Hypnotherapy for weight loss
Reviewed by our clinical team
It’s estimated that around a quarter of the UK adults are classed as obese (that means they have a BMI of 30 or over). And a much bigger proportion are classed as ‘overweight’ (that’s anyone with a BMI of 25 and over). So, with lots of people potentially needing help with weight management, it’s no surprise that there’s so many different routes available. Hypnotherapy is one of those routes that some go down.
In this article we’re going to look at whether hypnotherapy can help with weight loss, what the theory is behind hypnosis for weight and other weight loss methods you might want to consider.
What is hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy is a way of using hypnosis as a psychological therapy to help treat certain conditions or break bad habits. Hypnosis is a procedure that a trained hypnotherapist can perform.
During a hypnotherapy session a therapist would put you in a deeply relaxed state. When you’re in this state your mind can focus concentration and lose awareness of your surroundings. With the noise of the outside world removed, the therapist can make suggestions which your mind will be more open to receiving. The idea is that you carry these suggestions with you when you’re not in a hypnotised state and they should help you change how you act and feel.
What is hypnotherapy used for?
Hypnotherapy can be used to treat a range of physical and mental health conditions, or it also might be used in combination with other treatments (e.g., other types of psychological or pain management treatments).
In terms of mental health conditions, there’s evidence hypnotherapy can help with:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Stress, anxiety and anger
- Problems with sleep
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Addictions e.g., smoking
- Eating disorders
- Problems with memory after a brain injury
- Physical conditions that might have psychological trigger/element, e.g., IBS, headaches or back pain
It’s thought that hypnotherapy can help with manage people’s anxiety and symptoms when they’re experiencing pain, about to have surgery or a dental procedure or go through childbirth.
Because hypnotherapy can help people change the way they act and their habits, it’s believed it can be used to help some people lose weight.
Can you get hypnotherapy for weight loss?
Yes, you can get hypnotherapy for weight loss. It’s thought that it can change habits that might be contributing to weight gain, or stopping you lose weight.
This kind of treatment for weight loss isn’t usually available on the NHS and would have to be accessed privately. While the NHS doesn’t list hypnotherapy as one of the main treatments for weight management, the Royal College of Psychiatrists says there is some evidence it can help. For a list of qualified hypnotherapists, you should visit the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care’s register.
Does hypnotherapy work for weight loss?
Hypnotherapy is thought to be effective for some people who are trying to lose weight. It can help you change the way you think and act around food.
For lots of people, the causes of being overweight are rooted how they’re feeling or their mental health. Things like stress, tiredness and bad habits (e.g., late-night snacking, or eating too much) can all contribute to you being overweight, and these are all things hypnotherapy can help with. Often when these issues are dealt with, people find weight is much easier to lose.
Virtual gastric band
There is a type of hypnosis for weight loss known as the ‘virtual gastric band’. A gastric band is a surgical procedure which involves putting a band around your stomach, so you can’t eat as much and feel fuller quicker. Hypnotherapy for weight loss can work in a similar way, making you eat less, because you think you’re fuller and less hungry.
The virtual ‘procedure’ can happen during a series of sessions, over a number of weeks. The therapist might even talk through the real-life surgery step-by-step, convincing their patient in their hypnotised state they’re having the procedure. This belief is then planted in the patient’s subconscious, and they eat less and end up losing weight.
It's important to remember that this treatment is no guarantee of weight loss. Studies have shown no difference between the results achieved by relaxation hypnotherapy and the virtual gastric band.
Can other types of therapy help with weight loss?
Like we’ve mentioned above, often getting mental health support can help you on your weight loss journey. Other than hypnotherapy, you might find that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help you reframe the way you think about food and eating. CBT is all about changing the way you think and behave and breaking problems/situations down into more manageable parts.
Other ways to lose weight healthily
There are lots of other ways to manage your weight that clinicians will tend to recommend ahead of hypnotherapy. Most people’s first port of call is to look at your diet and lifestyle – reducing your calorie intake and upping your exercise. If you can, try reducing your calorie intake by around 500 calories a day to begin with and make sure you’re getting around 150 minutes of activity a week.
If you need some more support with weight management, it might be that treatments are an option for you. Tablets like Orlistat/Xenical or an injection like Saxenda® or Wegovy® (which is launching soon in the UK), can be a great aid, when used alongside a reduced calorie diet and exercise.
To lose weight and keep the weight off, it’s all about making lifestyle changes you can keep up long-term. You can read more about eating healthily here.