Sorry, no one's going to tell you that you're feeling sleepy. When it comes to losing weight, you already know
about the usual go-to professionals: doctors, nutritionists and dietitians, personal trainers, even
mental health coaches. But there may be one you haven’t quite thought of yet: a hypnotist.
It turns out using hypnosis is another road people are venturing down in the name of weight loss.
And typically, it’s traveled after all the other last-ditch efforts (I see you, juice cleanses and
fad diets) are tried and failed, says Greg Gurniak, a certified clinical and medical hypnotist
practicing in Ontario.
But it’s not about someone else controlling your mind and making you do funny things while you’re
unconscious. “Mind control and losing control—aka doing something against your will—are the biggest
misconceptions about hypnosis,” says Kimberly Friedmutter, hypnotherapist and author of
Subsconscious Power: Use Your Inner Mind to Create the Life You’ve Always Wanted.
“Because of how the entertainment industry portrays hypnotists, people are relieved to see I’m not
wearing a black robe and swinging a watch from a chain.”
You’re also not unconscious when you experience hypnosis—it’s more like a deep state of relaxation,
Friedmutter explains. “It’s simply the natural, floaty feeling you get before you drift off to sleep,
or that dreamy sensation you feel as you wake up in the morning, before you’re fully aware of where
you are and what is surrounding you.”
Being in that state makes you more susceptible to change, and that’s why hypnosis for weight loss may
be effective. “It’s different from other methods because hypnosis addresses the cause and other
contributing factors directly at the subconscious level in the person’s mind, where their memories,
habits, fears, food associations, negative self-talk, and self-esteem germinate,” says Capri Cruz, Ph.D.,
psychotherapist and hypnotherapist and author of Maximize Your Super Powers. “No other weight loss method
addresses the core issues at the root like hypnosis does.”
But does hypnosis for weight loss work?
There isn’t a ton of recent, randomized research available on the subject, but what is out there suggests
that the method could be plausible. Early studies from the 90s found that people who used hypnosis lost more
than twice as much weight as those who dieted without the cognitive therapy. A 2014 study worked with 60 obese
women, and found that those who practiced hypnobehavioral therapy lost weight and improved their eating habits
and body image. And a small 2017 study worked with eight obese adults and three children, all of whom successfully
lost weight, with one even avoiding surgery due to the treatment benefits, but of course none of this is conclusive.
“The unfortunate factor is that hypnosis is not readily covered by medical insurance, so there isn’t the same push for hypnosis studies as there is for pharmaceutical ones,” Dr. Cruz says. But with the seemingly ever-increasing cost of prescription drugs, long lists of possible side effects, and the push for more natural alternatives, Cruz is hopeful hypnosis will soon receive more attention and research as a plausible weight loss approach.
Who should try hypnosis for weight loss?
The ideal candidate is, honestly, anyone who has trouble sticking to a healthy diet and exercise program
because they can’t seem to shake their negative habits, Gurniak says. Getting stuck in harmful habits—like
eating the entire bag of potato chips instead of stopping when you’re full—is a sign of a subconscious problem,
Your subconscious is where your emotions, habits and addictions are located, Friedmutter says.
And because hypnotherapy address the subconscious—instead of just the conscious—it may be more effective.
In fact, a study analysis from 1970 found hypnosis to have a 93 percent success rate, with fewer sessions
needed than both psychotherapy and behavioral therapy. “This led researchers to believe that, for changing
habits, thought patterns, and behavior, hypnosis was the most effective method,” Friedmutter says.
Hypnotherapy doesn’t have to be used on its own, either. Gurniak says hypnosis can also be used as a
compliment to other weight loss programs designed by professionals to treat various health conditions,
be it diabetes, obesity, arthritis, or cardiovascular disease.
What can I expect during a treatment?
Sessions can vary in length and methodology depending on the practitioner. Dr. Cruz, for example, says her
sessions typically last between 45 and 60 minutes, whereas Friedmutter sees weight loss patients for three to four
hours. But in general, you can expect to lay down, relax with your eyes closed, and let the
hypnotherapist guide you
through specific techniques and suggestions that can help you reach your goals.
“The idea is to train the mind to move toward what is healthy and away from what is unhealthy,” Friedmutter says.
“Through client history, I am able to determine subconscious hitches that sent the client off
their original blueprint of [health].
Just like we learn to abuse our bodies with food, we can learn to honor them.”
And no, you won’t be clucking like a chicken or confessing any deep, dark secrets.
“You cannot be stuck in hypnosis or made to say
or do something against your will,” Gurniak says. “If it goes against your personal values or beliefs, you simply will not act on
the information being given during trance.”
Instead, it’s likely that you’ll experience a deep relaxation, while still being aware of what’s being said, Gurniak adds.
“Someone in a hypnotic trance would describe it as in between being wide awake and asleep,” he says. “They are fully in control
and able to stop the process at any time, because you can only be hypnotized if you choose to. We work as a team to achieve the person’s goal.”
Of course, the number of sessions needed is totally dependent on your personal response to hypnosis. Some could see results
in as few as one to three, Dr. Cruz says, while others could need anywhere from eight to 15 sessions. And then again, it may not be effective for everyone.