Close your eyes, breath, relax. Imagine yourself resisting the urge to overindulge. Imagine you no longer crave unhealthy foods. Imagine you no longer feel the need to comfort yourself with food.
If only weight loss was that simple, you might be thinking. If only you could “turn off” your unhealthy cravings…
Well, that’s the idea of hypnosis for weight loss. Utilizing hypnotherapy, those looking to lose weight are empowered to update the automatic thoughts that trigger food cravings.
Overeating and overindulgence tend to be associated in our minds with certain feelings, relationships, and events. And our minds have convinced us that in certain situations food serves an essential purpose – i.e. using food to comfort stress.
Ultimately, to achieve long-term weight loss, we must access these unconscious barriers, remove them and replace these automatic thoughts with more helpful information. Hypnotherapy empowers us to access these automatic thoughts, delete the negative associations, and develop positive associations that can help us achieve long-term weight-loss success.
How Food Invades the Mind: Overcoming the Mental Barriers
Say Clara starts a diet. And it’s going strong. She’s two weeks or three weeks in – has lost weight and she feels great.
But then something changes. Clara starts a new job. Now, she’s finding it more difficult to lose. She’s overindulging more often, stopped counting calories, and she’s craving unhealthy foods. Her weight loss stalls, and before long, she’s fallen off the diet completely.
What went wrong? Clara started so strong, but couldn’t stay on track.
Well, if we look into this at a deeper level, we might uncover a “habit pattern” that offers an explanation.
Habit patterns form through repetition, and over time, they become unconscious responses to stimuli or environment. In this case, Clara likely developed a habit pattern of stress eating which prevented her from reaching her weight loss goals.
Food had become Clara’s unconscious, automatic response to stress.
These sorts of habits of mind are exactly why losing weight is such a challenge for many of us.
Deep in our unconscious minds we’ve developed strong ideas about unhealthy behaviors. In fact, over time, we may have trained the mind to believe that these unhealthy behaviors are essential – that they are necessary for maintaining our well-being. And if the mind believes these behaviors are necessary, long-term change is very difficult.
Stress or emotional eating is just one example. There are many associations that we develop that negatively impact our relationship to food. Some common associations that prevent weight loss include:
- Food is a comfort blanket; we use it to comfort ourselves in times of stress or sadness
- Eating helps distract us from feelings of sadness, anxiety or anger
- Overeating fatty, sugary or unhealthy foods is associated with celebrations and other good times.
- Unhealthy or sugary foods are a reward.
- Overeating helps you tamp the fear that you won’t be able to lose weight.
- Food is a source of entertainment when bored.
Ultimately, achieving long-term weight loss requires these root causes to be assessed, understood and reframed. And that’s exactly what hypnosis can help us achieve.
Reframing Your Food Addiction with Hypnosis
The first step of using hypnosis for weight loss: Identifying why you aren’t achieving your goals. How does this work? Typically, a hypnotherapist will ask you questions related to your weight loss, i.e. questions about your eating and exercise habits.
This information-gathering helps identify what you might need help working on.
You’ll then be guided through an induction, a process to relax the mind and body and enter into a state of hypnosis. While in hypnosis, your mind is highly suggestible. You’ve shed your critical, conscious mind – and the hypnotherapist can speak directly to your unconscious thoughts.
In hypnosis, the hypnotherapist will provide you with positive suggestions, affirmations and may ask you to visualize changes. Positive suggestions for weight loss hypnosis might include:
- Improving Confidence. Positive suggestions will empower your feelings of confidence through encouraging language.
- Visualizing Success. During hypnosis, you may be asked to visualize meeting your weight loss goals and to visualize the way it makes you feel.
- Reframing Your Inner Voice. Hypnosis can help you tame an inner voice who “doesn’t want” to give up unhealthy foods, and turn it into an ally in your weight loss journey who’s quick with positive suggestions and is more rational.
- Tapping the Unconscious. In the hypnotic state, you can begin to identify the unconscious patterns that lead to unhealthy eating. In other words, you can become more aware of why we are making unhealthy food choices and portion control and establish more mindful strategies for making food choices.
- Fending Off Fear. Hypnotic suggestions can help you tame your fear of not achieving weight loss success. Fear is a No. 1 reasons people might never get started in the first place.
- Identifying and Reframing Habit Patterns. Once in hypnosis, you can examine and explore ways you use eating and “turn off” these automatic responses. Through repeated positive affirmations, we can begin to slow and ultimately completely remove automatic, unconscious thought.
- Developing New Coping Mechanisms. Through hypnosis, you can establish more healthy ways to cope with stress, emotions and relationships. For example, you might be asked to visualize a stressful situation and then visualize yourself responding with a healthy snack.
- Rehearsing Healthy Eating. During hypnosis, you may be asked to rehearse making healthy eating choices, i.e. being OK with taking food home at a restaurant. This helps these healthy choices become more automatic. Rehearsal is also helpful for controlling cravings.
- Making Better Food Choices. You may desire and love unhealthy foods. Hypnosis can help you start to develop a taste or preference for healthier options, as well as influence the portion sizes you choose.
