Hypnosis and Other Alternative Methods for Weight Management

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Before considering any weight loss method, speak to a healthcare professional. This provides the opportunity to discuss why you want to lose weight, safe weight management tactics, and an understanding on what a healthy weight is for your body.

This may come as a surprise to you, but diets have the tendency not to work. Sure, you may lose some weight by changing your calorie intake, moving more, or both, but it may not lead to long-term weight management. In fact, most individuals who partake in a diet end up gaining at least half of the weight they've lost back in two years. But if old-school dieting tactics are flawed, how are weight loss and sustainable weight management possible?

There are many factors at play when it comes to managing your weight; your mind plays a huge role in your body's behavioral tendencies. This knowledge begs the question: how do alternative therapies that focus on the mind-body connection, like hypnosis, help with weight loss?

Hypnosis

People have been using hypnosis as a healing tool for centuries. While using the practice for health benefits may not be the first thing that comes to mind, it's not unheard of.

During hypnosis, you're in a trance-like state, unaware of what’s happening around you, but keenly aware of your inner thoughts, feelings, and images. Though it might look like someone is sleeping when hypnotized, they're fully awake, hyper-focused, and open to suggestions. A trained hypnotherapist uses guided suggestions to create the changes that help you reach your goals.

The research to support hypnosis for weight loss is mixed but promising. A 2021 review study published in Current Obesity Reports looked at 11 randomized trials that used hypnosis as a tool to help with weight loss. Nine out of the 11 studies found that hypnosis offered mild to moderate benefits, but the review's authors note that more research is needed.

A 2022 clinical trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated the effects of Eriksonian hypnosis and self-hypnosis on impulsive eating in a group of adults with obesity. The authors of this study found that both types of hypnosis improved eating behaviors in those with a high disinhibition score, or the tendency to overeat in response to negative feelings.

Ericksonian hypnosis is a form of hypnosis that uses indirect suggestions, or suggestions given through stories or metaphors while in a hypnotic state. As opposed to traditional hypnosis, which uses direct suggestions to create change.

Biofeedback

Biofeedback is a mind-body therapy that teaches you how to become more in tune with your body’s own physiology and learn how to control it. It uses precise measuring devices that turn your physiological functions into visual or auditory cues. Then, working with a trained therapist, you engage in physical and mental exercises while continuing to receive feedback, learning how to change the physiological response.

People with low activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex—an area of the brain—may have a harder time controlling how much they eat. Researchers are looking at how biofeedback may increase activity in this area of the brain for people struggling with their weight.

A 2019 randomized clinical trial published in Neuroimage investigated how biofeedback training might affect activity in the dlPFC and eating behavior in a group of adults with obesity. The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) for neurofeedback training, which measures and maps brain activity.

Researchers conducted the neurofeedback training in one day and followed up with the participants four weeks later. They found that one neurofeedback session increased activity in the area of the brain that controls eating and improved eating behaviors.

However, the researchers also reported improvements in brain activity in the control group. They suggest that biofeedback might support other therapies aimed at encouraging certain eating behaviors, but more research is needed.

Meditation

Meditation is an ancient practice that aims to reconnect the mind and body to improve your overall sense of well-being. Some forms of meditation use breathing exercises to maintain mental focus, while others use mindfulness to focus on present thoughts and feelings without judgment.

Mindfulness meditation may help improve eating behaviors and promote weight loss, according to a 2018 randomized clinical control trial published in the Journal of Integrative and Complementary Medicine. This study found that combining mindfulness meditation with a standard behavioral weight loss program improved eating behaviors and weight loss better than a standard behavioral weight loss program alone.

A Word From Verywell

While weight is not an indication of health, your weight has the potential to influence your health. But when it comes to weight loss and weight management, no single method works for all—sometimes, a combination of methods is best. Hypnosis and other alternative mind-body methods may help you reach your goals. Talk to a healthcare provider before starting any new weight loss routine.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can losing weight improve health?

    Being at a weight that is unhealthy for your body influences your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. It's important to consult a doctor if you're working to determine what a healthy weight is for you. Learning how to manage your weight, and sustaining a healthy weight, can positively impact your quality of life.

  • What is the mind-body connection?

    The mind-body connection refers to how your thoughts and feelings affect your physical body and health. How you think and feel influences your body’s chemistry, altering hormone levels and neurotransmitters that may increase your blood pressure or appetite.

    Mind-body therapies like hypnosis, biofeedback, and meditation can change how you think and feel, improving your body chemistry, and benefiting your overall health and well-being.

  • What is the best way to lose weight?

    There’s no single best way to lose weight. However, you’re more likely to reach your goals and stay there when you focus on creating healthy lifestyle habits rather than the number on the scale. Consult with a primary care provider or a registered dietitian for guidance on how best to lose weight.

13 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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