“You did what?!” Heather asked our other friend, Jeannie, at dinner.

Jeannie had just told us that earlier in the week, she’d had a weight loss hypnosis session.

And honestly, Heather’s reaction was pretty on par with what I’ve seen and heard from a lot of other people when this topic comes up.

Without knowing much about it, people often think hypnosis sounds a little… kooky.

I think a lot of the hesitation around the concept probably has to do with the terminology. Many people understandably associate the word “hypnosis” with the performative displays they may have seen at state fairs or on TV.

Of course, hypnosis or hypnotherapy for health purposes is nothing at all like stage hypnotism for the purpose of entertainment.

In fact, it has much more in common with the mindfulness and meditation practices that are increasingly well respected and understood for their ability to facilitate real change.

So what is weight loss hypnosis really about? How does it work? And is it effective? Let’s dive in.

What hypnosis is all about

Hypnosis, or hypnotherapy, is a tool that is used to help people deeply relax their minds and tap into their subconscious brains in order to encourage physiological, mental, or emotional changes.

And while it might seem like just another new trend, hypnotherapy has actually been around for centuries– much longer, in other words, than the majority of the other tools and approaches we use today for weight loss and healing.

Hypnosis is typically used to help us change our habits and our mindset around them.

How does hypnotherapy work?

A therapist will begin by guiding you into a deep state of relaxation, known as a trance. While “trance” (just like “hypnosis”) is a word that may sound a little scary, this is really just the state we’re in when we’re about to drift off to sleep, or even performing a task on autopilot.

The purpose of entering the trance state is that it helps to silence distracting and unhelpful thoughts and fears, and allows your mind to open itself up more fully to suggestions for change.

Once you’ve reached this state, your therapist will turn their focus to exercises like repetition and guided visualization, training your subconscious and conscious mind to follow the habits and behavioral changes being suggested.

In many ways, hypnosis is similar to mindfulness practices or meditation, which may also help with weight loss and other health concerns.

One of the primary differences, though, is that hypnosis is much more goal-oriented. When you go into a hypnotherapy session for weight loss, for example, your therapist will focus on specific phrases and imagery related to your weight loss goals.

Remember, real hypnotherapy is performed by a professional, in a therapeutic setting (unlike stage hypnotism which is done for entertainment).

And while the goal is to get into a trance state, it only works if you allow it to– and you can stop it at any time.

Is hypnosis right for you?

How do you know if hypnosis is right for you? Here are a few signs that it might be worth a try:

  • You feel like your mindset is holding you back
  • You have certain bad habits related to your weight or health that you’re having trouble shaking
  • You’re struggling to make good habits stick
  • You feel that certain fears, judgements, or anxieties may be getting in the way of your progress
  • You’re often questioning your approach and wondering if you’re really doing the right things when it comes to your weight
  • You sometimes find yourself losing sight of your goals

It might be worth stating the obvious here: hypnosis alone will not cause you to lose weight! The potential benefits of this tool are related to the habits and mindset it can help to influence.

Hypnosis is likely to be most effective when used alongside diet and exercise therapy. It may also work well when combined with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

It’s not all about willpower, either. While hypnotherapy may help to encourage healthier habits, a big part of the approach is also about helping to quiet down the mental noise that can interfere with progress– things like fear, judgment, shame, anxiety, or lack of clarity on your goals.

With more of that noise removed and thought patterns shifted, it may come more easily and naturally to follow a healthy eating plan or an exercise routine.

Does Hypnosis Work For Weight Loss?

When used alongside diet and exercise, and/or other techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), research, while still limited, has shown some promise for weight loss hypnosis.

We also know that mindset, visualization, and positive thinking can profoundly impact a person’s health and transform their life.

The general thought in hypnotherapy circles is that it’s important for an individual to be open to the experience in order for it to work. Of course, this makes sense– since it’s all about your mind! If you’re resistant to opening your mind up to the experience, it’s less likely that it will be effective.

Some research has backed this up, finding that general openness and other personality traits may make a person more responsive to hypnosis. Women, and those over 40, may also be more likely to respond.

One clinical trial involving patients with obstructive sleep apnea found that hypnotherapy alongside diet advice led to increased weight loss compared to diet advice alone.

Studies have also shown that hypnotherapy can improve weight, BMI, and eating behaviors, as well as body image.

Hypnotherapy may lead to weight loss for both adults and children with obesity, according to another small study.

Beyond weight loss, hypnosis may be used for numerous other health concerns, from depression or anxiety to IBS and chronic pain. In all cases, research is limited.

Mindset matters for weight loss

The ultimate takeaway is that your mind plays a huge role in your health, including when it comes to your weight.

If you’re struggling to make habits stick, getting caught up in unhelpful thought patterns, experiencing self-doubt or shame, or feeling your motivation faltering, hypnotherapy may be an effective tool for you.

But even if it’s not quite right for you, chances are there’s something in the world of mindset that can help you reach your goals. Remember that what you imagine, tell yourself, and visualize matter. And you may just be able to help think your way to your goal weight!

Healthy mindset is an important part of losing weight, in fact, I teach it in my Drop20 in 6 Program. This program is designed to support your weight loss goals by giving you the tools you need to lose weight naturally and keep it off. If you’re interested, you can learn more about my weight loss program here.

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