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Does Hypnotherapy Help You Lose Weight?

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Many people try dieting or new exercise plans and end up back where they started – the reason why there are so many different types of diet is that many of them just don’t work. Many of them are just far too restrictive to be successful.

On top of these traditional approaches, complimentary therapies such as hypnotherapy are becoming more and more popular. Evidence suggests that some of these therapies are beneficial for a number of clinical issues, and subsequently they’ve gathered not only positive feedback from patients but some have received celebrity endorsement too.

In this article we’ll take a look at whether hypnotherapy can help you lose weight. 

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What is hypnotherapy?
  • What do the studies say – can it help you lose weight?
  • Is there anything else that can help you lose weight?

What is Hypnotherapy?

The idea behind this specific therapy is quite simple. It involves suggestions made by the therapist in order to change client behavior or experiences [1].

The main aim of the intervention is to change your thoughts, attitudes and perspectives towards a situation or experience. It has previously been used in addiction behavior or to reduce phobias and fears as well.

Verbal communication from the therapist helps you to open up your consciousness by finding a receptive state of mind where your ideas and sensations can be altered. Essentially, the therapist guides you into a state of deep relaxation – much like a daydream. Once there, the therapist uses soothing words and scripts to plant new behaviors into your subconscious.

This type of therapy is widely considered to be powerful in its ability to change behaviors as a therapeutic, clinical tool [2].

Hypnotherapy is a particularly effective tool in changing behavior in those with eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia [3].


Key Point: Hypnotherapy is a clinical tool which has been used in therapeutic interventions for many years.

What Do The Studies Say – Can Hypnotherapy Boost Weight Loss?

Unfortunately it appears that proper hypnotist certification is somewhat overrated in this day of age. Certification and proof of training can be easily bought online with no actual effort or adequate training – one review even points out that certifications have even been purchased for cats [4].

The first thing to mention here is that the hypnotherapy industry is full of life-changing anecdotes which help to fuel DVD, book and app sales. These are powerful marketing tools.

When you look at the clinical trials you’ll straight away see that the evidence suggests a modest effect at best – it certainly doesn’t back up the massive claims made in the mainstream media.

Systematic reviews are where all current research papers are clubbed together and one large analysis of their findings is completed – it is often referred to as one of the most robust methods of research. One such review, published in the International Journal of Obesity [5], analyzed a number of complimentary therapies to see if any of them had significant benefits to weight loss.

The results of the analysis suggested that although there was a positive effect in comparison to other weight loss strategies, the effect was only small.

The fact that participants only lost a couple of pounds in weight here and there was a disappointing result when the cost and time involved in the therapy are factored in.

Smaller, more independent studies have reported similar findings [6]. 30 subjects who were at least 10% over their ideal weight, were put into one of three groups for 7 weeks:

  • Group 1: hypnosis
  • Group 2: covert modelling
  • Group 3: relaxation-attention control

At the end of the test, subjects had their weight measured, and again at 16 weeks. The results suggested a ‘minimum‘ effect and concluded no relationship between hypnotic suggestibility and weight loss. 

In an ever-emerging technological society, there are now even hypnotherapy smart phone applications available. According to a large systematic review, weight loss was the reason why most people downloaded these apps – accounting for 23% of all users [4].

Interestingly, out of the 407 apps analyzed for the review, not one had been tested for efficacy, and only 35% had a disclaimer attached to them. Only 7% of the apps mentioned that the hypnotist involved in its development had a professional title.

Whilst these apps are a cheaper alternative to professional consultations, they are largely invalidated and unregulated. 


Key Point: Studies are not convincing. Hypnotherapy doesn’t seem to have much of an effect for weight loss at all.

Summary – Can Hypnotherapy Boost Weight Loss?

Hypnotherapy is an intervention where a trained therapist aims to change your behavior, thoughts and attitudes towards a situation or experience. It has been used in the clinical setting for many years and is generally considered a powerful therapeutic tool.

The evidence suggests though that its clinical application may not be as effective for weight loss. Its affects appear modest at best. A number of reviews have found either no, or very little effect – even smaller independent studies have failed to see improvements.

There are a number of interventions that will help you lose weight – healthy eating, regular physical activity and a high-quality fat burner will all help you speed up towards your weight loss goal.

We suggest avoiding hypnotherapy and instead focus your attention on something that is evidenced to work in clinically robust testing.

What Else Can Help You Lose Weight?

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  1. Kirsch, I et al. Hypnosis as an Adjunct to Cognitive-Behavioral Psychotherapy: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 1995; 63(2): 214-220
  2. Barnes, J et al. Hypnotherapy for smoking cessation (Review). The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 1998; 2
  3. Entwistle, PA et al. Unconscious agendas in the etiology of refractory obesity and the role of hypnosis in their identificvation and resolution: A New Paradigm for Weight-Management Programs or a Paradigm Revisited? Intl. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 2014; 62(3): 330–359
  4. Sucala, M et al. Hypnosis: There’s an App for that. A systematic review of hypnosis apps. Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 2013; 61(4): 463–474
  5. Pittler, MH et al. Complementary therapies for reducing body weight: a systematic review. International Journal of Obesity. 2005; 291030–1038
  6. Wadden, TA et al. Hypnosis and weight loss: A preliminary study. Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 1981; 29(2): 162-173