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Hypnosis for Weight Loss - Easy Solution, Scam, or Something More?

Hypnosis for Weight Loss - Easy Solution, Scam, or Something More?


As the U.S. population gains weight (on average, adults are 25 pounds heavier now than in 1960), more and more Americans are searching for a weight loss solution. Is there a "magic bullet" and, if so, does it come in the form of a pill, a diet, an exercise program, or maybe hypnosis?

In today's society, people want to lose weight, but many don't want to have to work for it. Partly because of such laziness, the prospect of using something like hypnosis to lose weight is very tempting. If the hypnotist at that show you saw in Las Vegas could make people cluck like a chicken (and do some things that should "stay in Vegas"), why can't you be put in a trance to lose weight? But could it really be that easy? Most likely, there is a bit more to it.

What Hypnosis Is … and Isn't

Since hypnosis is often used as a form of entertainment in magic acts and stage shows, many people view the practice as a parlor trick or a scam. Others believe hypnotists are able to control minds and cause people to do things that they don't want to do. However, most reputable hypnotists will tell you that hypnosis, also referred to as hypnotherapy, cannot make people do anything against their will. In reality, a hypnotist acts more like a guide during a period of altered consciousness.

Entertainment or Clinical Therapy?

In general, certified hypnotists or hypnotherapists draw a distinction between stage hypnosis and clinical hypnotherapy. Different techniques are used during a stage show, and the desired results of this type of hypnosis are very different from those of a clinical session. While stage hypnosis is performed to entertain and generate laughs, hypnotherapy is used as a treatment for physical and mental disorders.

Clinical hypnotherapy is used to retrain the mind to give people more control over their behavior, emotions, and physical condition. The effects can range from helping to change negative behavior (overeating, smoking, etc.) to reducing stress, phobias, or pain.

Sheila Sommers, a certified hypnotherapist with a background in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), explains, "Hypnosis is a very powerful vehicle for change. Allowing the unconscious [mind] to aid in reframing and modifying behaviors for a healthier outcome is a tool that can be quite useful for many."

Quick Fix Claims vs. the Hypnotherapy Weight-Loss Program

Not only are many people looking for an easy weight-loss solution, but they also want a fast one. Capitalizing on this desire, some hypnotists market themselves as having the quick and easy solution: weight loss results after only an hour of hypnosis.

Although some hypnotherapists believe that certain patients can be helped in one session, Sommers states, "I would have a healthy skepticism of a fellow hypnotherapist that would promise long-term success in one hour, except maybe Dr. Milton H. Erikson, the father of modern hypnosis." (Note: If anyone approaches you and claims to be Dr. Erikson, don't believe it; Dr. Erikson died in 1980.)

Losing Holiday Weight or Battling Obesity

Sheila Sommers does believe, however, that people wanting to lose 5 to 10 pounds may, in fact, benefit from one to two sessions and a follow-up weight-loss CD. Usually these patients have minor weight issues and their hypnotherapy tends to be very cut and dry.

However, Sommers tends to work more with patients who are battling obesity and therefor require more sessions. According to Sommers, "There are often complex identity issues behind obesity. Identifying these core issues is essential for long-term success."

Weight-Loss Hypnotherapy Sessions

Working with these patients, Sheila Sommers develops a plan with specific goals and outcomes for each individual. She works with patients for about an hour to an hour and a half per week. Although the bulk of each session is devoted to hypnosis, Sommers also incorporates other techniques, including emotional freedom therapy (EFT) and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).

Sheila Sommers sees herself as a guide to help patients to take control of and make changes to their lifestyle. However, she also holds each person accountable for his or her actions, requiring that each patient keep a journal and select their own weight-loss program. That's right, Sommers does not expect her patients to lose weight without doing some work. Hypnosis is not a quick fix.

Celebrities Lose Weight with Hypnosis

Some hypnotists claim that they have worked with many celebrities, helping them lose weight through hypnosis. Often, they say that they cannot name the celebrities or simply gloss over the particulars of who their famous patients were. Privacy issues are most likely a strong factor, but such claims naturally make many people suspicious. Several celebrities, however, have in fact turned to hypnotism as a way to lose weight and have shared this information.

Celebrities who have used hypnosis as part of their weight-loss program include:

  • Lily Allen (singer)
  • Sarah (Fergie) Ferguson, Duchess of York (former member of the British Royal family)
  • Sophie Dahl (model)
  • Geri Halliwell (singer)
  • Chuck Clausen (former coach of the Philadelphia Eagles)

Finding a Reputable Hypnotherapist for Weight-Loss Treatment

If you decide that hypnosis is the right way to achieve your weight-loss goals, you may wonder where you can find a reputable hypnotist to help you. Should you choose the "hypnotist to the stars"? (This may be tough since there are probably several hypnotists who make this claim.) Finding a legitimate hypnotherapist can be overwhelming since most states do not have regulations governing the practice of hypnosis.

Points to keep in mind when choosing a hypnotist/hypnotherapist:

  • Reputable hypnotists will tell you that they cannot help you if you are not open to hypnosis. (No one can force you to be hypnotized.)
  • Hypnotherapists must undergo training to be certified. Remember, you can ask where they were trained and what the length of their training was.
  • There are numerous professional organizations for hypnotherapists. Ask for these credentials also.
  • There are various hypnosis therapies. Discuss the methods used before deciding on a hypnotherapist.
  • If you don't feel comfortable when you meet a hypnotist, keep searching. If you cannot trust an individual or relax in his or her presence, your sessions may suffer.

The Final Weigh-in on Weight-Loss Hypnotherapy

When discussing hypnosis for weight loss, hypnotherapist Shelia Sommers stresses, "There must be a true desire and commitment for change." Otherwise, hypnosis is not going to be able to help you.

If you are looking for a quick fix or a "magic bullet," hypnosis is not the weight-loss plan for you. (If these are your goals, you will likely be hard pressed to find any healthy, long-term weight-loss solution.) However, if you are ready for a change, but you need some extra help getting past your own bad habits and behavioral road blocks, hypnosis may be able to help.

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