Could Hypnotherapy for Weight Loss Actually Work? Here's What the Experts Want You to Know

·7-min read

Forget what you've heard about gently swaying beads or sharp clicks, hypnotherapy for weight loss is more mainstream (and less David Blaine) than you may think. A complementary treatment – meaning it works alongside conventional practices – hypnotherapy for weight loss can prove to be the method to help people come unstuck when it comes to their healthy weight loss efforts.

Reportedly used by celebs, think Adele, Jen An and Nigella Lawson, hypnotherapy for weight loss works by "rewiring" the limiting thoughts and feelings that keep people losing and gaining weight regularly – aka crash dieting. Here's what you need to know about the weight loss approach, straight from the experts.

What is hypnotherapy for weight loss?

If you're trying to lose weight well but struggling, hypnotherapy for weight loss may have popped up as an option. Today, let's start with the basics: What is it and when should it be used?

'Hypnotherapy for weight loss is the application of hypnotherapy: a therapy which studies the trance of your every day experience to help you rewrite unwanted thoughts, behaviours and emotions,' explains Jessica Boston, cognitive hypnotherapist and transformational life coach.

In layman terms, hypnotherapy for weight loss is the process of hypnotising a patient into a deeply relaxed state. Here, the therapist will use different techniques and methods to change thought patters and bring about behavioural changes.

'Hypnotherapy for weight loss can be used to help you understand why you are struggling to maintain or get to a weight that you are happy with, or help you to the reasons why you might be sabotaging achieving any success,' she says. 'Hypnotherapy is ultimately a tool that engages the imagination and uses the way you think to better your life.'

Who shouldn't use hypnosis for weight loss?

Hypnotherapy for weight loss is absolutely not appropriate for everyone. Here's who should give the practice a wide berth:

'Hypnotherapy should not be performed on anyone with a past history of psychosis or some particular personality disorders. Some serious illnesses such as cancers may also not be suitable for this type of treatment. Always consult your doctor before considering this type of treatment to ensure it won’t exacerbate any of your pre-existing mental health or medical conditions,' says Dr Mansouri. If you have a history of eating disorders, hypnotherapy for weight loss is also not advised.

Looking after yourself is crucial. And that refers to a lot of things, including your physical and mental health.

Is hypnosis safe for weight loss?

Safety is the name of the game at WH. We want to empower you to make safe, sustainable decisions to support your healthy goals – whether that's a safe way to lose body fat or how to build muscle. Whilst the absolute verdict on hypnotherapy for weight loss is out (due to a lack of research), the answer to this question is slightly more nuanced.

'There's not enough data available to evaluate the safety of hypnotherapy for weight loss in terms of mortality, morbidity or quality of life, says Dr Ana Mansouri, GP and aesthetic doctor at Kat & Co. 'Having said this, as long as you consult your GP and pay attention to the advice around who should avoid it, there have been no significant safety concerns raised. So, it is reasonable to consider hypnotherapy safe for the majority of patients.'

Dr Mansouri suggests finding a medically qualified practitioner or clinical psychologist for extra safety reassurance.

Does hypnotherapy work for weight loss?

'Using hypnotherapy for weight loss is more successful alongside an eating and exercise plan,' says award-winning hypnotherapist, Fiona Lamb. 'On its own it can be seen as the key motivator to start you on the right path to losing weight.'

Okay, but how does it work in tandem with good nutrition and regular workouts?

'It triggers the desire to reform your relationship with food,' explains Lamb, going on to describe a few different ways it can have an impact: 'It acts as an instant stress relief where you can relax and uncover your story with food. It helps break down the attachments you’ve formed with food since birth. It breaks down the "control" that people create with food which can lead to disordered eating.'

'It's a more holistic approach. It's about the relationship you have with yourself and can help break the taboo that it has to be a struggle and a fight. It's reframing your thought pattern where you think its "hard" to lose weight and "hard" to eat healthily.'

James Davies, founder of Thirty Eight Degree retreats, PT, nutritional advisor and NLP practitioner, says finding your "why", as in the reason you're looking into hypnotherapy for weight loss, will help guarantee success.

'Getting clear and specific on the emotional reasons for wanting to achieve your goal will help you get clearer, more focused and stay motivated,' he says.

'For example, you might say you want to lose weight to look better, or feel more comfortable. For most people, over time, that’s not a strong enough motivator. Why do you want to look and feel better? Perhaps your confidence is low. Is that impacting your work? Your relationships and intimacy? Do you want to be a good role model for your children? Do you want to have adventures when you retire which involve having good health? You can see that the deeper you go, the more connected to the root why behind the goal.'

How much does hypnosis for weight loss cost?

'The price is highly variable depending on the experience and qualifications of the therapist,' explains Mansouri. 'The cost typically ranges from £50-£150 per session but the total cost can vary as well due to a course of sessions often being required.'

Is hypnotherapy for weight loss available on the NHS?

Usually, no. This is because it's classed as a "complementary therapy" – a treatment used alongside more conventional practices.

Saying that, Dr Mansouri suggest speaking to your local GP practice as some areas may have exceptions to this rule.

'As there is no legislation on the qualification and training requirements for hypnotherapists in the UK, I would suggest doing thorough research before choosing your therapist to ensure you will receive the best and safest possible care,' she says. 'Choosing a medical practitioner such as a psychologist or counsellor who is registered by a regulating organisation accredited by the PSA (professional standards authority) will ensure a higher level of qualification.'

'I tried hypnotherapy for weight loss and healed my relationship with food'

Jessica Boston, now a cognitive hypnotherapist herself, credits hypnotherapy for weight loss as the technique to heal her relationship with food and her body. Here, she tells her story.

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For most of my young life I had a destructive relationship with my body due to fad diets and growing up around people who had a very all or nothing approach to food and exercise.

In my late 20s I realised I had to relearn how to eat through understanding how I had come to use food as a way of abusing myself and my body, and staying small and unseen by the world. Food was both keeping me safe from harm – in the form of unwanted attention, soothing me – as a treat for when I had had a hard day and punishing me – for not being where I wanted to be in life.

Working through these issues using hypnotherapy techniques, I learnt to love and appreciate my body and lost 20 kilos – a couple of pounds of which were regained in lockdown, but it doesn’t matter to me. I learnt how to eat for my body and understand my emotions instead of giving in to every single one of them and I learnt how to override spur of the moment urges and cravings.

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