was a genuinely happy adult, doing a pretty damn good job of being alive. There was just this one area where I needed help.

I needed to be able to tell myself to put down the family-size bag of Cheddar and Sour Cream Ruffles, to put the lid back on the peanut-butter jar after two tablespoons, to not eat cupcakes I’d been photographing when I don’t even like sweets. And then I needed to listen to myself. I needed to change my eating behavior, not my entire emotional state. I needed to break a 34-year-old bad habit.

I’d flirted with the idea of hypnosis before, but repeatedly dismissed it because I just didn’t believe it was legit. Wasn’t it for the same people who were convinced some guy on TV could help them talk to their dead relatives? But desperately wanting something — anything — to work, I read a few articles on mind control and started to feel hopeful. After all, it was my mind, and its penchant for nut butters, that needed controlling.

I found a hypnotist near me — with a Ph.D. in psychology! — whose website suggested I could lose 25 to 30 pounds by having six sessions over eight to ten weeks. I emailed her, sharing my skepticism and desperation, and we decided I’d schedule one session, “just to see if it’s for me.”

A week later, as I settled into her Eames-knockoff lounge chair, I explained that, for the most part, I had my shit together in all other areas of my life, but I had no power over food. I’d gotten to the point where I stopped believing I could actually lose the weight — at least without my magic meth pills.

We talked about nutrition, and metabolism, and that in the weight-loss world, there are three categories of body types: endomorph, ectomorph, and mesomorph. She explained that my particular type, endomorph, just can’t burn through carbs like other bodies can. Having someone look at my body, describe my type, and pretty much tell me that pizza is my enemy — it felt like a welcome diagnosis. After all, I’d once badgered a doctor into testing me for celiac disease hoping a positive result would force me to adopt a gluten-free lifestyle.

Together, we decided that along with portion control and not eating out of boredom (or sadness, or joy, or anxiety, or exhaustion, or stress), my hypnotherapy would center around my eating the right foods for my body — a high-protein, low-carb diet — when I’m hungry. She said we’d work to “put food in its place”; food I was styling or photographing was not food to eat. Work was work, and meals were meals.

Before “putting me under,” she explained that hypnosis is about accessing subconscious parts of the brain while the conscious mind rests. I didn’t think my conscious mind was capable of resting, but I closed my eyes, anyway, and focused on her meditative music. She counted backward from 10, and told me to imagine warm, golden massage oil running over my head, down my back, and then all over my body. It sounds like the hook for a bad R&B song, but it worked and I immediately felt my muscles start to melt into the chair. Next, she told me to picture myself writing numbers on a chalkboard, beginning with 99, then erasing it, and writing 97, then 95, then 93 …

I have vague recollections of her talking about compartments of my brain. There were stairs, and duct tape, and doors, and an affirmation that I knew exactly what I should (and should not) be eating. She took me to my happy place, a cold lake in the mountains. More than once, I lost count of my numbers. I was definitely still aware of my conscious thoughts, but they were deeply relaxed, almost as if I’d just smoked really good weed. If I’d wanted to, I could have snapped out of it at any moment, but I had no desire to. I can’t remember ever feeling so chill (and I get a lot of full-body massages).

After “waking” me, she laughed at my original skepticism. Apparently, I appeared more relaxed than any of her patients had ever been in a first session (I posited it was new-mom sleep deprivation). Still, she warned me I likely wasn’t fully hypnotized yet — it could take a few more sessions — and to not feel bad if I couldn’t follow my eating plan right away.

That night I ate chicken breast and sautéed vegetables for dinner and was perfectly content. It felt a little like the familiar mania of starting yet another new diet, but somehow also calmer. I ate the right stuff the next day, and the day after that. I could hardly believe it when I made it past the three-day mark without a Taco Bell detour. By my next session, I’d stuck to my plan for an entire week and lost three pounds.

A month and three appointments in, I was ten pounds down and felt good about my progress, so we switched to maintenance sessions. They’re a little shorter and cheaper than regular ones. But we still talk first — about how I’ve eaten, how much weight I’ve lost, what I’d like to accomplish next. She even throws in little bonus categories (this week, I asked her to encourage me to curb my online shopping). As always, she starts her counting, and I get the imaginary, not-at-all-kinky massage oil and sink into the chair.

