When you think of hypnosis, you might picture those stage shows where a hypnotist somehow encourages volunteers to do crazy things such as cluck like a chicken. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that hypnosis and other mind-body techniques can be surprisingly effective aids for people on their weight-loss journey. Why? These techniques help rewire old thought patterns that make us overeat. In fact, experts say the reason most weight-loss plans fail is that they involve fighting the brain programming that drives us toward foods that packed on the pounds in the first place. And that fight becomes so hard, we eventually revert to self-defeating eating habits. To the rescue: hypnosis for weight loss!
Intrigued and inspired, we sought out real-world experts on the subject: therapists using hypnosis, doctors who have witnessed the power of mind-body techniques and real women who have lost major weight using hypnosis. Keep reading to learn how hypnosis and other mind-body techniques pave the way for easy weight loss.
What is hypnosis?
Hypnosis is a way for people to enter a state of relaxed consciousness. Scientists describe it as “a waking state of awareness, (or consciousness), in which a person’s attention is detached from his or her immediate environment and is absorbed by inner experiences such as feelings, cognition and imagery.” It is in this hypnotic state, sometimes called a trance, that people are more open to suggestion to modify their behavior. “Hypnosis in itself is not a therapy, but it can be a tool that facilitates the delivery of therapy in the same way as a syringe delivers drugs,” writes Ann Williamson, MBChB, in the journal Palliative Care.
Hypnotherapist Rena Greenberg, a health and weight-loss expert in Bradenton, Florida, who transformed her health and overcame sugar addiction with hypnosis, shares, “I could not have made the changes I needed to make with my conscious mind alone. For permanent change, I had to learn how to harness the deeper power in my subconscious to achieve optimal mind-body health.”
Hypnotherapy can be performed by a hypnotherapist, who guides you into this relaxed state, or you can do it yourself via self-hypnosis (more on that below).
Hypnosis retrains the brain
If you’ve ever tried to white-knuckle your way through a strict diet, you know willpower alone isn’t the answer. It can feel as though some invisible force is keeping weight loss out of reach. Indeed, research in the field of neuroscience has proven that the comfort-food combination of salt, sugar and fat fires up pleasure centers in the brain, making it all but impossible not to cave into temptation. “Brain cells that fire together wire together, which means our food habits form pathways that are like traffic patterns on a carpet — we follow them even when they’re not in our best interests,” explains Greenberg, who developed a program she calls “Gastric Bypass Hypnosis” that has helped thousands of people lose weight.
But exciting research proves the same neural pathways that lead to cravings can be retrained to resist them. And doctors, faith leaders and mind-body experts are increasingly turning to these drug-free, mind-body techniques to help women succeed with weight loss and maintenance.
More good news: While most weight-loss plans become impossible to sustain long-term, brain-based strategies like hypnosis tend to make weight loss easier over time. In fact, women report breaking free from lifelong insatiable cravings for refined, processed fare and developing a “healthy hunger” for whole, nutritious foods. And since these foods satisfy appetite while melting stubborn pounds, weight loss becomes automatic.
How hypnosis leads to weight loss
Despite its New Agey reputation, new developments in brain science support the notion that hypnosis is a valid way to train your mind to melt off pounds.
Hypnosis rewires the brain for weight loss
“Hypnosis reprograms the brain to break out of old habits and form new ones that optimize weight loss,” explains Greenberg. Indeed, in a study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, a hypnotherapy group lost 30 times more weight than those who didn’t receive the therapy. And weight lost from hypnotherapy stayed off, according to additional research.
Hypnosis activates the brain’s command center
The key to any mind-body approach to weight loss lies in boosting activity in a brain region known as the prefrontal cortex, or PFC, which governs our ability to set plans and achieve goals, explains neuropsychiatrist Daniel Amen, MD, author of Feel Better Fast. “The prefrontal cortex is like the CEO of the brain; it’s involved with processes like decision-making, forethought and impulse control, he explains. “And with the right strategies, you can reprogram your brain in ways that boost willpower, break unhealthy eating patterns and make fat loss faster and easier.”
