Fitness + Well-being

Hypnotism for Weight Loss: A Legitimate Option?

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Wouldn't it be nice if you could close your eyes and wake up with the willpower to lose weight? According to some doctors, through hypnosis, you can.

The idea of using medical hypnosis to aid in weight loss sounds so far-fetched that it's easy to be skeptical. But according to Dr. Scott D. Lewis, a licensed chiropractor and clinical hypnotherapist, it works.

Lewis has been a long-time advocate of the treatment since he self-hypnotized to overcome cravings for potato chips, ice cream and Dr. Pepper. He lost 41 pounds.

That was 25 years ago, and since then, he’s kept the weight off. Through hypnosis, he's also helped people quit smoking, lose weight and overcome a variety of other health problems.“With a simple time investment of just minutes, you can change the way you feel about certain foods and decrease your cravings and attractions to them,” Lewis explains.

Lewis isn't alone. Psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Gardere also speaks favorably of hypnosis treatment when it comes to aiding in weight loss. He says medical hypnosis “can increase motivation or alter thought patterns with regard to positive eating behavior and long-term dietary patterns.”

So what exactly is hypnosis?

The use of hypnosis in medicine and healing has been around for over 200 years. According to Lewis, "hypnosis is simply a natural state of focus and concentration — similar to what you experience when watching a movie, reading a book or daydreaming."

Once a patient is in a deep state of relaxation and concentration, the hypnotist offers them suggestions to impact their behavior to achieve an end goal. According to Gardere, a patient in a hypnotic state has more focused attention and heightened ability to take suggestions.

"Suggestions can be simple statements given during the hypnotic state that are designed to have an impact on a person's thoughts, behaviors, perceptions and emotions," Lewis explains. "It's a lot of listening and visualization."

Who can be hypnotized?

“Almost everybody can experience and use hypnosis for clinical benefits,” Lewis says. 

According to Gardere, hypnotism is safe for anyone to try but your chances of success are "directly correlated to your ability to cooperate with the hypnotist and allow yourself to be hypnotized.”

Is it safe?

"People are afraid of it because of what they see in movies, TV and comedy shows," Lewis says. "But you are always in control of your mind and have an awareness of what’s going on.” If a fire alarm goes off while you're hypnotized, you'll be conscious of it and be able to react, he explains.

Gardere agrees. “Hypnosis is usually safe when practiced under the care of a professionally-trained hypnotherapist.” However, “there have been cases where the patient may not have been emotionally prepared to enter a certain state of consciousness or address certain traumas and had emotional distress.”

What medical conditions can hypnosis help with?

According to Lewis, hypnosis has been documented to be effective in treating a large number of conditions including pain, insomnia, tension and migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, anxiety, distress from medical procedures, pre-surgical  anxiety, post-surgical healing, and asthma.

It has also been used to help improve memory and controversially, address repressed memories, Gardere adds.

How does hypnosis work for weight loss?

“The first way is through motivation,” Lewis says. “Experts state that the most important factor for changing any unwanted behavior, such as overeating, is having a strong personal reason for doing so.”  Through hypnosis, the patient's benefits of losing weight are identified and intensified. This way, motivation for losing weight is locked in the forefront of the mind, so that it doesn't expire after you reach a certain goal or milestone, such as slimming down for a specific event.

Hypnosis also works by giving patients a number of suggestions that will affect eating behavior. For example, Lewis will suggest to his patients, "You’ll eat until your food stops tasting absolutely delicious" or "You’ll eat less food and feel more satisfied." Your mind will interpret these suggestions with a heightened sensibility.

And it works?

According to Gardere, studies have shown that hypnosis, along with behavior modification, can be very effective in weight loss.

One recent study published by the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that people who receive nutritional education along with specific food aversion hypnosis were five times more likely to lose weight than those who don’t receive hypnosis.

But if medical hypnosis for weight loss is so successful, why aren't more people utilizing it as a treatment option?

To find out, we tried it. Stay tuned.