- Increasing Unconscious Indicators. Through repetition, you may have learned to drown out the signals your body sends when you feel full. Hypnotherapy helps you become more aware of these indicators.
Of course, not every suggestion will apply to you. Your hypnotherapy plan – whether you’re working with a hypnotherapist or self-hypnosis – will include suggestions relevant to your relationship with food. For example, Clara (from the example above) might work on teaching the unconscious to slow its automatic responses, as well as providing the unconscious with new, more helpful ways to manage stress.
Working with a certified hypnotherapist can help you refine your strategy to be specific to your needs.
How Hypnotherapy Helps You Achieve Weight Loss
In the hypnotic state, your mind is much more open to suggestion. In fact, research has shown that some interesting changes take place in your brain during hypnosis, which allow you to learn without thinking critically about the information you’re receiving.
In other words, you’re detached from the critical mind. Therefore, when you receive hypnotic suggestions, the critical conscious mind doesn’t step into question what you’re hearing. And that, in a nutshell, is how hypnosis can help you break down the barriers that prevent you from losing weight.
But repetition is critical for success. That’s why most hypnotherapists send you home with self-hypnosis recordings after an initial visit. The barriers in your mind are strong. Only through repeated work can you successful untangle and reframe these convictions.
Yet, hearing repeated affirmations and positive suggestions regarding healthy eating is a first step in the weight loss journey. You’re teaching your mind to think different. But these affirmations can help you to:
What if you could detach from your cravings? Isolate them and send them away? Some weight loss hypnosis techniques help you do this. For example, you might be asked to visualize sending away your cravings – say on a ship out to sea. Suggestions can also help you reframe your cravings, and learn to manage them more effectively.
Expectation dictates reality. When we have an expectation of success, we are naturally more apt to take the steps necessary to achieve that success. Weight loss hypnotherapy can plant the seed of success in your mind, which can be a powerful unconscious motivator to keep you on course.
Weight loss is so frequently spoiled by negativity. There are foods you “can’t” eat. Unhealthy foods are “killing” you. Hypnotherapy empowers us to reframe these suggestions with in a more positive light – you’re not depriving yourself; you’re shedding what you don’t need.
Prepare for Relapse
We’ve been trained to think that relapses are shameful – reasons to give up. But hypnosis asks us to think about relapse differently. A relapse becomes an opportunity to examine what went wrong, to learn from it, and be better prepared for temptation.
Modify Your Behavior
Big goals are achieved one small step at a time. Hypnotherapy empowers us to make small changes that feed into to bigger goals. Say you reward yourself with sugary, high-calorie foods; through hypnosis you might work on choosing a healthier reward.
Finally, hypnotic visualization is a powerful motivator. Visualization enables you to “see” results and explore how that makes you feel. You might also visualize your future-self telling you that you have what it takes to succeed.
Research Review: Hypnosis for Weight Loss
Does hypnosis work? That’s a question anyone considering hypnotherapy has – and it’s a question that’s interested researchers for decades.
The research tends to paints a positive picture of hypnotherapy’s effectiveness. A variety of studies have shown that hypnosis can lead to long-term weight loss, and that compared to traditional weight loss methods, hypnosis experiences higher success rates.
- A study conducted in 1985 – one of the first to look at weight loss hypnosis – compared two groups. One group made diet changes and started exercising; the other did the same but also received hypnotherapy. After 8 months and 2 years, the hypnosis group had maintained or increased weight loss – the other group had gained most of the weight back.
- Similarly, a 1986 study looked at 60 women who were 20 percent overweight. After 6 months, the hypnosis group had lost 17 pounds, while the non-hypnosis group had lost just a half pound.
- A 1996 meta-analysis examined the effect of adding hypnosis to weight loss treatments. What the researchers found was compelling: During treatment, hypnosis almost doubled the weight loss. And after treatment, hypnosis increased effectiveness by 146 percent.
- More recently, a 2014 study found that hypnosis had a variety of positive effects in weight loss. Participants who received hypnosis reduced weight and BMI, as well as improved their eating habits. Improved body image was another benefit found in the study.
Getting Started with Weight Loss Hypnosis
Are you ready to start your weight loss journey? To get started, you have many different options. You can visit a certified hypnotherapist for face-to-face sessions. You can schedule a virtual conference with a hypnotherapist. Recorded hypnosis or self-hypnosis are other options. All methods have shown promise for weight loss.
- One-on-One Hypnosis — A hypnotherapist can help you recognize the unconscious barriers that are holding you back. Plus, a hypnotherapist will guide you in hypnosis sessions to address those barriers. These can be conducted in office or via video conferencing.
- Guided Hypnosis — A guided hypnosis recording can help you get started quickly and learn hypnosis techniques at home or on the go. Essentially, these are recordings from certified hypnotherapists that walk you through induction and then provide positive suggestions via the recording.
- Self-Hypnosis — In self-hypnosis, individuals take on the role of hypnotherapist, using a memorized script to induce hypnosis and to deliver positive suggestions.
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