“Weight loss is a pleasant ‘side effect’ when you optimize your PFC,” Dr. Amen adds. Indeed, a European study found stimulating the PFC helps folks slim down significantly. Additional research suggests that hypnosis activates the prefrontal cortex.
Hypnosis weight loss results are impressive
Clinical hypnotherapist Suzy Teixeira of Hypnohelp Melbourne explains, “I’ve had clients lose around 22 pounds in six sessions and others losing about 33 pounds in seven sessions. It all depends on each individual.” She adds, “Research has even shown that weight-loss hypnosis therapy is able to give you significant weight loss in a few weeks.”
Julie Evans, 40, of Macomb, Michigan, is proof of the power of hypnosis. She attended one of Greenberg’s weight-loss hypnosis seminars with her mom. “No joke, after we got out, all I wanted was a salad,” she says. “That was the last day I had fast food. Not having cravings was life-altering.” Julie went on to lose 142 pounds! Keep scrolling for Suzi Conklin Nance’s impressive hypnosis weight loss story!
How you can lose weight with hypnosis
You can search for a professional hypnotherapist at the American Hypnosis Association or the National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists. Many hypnotherapists offer sessions via phone or Skype.
Or, to try hypnosis weight loss on your own, check out this guided video from expert Michael Sealey:
2 more slimming mind-body approaches
In addition to hypnosis, millions of people around the world have used their mind to melt off unwanted pounds. Here are two more scientifically proven techniques to use.
The prefrontal cortex is involved in mental tasks such as goal-setting and planning, so it makes sense that setting a daily intention activates it. Mark Batterson, lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC, and author of Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God, encourages people who are struggling with cravings to set a positive intention every day. Think: “I will ask God for the strength to nourish my body with only healthy foods today.” Proof of the slimming power of this approach: In a study in the European Journal of Social Psychology, those who set such intentions ate more healthy snacks and consumed 1,125 fewer calories daily. (Click to learn more about mindful eating for weight loss.)
2. Prayer and meditation
These brain-based habits are proven to calm the brain’s amygdala, the fight-or-flight center in your brain, notes psychologist Sidney Cohen, PhD, author of Inner Blocks to Losing Weight. “When this area becomes hyper-aroused by stress and negative thoughts, it hijacks the prefrontal cortex,” explains Cohen. But research shows that people who pray or meditate have fewer cravings and lose more weight than their less-mindful counterparts, according to research from City University of London. (Click to learn how the Bible-based Daniel Fast helps people lose weight.)
Hypnosis weight loss success story: Suzi lost 101 pounds!
“I’m going to stay in the lodge. I think I hurt my ankle,” fibbed Suzi Conklin Nance to her family while on vacation years ago. Though she’d always loved skiing, the fear of falling at her then-weight kept her indoors. This isn’t the kind of mom I imagined I’d be…
Suzi was a self-described sugarholic, who hid candy everywhere, even in her car’s glove compartment. “It was ridiculous. My whole life, I was either on a diet or beating myself up for not being on a diet.” She adds, “Thoughts of food were always there, like an unwanted guest I had to accommodate.”
Tired of not getting help from doctors, Suzi began researching natural-healing approaches. “Hypnosis kept coming up,” she recalls. And though skeptical, Suzi educated herself and performed “self-hypnosis” with the message: “I love exercise.” She explains, “Trust me, I had never gotten even one tiny bleep of an endorphin from exercise. Well, lo and behold, I started doing six exercise classes a week and loving it.” Even more surprising: She quickly shed 30 stubborn pounds! “It wasn’t like going on a diet,” says Suzi. “Hypnosis unraveled my unhealthy core beliefs so I could make the right choices.”
After losing 101 pounds and erasing chronic pain, Suzi became a hypnotherapist. She started serving people in need, including veterans suffering from PTSD. She also wrote the book Break Free from Negative Beliefs and the Weight that Clings to Them. Now she says, “I found my passion helping people change behaviors they’ve struggled with for decades. I love waking up with energy. The other day I got on a teeter-totter with my grandkids!”
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
For more mind/body approaches to weight loss and total health, keep reading!