Hypnosis is a technique that practitioners may use to help people change unwanted thoughts or behaviors. Some evidence suggests that this method may be an effective strategy to help some individuals lose weight. However, more research is necessary to determine whether it is a beneficial long-term option.

Hypnosis typically involves a highly trained therapist bringing a person into a relaxed state using therapeutic words, phrases, or techniques. It may also involve guided relaxation, self-talk, visualization, or music. When a person is in this altered state of consciousness, they may have a heightened sense of focus in which their mind is more open to change.

Proponents suggest that these techniques enable a person to tap into resources within themselves that they cannot reach when fully conscious. Some research suggests that hypnosis is beneficial for weight loss. Certain individuals may find that hypnosis helps them make suitable dietary changes, eat fewer calories, and exercise more regularly.

In this article, we will discuss what hypnosis is, how it may work for weight loss, and other tips for maintaining a moderate weight.

Image of a person's hands moving in a hypnotic way.Share on Pinterest
Lyuba Burakova/Stocksy

Hypnosis is a process in which specially trained clinicians guide individuals into a highly focused and relaxed state of mind. The Society of Psychological Hypnosis defines it as a state of consciousness involving focused attention and an enhanced capacity for responding to suggestions.

According to the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH), a person is not under the control of the hypnotist but instead gains access to own their innate abilities. With a relaxed mindset, a person may be more receptive to a healthcare professional’s suggestions for lifestyle or dietary changes. Clinicians who use hypnosis may offer individuals help in achieving weight loss success.

According to a 2021 review, hypnosis may be a safe and effective adjuvant treatment for assisting weight loss. A 2018 meta-analysis also suggests that hypnosis is very effective for short-term weight loss, although the authors acknowledge the lack of research on its long-term effects.

A 2020 study indicates that hypnosis may lead to weight loss and considerable changes in leptin levels in people with obesity. Leptin is a hormone that helps control food intake.

In a 2018 randomized control trial, regular self-hypnosis users reduced their calorie intake more significantly and lost more weight than those who did not use this technique. Those in the hypnosis group lost an average of 9.6 kilograms (kg) over a year compared with 5.6 kg among those in the control group. Individuals who learned how to use hypnosis but did not practice it regularly lost an average of 6.5 kg.

Although evidence suggests that hypnosis may provide short-term benefits for weight loss, scientists conclude that more research is necessary on the long-term effects of hypnosis as a possible treatment option for individuals with obesity.

Practitioners may be able to use hypnosis to help people bring about both psychological and physiological change in three main ways:

  • using mental imagery to help a person visualize themselves accomplishing their goals
  • presenting ideas or suggestions that are compatible with what a person desires
  • unconscious exploring to identify whether past events or experiences are causing a personal problem in making positive changes

Individuals can also learn the technique of self-hypnosis. Self-hypnosis is similar to mindfulness techniques and meditation.

The cost of hypnosis varies depending on which state a person lives in, insurance coverage, and the practitioner’s set fees. Most insurance companies cover 50–80% of the cost of individual therapy, but only if a person is receiving treatment from licensed professionals.

The ASCH provides an online search tool to help people find a professional certified in hypnosis.

A hypnotist will clarify a person’s treatment goals and explain the process of hypnosis.

A 2018 meta-analytic review notes that people with obesity may receive hypnosis as a stand-alone treatment or alongside other forms of psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

The practitioner will typically start with a hypnotic induction, a process that guides a person into a hypnotic state. Most inductions require the person to focus their awareness on an object or their own breathing. During the induction, the practitioner may use a soothing tone of voice and picturesque words or phrases to help a person feel relaxed.

Once a person has entered a relaxed state of mind, the principles of hypnosis indicate that they are more open to new ideas. At this point, the clinician will make suggestions and affirmations for achieving weight loss.

In a 2018 randomized control trial, only habitual self-hypnosis was associated with greater weight loss. However, the practice did improve the participants’ satiety, levels of inflammation, and quality of life after 12 months.

The benefits of hypnosis for weight loss include helping a person boost their overall health and lower their risk of certain health conditions. These conditions may include:

Hypnosis is a voluntary, generally safe, and potentially effective process that involves a person and a therapist working together to bring about positive changes.

Hypnosis works best for individuals who are willing to change and believe that hypnosis can help them reach their goals. A clinician cannot force hypnosis on a person or make them do something against their will. A risk of hypnosis is that it will not always work for everyone.

Also, it may be advisable for people with mental health complications, such as psychosis or a personality disorder, to avoid using hypnosis, as it may make the condition worse.

For the best results, the ASCH recommends that people interested in hypnosis choose a practitioner who is properly trained and licensed and has the right credentials.

A person may wish to start their weight loss journey by seeing a clinician for guidance on how to lose weight safely. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the most productive areas to focus on are the dietary and physical activity changes that can lead to long-term weight change.

Weight loss tips may include a combination of dietary changes, exercise, and behavioral changes.

Dietary changes

Weight loss strategies can involve making more nutritious dietary choices. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend:

  • eating a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables
  • choosing lean or lower fat sources of dairy and proteins
  • using naturally occurring oils, such as olive oil, rather than processed oils
  • avoiding highly processed foods such as chips, cookies, cakes, and fast foods
  • incorporating legumes and nuts into meals
  • measuring portion sizes
  • counting calories or using weight loss apps
  • drinking a glass of water instead of snacking, as thirst can sometimes feel the same as hunger
  • minimizing liquid calories, such as those from alcohol and soda
  • trying a weight loss program

Exercise tips

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, adults in good health should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week. To lose weight or keep it off, a person may need at least 300 minutes per week of aerobic activity. Examples of physical activities include:

  • walking
  • hiking
  • jogging
  • dancing
  • bicycling
  • Pilates
  • yoga
  • swimming
  • weightlifting
  • group exercise classes

Scheduling time for physical activity and exercising alongside a friend can help a person meet their weekly exercise targets.

Learn more about the benefits of exercise and how to start.

Behavioral changes

Along with hypnosis, a person can consult a counselor or dietitian or join a support group to help them adopt behaviors that can help with weight loss. Some behavioral changes include:

  • taking at least 15 minutes to eat a meal to allow the brain time to send out signals of fullness
  • recording food intake in a food diary or app
  • practicing self-hypnosis, mindfulness, and meditation regularly
  • using nonfood rewards to celebrate weight loss
  • adjusting routines to limit overeating or snacking triggers

Hypnosis is a technique that specially trained practitioners use to help a person enter a highly focused state of mind. While in a hypnotic state, people are more open to suggestions for therapeutic change. As such, hypnosis might be a tool to help some people lose weight.

Research suggests that people who use self-hypnosis more frequently may lose more weight and develop better dietary habits than those who practice it rarely or not at all.

However, there is limited evidence on the benefits of hypnosis for maintaining long-term weight loss. As such, it is advisable only to use it alongside other weight loss strategies, such as a nutritious diet and regular exercise.