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Hypnosis for Weight Loss

Can Hypnosis Help With Weight Loss?

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Updated January 01, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Hypnosis is a mind-body technique often purported to promote weight loss. Also referred to as "hypnotherapy," hypnosis involves entering a trance-like state of deep relaxation and concentration. Known to make patients more open to suggestion, hypnosis is sometimes used to effect change in behaviors thought to contribute to weight problems (such as overeating or avoiding exercise). Although research on hypnosis and weight loss is limited, there's evidence that hypnosis may be of some benefit when integrated into a weight-loss program.

The Science Behind Hypnosis and Weight Loss

In a 2009 report published in Primary Care, hypnosis is listed as one the only three complementary and alternative therapies shown to be effective in treatment of obesity. (The other two therapies are acupuncture and diets containing diacylglycerol oil, a substance shown to trigger the breakdown of fat.) Published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2005, an earlier review of 31 studies on complementary therapies and weight loss found that only hypnosis and supplements containing ephedrine helped promote weight loss.

Earlier research suggests that hypnosis may aid in weight loss by increasing self-control, encouraging physical exercise, improving self-esteem and body image, and boosting motivation.

Is Hypnosis Safe?

Although hypnosis is generally considered safe when practiced under the care of a professionally trained hypnotherapist, some individuals may experience emotional distress.

Learn more about what to expect from hypnosis.

Should You Use Hypnosis for Weight Loss?

While hypnosis may offer some weight-loss benefits, it cannot take the place of proven weight-loss strategies. In order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, it's important to follow a balanced diet (including a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and lean protein) and get regular exercise (including at least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and two strength-training sessions each week). Maintaining healthy sleep habits and managing your stress may also support your weight-loss efforts.

In addition, you might consider using other alternative therapies shown to aid in weight loss, such as yoga and acupuncture. If you're interested in adding hypnosis to your weight-loss program, talk to your doctor about finding a qualified hypnotherapist.

Sources:

Allison DB, Faith MS. "Hypnosis as an adjunct to cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy for obesity: a meta-analytic reappraisal." J Consult Clin Psychol. 1996 Jun;64(3):513-6.

Pittler MH, Ernst E. "Complementary therapies for reducing body weight: a systematic review." Int J Obes (Lond). 2005 Sep;29(9):1030-8.

Steyer TE, Ables A. "Complementary and alternative therapies for weight loss." Prim Care. 2009 Jun;36(2):395-406.

Vanderlinden J, Vandereycken W. "The (limited) possibilities of hypnotherapy in the treatment of obesity." Am J Clin Hypn. 1994 Apr;36(4):248-57.

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