Weight Loss and the Impact of Self-Hypnosis
I remember way back being overweight well into my teens. In those days, it seemed much less common of a thing to find people who were overweight or obese. I’m sure they were about but all the evidence suggests not in as great numbers as they are today. Weight loss is now an industry, a problem and still a challenge.
Back in those days I remember standing out like a sore thumb at school because of my size. I ate too much junk, paid no attention to healthy eating and had beyond little interest in exercise (I hated P.E. with a passion and did all I could to get out of it!). Maybe people were slimmer because (like my mum) they were doing the Jane Fonda aerobics video or the Callenetics one.
Anyway, I started to lose weight when I got so sick of being fat and the limitations that went with it (including wearing trousers with an elasticated waist!), that I decided to do something about it. I cut down on the junk, I moved more and I even went through many months of sweating it out every night on an exercise bike in my room.
These days obesity is often described as an epidemic despite all the knowledge we have about healthy eating and the benefits of exercise. And although many people start out with the motivation and determination to lose weight, for most, after a few months they find that unhealthy habits creep back in, along with overeating and the tailing off of physical activity. Those bad habits and overeating, often along with a sense of being out of control over eating, often mean that any weight loss achieved soon evaporates.
And in many weight loss programmes and systems, the psychological aspects of eating, such as emotional eating to suppress unwanted thoughts and feelings, and using food as a form of reward, are often overlooked.
A recently published randomized control trial has now reported their findings. They set out with this objective: “Obesity is a worldwide epidemic; most obese individuals who lose weight after lifestyle educative treatments, soon regain it. Our aim is to evaluate the effectiveness of a training to teach self-conditioning technique (self-hypnosis) added to standard care in determining weight loss compared with standard care in patients with obesity.”
The results of their trial (discussed below) would assess whether a self-conditioning approach, based on self-hypnosis, is able to help people to modulate unhealthy patterns of eating and sustain weight loss in the long term.
Self-Hypnosis For Weight Loss
Overeating often involves elements of loss of control and compulsive behaviour, as well as people bringing their stress and worry to eating so that they eat in less conscious ways and so consume more than needed. The researchers wanted to discover if self-hypnosis, when added to lifestyle interventions, would help people seeking weight loss to increase awareness and self-control.
The participants were divided into two groups. Both groups received recommendations to walk briskly for at least twenty minutes a day and were given a diet from a registered dietician. All of them were also given behavioural recommendations such as not buying foods on an empty stomach and not doing anything else when eating. All good weight loss advice there.
In addition to this, one of the groups received three individual hypnosis sessions, during which they were also given instruction in self-hypnosis. Rapid induction techniques were used through attention focus and ratification of what was happening. This also included elements of full body relaxation, slowing the breathing and creating a ‘safe place’ (“In this imaginary place, the subject can feel stronger, more determined, self-controlled and fit, efficient and dynamic. In particular, he/she will be able of doing things that previously create some difficulties, such as appearing in public without shame, climbing stairs, sit down at table with the knowledge of what he/she is about to eat, refrain from gorging, etc.“)
They were shown how to use self-hypnosis and given instruction to do this before each meal or food compulsion occasion for about three minutes each time.
Again, all good stuff in terms of pausing, breaking existing patterns, and accessing the capability to think clearly, make good decisions and take control over our behaviours (especially combined with the recommendation to be mindful when eating and do nothing else while eating).
In their results the researcher found that both groups significantly reduced their weight, BMI and waist circumference values from the start of the trial to the end. And, of course, this is quite common because when we are monitored and the focus is there, it can become much more motivating to keep on track as we know we will have to tell someone our results and be responsible for what we are doing ourselves.
And here’s the really interesting bit. Self-hypnosis when combined with lifestyle recommendations was not associated with greater weight loss. But, it did improve satiety, quality of life and some other markers. And what’s more, habitual hypnosis users showed a greater weight loss.
As the researchers put it, “The frequency of hypnosis use was significantly associated with changes in weight, BMI, waist circumference and energy intake.” Pretty impressive stuff there isn’t it? Using self-hypnosis frequently showed greater weight loss and reduced energy intakes compared to those who used self-hypnosis rarely or not at all.
So while hypnosis and self-hypnosis may not be some sort of panacea for achieving weight loss (and I’m not sure anyone has claimed it to be that), it certainly comes with some pretty good bonuses and benefits over not using it. And, research tends to suggest that the impact of hypnosis increases over time and so by using hypnosis habitually you should be more capable of maintaining results.
There are many current fads in the hypnosis world to label food as the enemy and which seek to encourage a negative attitude towards food as a form of motivation to achieve weight loss. However, this study found that, rather than seeking to induce fear or hate towards food, it was more effective to focus on reducing stress and enhancing self-esteem, as well as developing a sense of being in control.
So there we have it, this research suggests that making lifestyle changes along with regular self-hypnosis/hypnosis seems like the way to go if you want to achieve weight loss, reduce energy intake and boost your quality of life. All of which sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
To your weight loss hypnosis success!
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Bo S, Rahimi F, Properzi B, Regaldo G, Goitre I, Ponzo V, et al. Effects of self-conditioning techniques in promoting weight loss in patients with severe obesity: a randomized controlled trial protocol. Int J Clin Trials 2017;4(1):20-7.
Bo, S. , Rahimi, F. , Goitre, I. , Properzi, B. , Ponzo, V. , Regaldo, G. , Boschetti, S. , Fadda, M. , Ciccone, G. , Abbate Daga, G. , Mengozzi, G. , Evangelista, A. , De Francesco, A. , Belcastro, S. and Broglio, F. (2018), Effects of Self‐Conditioning Techniques (Self‐Hypnosis) in Promoting Weight Loss in Patients with Severe Obesity: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Obesity, 26: 1422-1429. doi:10.1002/oby.22262