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Why Hypnotherapy Works for Weight Loss

Mark Tyrrell
Article by Mark Tyrrell
Therapist trainer of 25 years
Co-founder of Hypnosis Downloads

How the right psychology can render diets irrelevant

"Being a fat man is no picnic."

"How so?"

"My male friends greet me by play-punching my stomach. They ask me things like: 'Hi Sam! How's your sex life?' No one else gets asked about their sex life. It's as if my fatness makes me one big joke! I like to laugh as much as the next guy, but I also want to be taken seriously sometimes."

In 7 Weight Loss Motivation Tips That Work, I wrote about ways to approach weight loss psychologically. In this article, I'm going to specifically address the use of hypnotherapy in maximising healthy weight loss.

Weight loss and self-image

We're always hearing messages from the media like: "Losing weight will improve your self-image" - as well as all the health benefits being slimmer will bring you. But it's a lie to say that other people never judge us by our size.

Sam had always been 'the fat kid' at school, back when being overweight was rarer than it is now. He was not lazy. He'd tried all the diets, exercised his "backside off", and been told repeatedly that it was his genetic destiny to be 'big' always - or as the current parlance has it: 'a person of size'. It was his hormones, glands...whatever.

"Mark, how come you never see fat Biafras on those famine news reports? Surely some of them must have fat genes!"


Sam was right; overweight people are treated differently. Men negatively discriminate against fat women on dating websites (1) and larger men are pigeon-holed as 'jolly' or comical, but not as masculine or even as intelligent as their slimmer, toned peers (2).

Hypnotherapy for weight loss is not like a sugar hit

"What I need," said Sam, "is an instant hypnotic suggestion implanted into my head."

"What, like an instant psychological sugar hit?!"

People will often relate to food the way they relate to other things and vice versa. Hypnosis can seem miraculous, but the 'instant hit' mentality had been keeping Sam fat - we needed to discard it.

Hypnosis isn't a pill (even most pills don't work instantly). It's not just a case of telling someone to be a certain way and that's it, now they're sorted... forever. Actually, treating post-traumatic stress disorder (especially if it's related to just one event) can be pretty instant, but obesity is a condition that can have many different contributing factors.

If, for example, I hypnotically commanded Sam to "eat less", then what? He might eat less, but his energy levels would drop, he'd move his body less; and as his metabolism slowed, he'd burn less fat. And that's the crux of the matter; losing fat. When people say they want to lose weight, they really mean they want to lose fat - not water or muscle tone.

No, we needed an overall approach. I could see Sam understood this and was prepared to 'consume' his hypnosis sensibly. He was not expecting to gorge and feel instantly satisfied (only to discharge it soon afterwards without absorbing its nutriment).

So how does hypnosis work for weight loss?

Hypnosis and weight loss - how it works

Hypnosis works because it works on the level of feelings, patterns, and unconscious motivations. It's much better when we feel we want to eat healthily rather than just think that we should. Used well, hypnosis will help people naturally feel like making the right choices. This doesn't mean that someone who's had hypnotherapy for weight loss will never have to use their willpower, but it does mean they'll feel better able to use it.

10 hypnotic approaches for weight loss

When helping people to lose weight using hypnotherapy, I use a number of approaches, including:

  1. Using hypnosis to maximize motivation to eat well.
  2. Using hypnosis to encourage an increase in fat-burning metabolism. And I might suggest that at a certain time each day, their legs will become very restless and "let them know" it's time to exercise; just like a dog wanting its walk badgering its owner.
  3. Using metaphor, such as describing a sculptor working bit by bit with a shapeless rock to "find" the "real form" in the rock - and, having found it, discarding all the needless rock.
  4. Suggesting the person envisage seeing themselves in a fat suit and what it's going to be like to feel so relieved to begin to discard one layer at a time and to inhabit their "real body".
  5. Suggesting, though, that they don't mainly focus on weight, but rather on fitness and health.
  6. Distinguishing between "fake food" (processed carbs, sugars, chemically altered stuff) and "real food".
  7. Using disassociation by talking about the body having its own "needs" and the unconscious mind working with the body "regardless of the habits of the conscious mind" to eat healthily.
  8. Using a hypnotic journey metaphor and suggesting that at each stage of the journey, they can notice how the pressure on their feet feels lighter, how their body feels better, what clothes they are now wearing.
  9. Using disassociation to enable them to see themselves in the future looking slimmer, eating well, and exercising in the right ways.
  10. Using 'age progression' to take them into the future where they've become slimmer and suggesting they "remember" exactly how that's happened.

Over the weeks, Sam started to look better, to exercise sensibly (over-exercise helps no one), and to eat well. He lost fat and increased muscle tone, his blood pressure readings improved, he became confident, and he got a girlfriend. And he told me that not once had he felt like he was "on a diet", yet he'd become slimmer. He was no longer 'the fat guy'.

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  1. Actually, it seems that overweight women are more discriminated against than overweight men. A study carried out by the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Connecticut found that overweight women are more likely to lose their jobs, be a victim of crime, have money troubles, and be viewed less favourably for dating than their slimmer counterparts. The study looked at 41,218 adults who had completed detailed records of their lives in which each had kept a year-long diary showing when they had suffered the most stress.
  2. Being fat doesn't seem to be as disadvantageous for a man as being very short - which again makes it harder (crazily) to progress in a career or in dating.
Published by Mark Tyrrell - in Weight Loss