I don’t know if continuing my sessions is doing me any good at this point — I don’t feel a burst of enthusiasm for nutrition when I leave her office or anything like that — but I do know that I now have control over food. I eat when I’m hungry, and, most of the time, I stop when I’m full. (And I haven’t bought anything online since my last session.)

Maybe it was the hypnosis, or maybe it was the newfound knowledge about my body type (I tend to think it’s a combination of the two), but after ten weeks and five sessions, I’ve lost 21 pounds. I still have nearly 30 to go, and I know my weight loss has to slow down at some point, but for the first time I can remember, I truly believe I will reach my goal. And I’m sticking to my eating plan.

Sure, I have a cheat here and there (four of my husband’s fries, one bite of his ice cream), but it’s almost always a conscious decision, and it doesn’t derail my entire diet. In fact, it doesn’t even derail my day. I’m able to get right back on track — something I’d never been able to do before.

◉ Learn to enjoy healthy food and exercise after listening daily for just 1–3 weeks
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◎ Continue listening to background sounds after the session ends
◎ Works with Apple Watch! Pause, resume and adjust overall volume from your wrist via the Now Playing glance
◎ For devices running iOS 10 and above, you can optionally track your listening time as Mindful Minutes in Apple’s Health app. Once you have purchased the in-app upgrade, the next time you start a session you’ll see a prompt to allow the app to sync your listening time with Apple Health. Just enable the Mindful Minutes setting and tap Allow. To change the setting later, open the Settings app and locate this app in Privacy > Health, where you can enable or disable Mindful Minutes synchronization.
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Weight loss Hypnosis – does it really work? A tale of 3 clients…

I see results like this all the time from my clients, both male and female. Increased energy, strong willpower, better sleep and looser waist bands. Client one is now finding it easy, and the weight loss will hopefully allow her to postpone back surgery – one of her main motivators for losing weight.

Client 2

On the flip side, another weight loss client has seen great improvements in her anxiety and confidence. She’s appreciated having someone to talk through issues with, and she likes the Hypnosis. But she hasn’t really lost much weight (if any) and doesn’t have energy to exercise consistently. I suspected this beautiful lady had Sleep Apnea (something I often notice while people are Hypnotised). After a sleep test she was finally been diagnosed with Sleep Apnea, along with some other potentially serious health issues. Her sleep will be dramatically improving soon. I expect the weight loss benefits of the Hypnosis to take effect once her health issues have been treated.

Client 3

A client came to me wanting a Hypnotic Gastric Band. I never do this on a first appointment, because to be honest, there’s usually other issues that need dealing with first, like emotional eating, stress, late night nibbling etc. After seeing some good results from the first appointment, I performed the Gastric Band in the second appointment. The client came back a month later, not having lost much weight, though they were eating smaller portions and feeling very positive.

As the client had gotten to know me, they were now more comfortable opening up about their life, and they revealed that if they woke up in the night (which happened often) they would eat a bowl of ice-cream before falling asleep again. I don’t think she even realised she was doing this some nights until she discovered the empty ice-cream container the next day.

Ice-cream is a ‘slippery food’ as anyone with a physical Gastric Band would know. It can slip right through a physical band and in this case it could also slip right through a Hypnotic Gastric Band. Once we broke the night time ice-cream habit, the weight just melted away effortlessly!

Client 1 had an outcome that I see regularly. Clients 2 and 3 are (extreme) examples of how Hypnosis can’t overcome your basic human needs. If you are constantly sleep deprived or unwell, or sleep eating, or drinking a bottle of wine a night then trying to get up early to exercise or to cut calories can be really difficult, and often counterproductive.

Less extreme examples of this are people who come to me wanting to ‘get up at 6am and go running’, but who are already stressed and sleep deprived. Yes, I can get them running, but first I’m going to get them sleeping better and feeling calmer about life. Otherwise the running just becomes another drain on their already low energy.

I am always honest about what Hypnosis can achieve and I take a holistic approach to your wellbeing. Putting a sick or exhausted body under more stress by trying to lose weight, usually fails. I always talk about sleep and stress with weight loss clients, and I keep an eye out for any potential health issues that could sabotage your progress.

Clients with health issues can still make amazing progress, it just might take a different path than the one that you expect! If you have any questions please contact me. I’m always happy to chat!

Weight loss through hypnosis

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