Here’s what the scientific research says about the effectiveness of hypnotherapy for weight loss:
- One study took an existing 9-week behavioral therapy program for weight loss (something like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig), and added hypnosis to it to see whether patients receiving the hypnosis-enhanced version would get better results. At the end of the 9 weeks, both groups had lost weight… But the patients who got hypnosis were more likely to achieve and maintain their personal weight goals. In fact, unlike the patients who got regular behavioral therapy, the hypnosis group actually kept on losing weight. Two years after the treatment, they were still losing weight and maintaining their target weights. (“Effectiveness of hypnosis as an adjunct to behavioral weight management”, from the Journal of Clinical Psychology, Bolocofsky, Spinler, & Coulhard-Morris, 1985)
- A meta-analysis looked at 6 studies comparing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for weight loss with CBT + hypnosis. The patients who got the psychotherapy alone lost weight, but patients who received hypnotherapy along with it lost twice as much weight. And, just like in the previous study, the hypnosis groups continued to lose weight after the treatment was over. (“Hypnosis as an adjunct to cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy: A meta-analysis”, from the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Kirsch, Montgomery, & Sapirstein, 1995)
A number of studies have looked at the benefit of hypnotherapy as a stand-alone solution for weight loss… And they have generally found that while it is effective, it’s not as effective as hypnosis used in conjunction with psychotherapy.
That’s why I use and recommend hypnosis as just one part of a comprehensive, individually tailored weight loss program.
There are no legal requirements for calling yourself a hypnotherapist or a weight loss counselor, and so a lot of people end up paying the same amount of money to see someone with no special knowledge of psychological or physical health.
I have years of intensive training and clinical experience helping people understand and improve their mind-body relationship to overcome problems like diabetes, obesity, and food addiction (as well as the problems with self-esteem, body image, and relationships that often come along with them.)
So, when I meet with a patient for the first time, I take the time to really get to know them — their background, beliefs about life, and style of living. Then I use that information to develop a personalized weight loss plan that is designed to play to their unique, individual strengths. This is the difference between seeing a credentialed mental health professional, and seeing someone who may have only taken a weekend workshop.
Of course, motivation only gets results if you’re taking the right kinds of actions.
Most therapists who offer weight loss counseling services are trained to provide psychotherapy, but have no specialized knowledge of how the body works. So… they’ll go to all the trouble of psychotherapizing you only to have you… eat less and exercise more. An approach that has roundly failed to produce lasting results, despite hundreds of researchers actively trying to prove that it works since the 1970s. So it’s really important to find a qualified mental health professional who also has special training in mind-body medicine.
For example, my training included three years of supervised clinical work focused on working with the mind-body relationship. I also have a personal passion for health, and have followed the scientific literature on this topic for more than a decade. Based on this research, I strongly advocate for a paleo-style, whole food approach to weight loss and health improvement. The modern, high-sugar, grain-based diet is a major cause of weight gain, inflammation, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and a host of other problems. By eating (and exercising) more like our ancestors, we can reverse these effects and allow our bodies to reach their optimum genetic potential.
As I work with patients to help them develop customized programs of diet and exercise, I think it’s important to also help them to understand not only what kinds of actions to take, but why those actions will work and how they will affect the body. We look at:
- How to fit the right kinds of dietary changes into your lifestyle (so it becomes easier to eat healthy in every situation)
- Whether — and which — dietary supplements might help to achieve optimal health, fitness, and longevity
- What kinds of exercise will help you achieve your ideal physique, in as little time as possible and with maximal positive health effects. For example, if your body is inflamed, a lot of high-intensity cardio will probably only make things worse.
As these details fall into place, hypnosis can be really helpful to cement them in — to start forming new habits of mind, which will translate into automatic habits of behavior. Because when people have to spend all day thinking about what they’re not supposed to eat, they fail. Our behaviors follow naturally from our beliefs, so we won’t really be able to change our lifestyles in sustainable ways until we have developed beliefs that support those changes. In many cases, the limiting beliefs run deeper than just what food or exercise is best, into beliefs about self and about the way the world works. In these cases, psychotherapy is needed to overcome the limiting beliefs and open up new possibilities for health.