Does hypnosis help with weight loss?

When we see the word "hypnosis," many of us might think about people with swinging pocket watches and pendulums, trying to talk us into taking over our brains. And it would be fair for you to ask how someone who appears completely into the idea of mind control might be able to support a weight loss program.

But hypnosis isn't what Hollywood or old-school cartoons have positioned it to be. When you go to a properly trained hypnotherapist, you are guided, with the use of verbal cues and mental imagery, into a deep state of introspection and concentration. It may feel like a trance, but when you hypnotized, your attention is more focused, making you more likely to respond to suggestions (via Mayo Clinic). 

"You won't turn into a zombie or cluck like a chicken," clinical hypnosis practitioner Valorie Wells tells Women's Health. "Hypnotherapy is really just you telling yourself how you want you to be, whether it's to sleep better, to lose weight, to drive on a highway at full speed between two trucks."

Why hypnosis might help with weight loss

Mayo Clinic says there aren't many studies out there that have been able to say for certain whether hypnosis helps you lose weight. Most studies reflect a small weight loss (think 6 pounds over 18 months). Even then the quality of some of these studies is being questioned, so researchers aren't really certain whether hypnosis really plays a role in weight loss.

But hypnotherapists say their treatment isn't about getting people a medically-approved eating plan. "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 psychotherapist and hypnotist Capri Cruz says (via Oprah Magazine). "No other weight loss method addresses the core issues at the root like hypnosis does."

Wells also feels hypnosis has a place in a weight-loss program, particularly if it is used to help emotional and unconscious eaters, and her view comes from past experience. "By the time a patient comes to me, they've usually tried every weight-loss plan on the planet," says Wells. "They know what they should and shouldn't eat. They just don't have the willpower to follow it. People who see me for weight loss, food has taken the wrong place in their mind. We want to re-integrate the idea that food is fuel."