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You’ve cut refined sugar out of your diet (except for the occasional slice of birthday cake—you’re not a robot), and you make it to the gym a few days a week. For whatever reason, though, you can’t seem to shed those ten pounds that you’ve been trying to lose for the last ten years. Does hypnosis work for weight loss? It’s possible. Read on for everything you need to know about channeling this holistic practice to achieve your weight-loss goals.

What Is Hypnotherapy? 

Very basically, hypnotherapy is a type of alternative medicine that employs hypnosis to create a state of focused attention during which positive suggestions are used to help individuals deal with a variety of concerns and issues.

It’s a form of holistic healing. When you hear the term “holistic healing,” you might picture all the pseudo-scientific treatments your painter cousin in Portland says you must do since you seem so stressed. But in 2019, holistic healing is becoming more and more widely accepted—and utilized. Like acupuncture and meditation, hypnotherapy is a form of treatment that considers the whole person (including his or her mind, body and spirit)—in the quest for optimal health.

The idea is that one can achieve overall wellness through gaining proper balance in life. When you visit a holistic practitioner (including naturopathic doctors, homeopathic doctors, massage therapists, dietitians and such), they’ll likely take an approach to healing whatever you’re dealing with by considering your environment—the stress in your life, your diet and medications you’ve taken in the past. While some people eschew Western medicine in favor of only holistic treatments, it’s become more and more common to combine facets of both. Hypnotists, for the record, are not licensed, but organizations like the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis and the National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists offer certification programs.

woman lying down with her eyes closed
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What Can You Expect Out of a Hypnotherapy Session?

Hypnotherapy is not a form of psychotherapy, though it might have a similar feel to a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) session. It’s generally performed in a calm, therapeutic environment. A hypnotherapist will guide you into a relaxed state and suggest new ways to think about things that can help you change your behavior. Unlike how it’s portrayed in movies and on TV shows, you won’t be unconscious, asleep or out of control of yourself. You’ll hear your therapist, but it’s up to you to decide how you respond—or don’t.

Here are a few additional things that might happen, according to New York City hypnotherapist Alexandra Janelli:

1. You Might Be Nervous

Before your appointment, it’s totally natural to freak the hell out. Don’t worry. It’s more like guided meditation—you can’t be hypnotized against your will, and it won’t happen unless you’re really open and relaxed.

2. You Might Cry

Once you’ve entered a hypnotic state, it’s totally natural for your body to release any emotions you’ve been carrying around. Just let it happen—your hypnotherapist has seen it all before.

3. You Might Lose Track of Time

When you’re lifted out of a hypnotic state, you’ll feel aware of what happened—but what you thought was a three-minute session might have been more like 20 to 25 minutes. After your first session, you might walk around slightly dazed, feeling like you’ve just taken a long nap or had a really relaxing deep-tissue massage.

4. You Might Need to Go Back a Few Times

Some people can be totally transformed in one session, while others might require multiple follow-up visits. Or hypnosis might not work at all. It’s all about your brain’s willingness to go to a subconscious place and be open to suggestion. Hey, it’s worth a shot, right? 

woman stepping on a scale
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Does Hypnotherapy Actually Work for Weight Loss? 

The idea behind hypnotherapy for weight loss is that, during hypnosis, your mind can be influenced to change unhealthy habits that cause you to hold onto excess weight (from overeating to thinking about unhealthy foods as a “reward”). Proponents also think that hypnosis can help ease the overthinking that so often goes into dieting and trying to lose weight.

The science is a little less conclusive. One review in the International Journal of Obesity found that participants using hypnotherapy for weight loss only lost a couple of pounds. A randomized trial published in 1998 looked at the effects of a diet advice program with and without two different forms of hypnotherapy in 60 obese patients. After three months, all groups had lost around 2 to 3 percent of their bodyweight. After 18 months, only one of the two hypnotherapy groups was still keeping the weight off. Still, the weight loss was only about 8 pounds, which the researchers deemed “clinically insignificant.”

woman making a salad
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What Are Some More Accessible Ways to Lose Weight? 

So basically, there hasn’t been enough scientific support to classify hypnotherapy as a tried-and-true solution for weight loss. While there shouldn’t be any adverse effects to trying it, here are a few more widely-supported ways to lose weight.

1. Cook Your Own Meals 

Sure, it’s more time consuming, but making your own food instead of going out to eat is a super-easy way to eat healthier (and, as an added bonus, save money). Restaurants load their dishes with sugar, salt and other unhealthy ingredients. Plus, the portion sizes are usually massive.

2. Eat Mindfully 

Picture it: You’re sitting in front of the TV with a giant takeout dinner you meant to spread over two meals. You’re fully engrossed in whatever you’re watching and before you know it, you’ve mindlessly plowed through your entire order. To avoid unintentionally overeating, try practicing mindful eating, which basically means being in the moment while you calmly eat with intention.

3. Stay Hydrated 

Consistently drinking water is one of the best things you can do for your health and also one of the easiest. In addition to keeping your skin clear and your energy up, staying hydrated boosts your metabolism, makes you feel full (per a 2015 study from the University of Oxford) and keeps you from drinking the not-so-great-for-you beverages we mentioned above.

4. Get Enough Sleep 

Did you know that being tired can spell disaster for your weight loss goals? Studies—like this one published in the Journal of Nursing Scholarship—have shown that a lack of sleep can increase hunger and cravings, as well as cause weight gain by messing with levels of the hormones ghrelin and leptin.

RELATED: 8 Things That Might Happen If You Go to a Hypnotist 

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