Does hypnosis work for weight loss?
A review of various research on the potential of hypnosis as a weight loss aid.
Obesity has reached epidemic levels on a global scale in recent decades. As indicated by the World Health Organization (WHO), weight disorders have almost tripled from 1975 to the present. This translates into approximately 1.9 billion adults (or more) being overweight worldwide at this time, or 39% of the total population.
Obesity is not only an aesthetic feature that is often not very "normative", but also translates into an increased risk of ischemic Heart disease, accelerated cellular aging, increased likelihood of colon and rectal cancers, increased likelihood of depression (up to 55% more) and many other physical and emotional pathologies.
For all these reasons and many more, it is normal for people to want to lose weight. However, various sources estimate that only 2 out of 10 people who start a diet lose weight significantly: this type of process requires knowledge, education, supervision, mental health and in many cases purchasing power, something that not everyone has. In order to overcome obesity, an extensive psychological treatment is necessary, so not everything is as easy as "eat less" or "exercise more".
Based on this premise, more and more alternative methods are emerging that try to combat overweight and obesity without having to undergo surgery. Today we take a look at one of the most emerging and committed: does hypnosis work to lose weight?
What is hypnosis?
The term hypnosis is used to define an altered state of consciousness and the process by which this event is achieved in the patient. During the hypnotic trance, certain psycho-affective, physiological, cognitive and behavioral processes can be addressed and modified.. In addition, it should be noted that the hypnotic state can be brought about by a professional (therapist) or by the individual (self-hypnosis).
The subjective experience of hypnosis is characterized on two different fronts: authenticity (the experience is real) and involuntariness ("it happens by itself"). Once the patient enters the hypnotic state, verbal and nonverbal suggestive content is used that corresponds to internal expectations and has powerful effects on the mentality and somatic processes in the individual.
Contrary to popular belief, hypnosis is neither authoritarian nor passive, nor is it about the therapist controlling or manipulating the patient.. It is conceived only as a resource and tool used for the individual to control his emotions, to know more about himself and to obtain his goals, not for an external entity to achieve something from him. Nowadays, hypnosis from a clinical point of view is very far from what is shown in the movies.
Is hypnosis useful for weight loss?
In the medical and research field, conjecture remains at the door. We could stretch the lines of space by saying that "it may work for you and not for someone else," but we would be missing the truth, as we need hard facts to back up every approach, especially when it comes to individual health.
The good thing about the world of research and statistics is that, fortunately, numbers don't lie. The fact that there is a correlation between 2 events (measured with objective parameters such as the P-value) does not always indicate a reality, but it certainly points us in the right direction, unless the experiment is a real disaster.
Therefore, we are going to give you the summary of 3 different scientific publications that try to answer this question. Let the science speak for itself.
1. Comparing the influence of hypnosis on body mass
In this study called "Controlled trial of hypnotherapy for weight loss in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea", published in the International Journal of Obesity in 1998, the aim was to evaluate the effects of 2 types of hypnosis compared to dietary monitoring in 60 patients with obstructive sleep apnea..
The sample groups were monitored for weight loss at 1, 3, 6, 6, 9, 12, 15 and 18 months after treatment, regardless of whether the patients were treated with hypnotherapy or dietary follow-up/advice. It was observed that, at 3 months, all sample groups had lost 2-3% of their body mass, indicating that something was working.
At 18 months after treatment only the hypnotherapy group showed a significant mean weight loss with respect to the rest of the patients, although this was very small, 3.8 kilograms.3.8 kilograms. Analyzing the whole time interval, it was observed that the group with hypnotherapy and dietary follow-up achieved a greater weight loss than the other remaining segments, so a lance is broken in favor of this technique, right?
Not quite. The problem with this research (acknowledged by the authors themselves) is that the benefits of hypnotherapy, although numerically significant, were insignificant at the clinical level.. In addition, a sample number of 60 provides very little information, since studies with much more statistical power are required to establish a strong causality.
2. Analyzing physiological markers
This study called "Effects of Hypnotherapy on Weight Loss and thus on Serum Leptin, Adiponectin, and Irisin Levels in Obese Patients" is much more current, as it was published in 2020 in the Journal of alternative and complementary medicine. On this occasion, the aim was to investigate the effect of hypnosis for weight loss in obese patients by means of physiological markers, such as leptin, adiponectin, and Irisin levels in obese patients.such as leptin, adiponectin and irisin, hormones and compounds highly related to adipose tissue.
Following the parameters of 30 obese patients, it was observed that Body Mass Index (BMI) and serum leptin levels decreased significantly after treatment. Irisin and adiponectin levels increased after the approach, which is to be expected, since the concentration of the latter hormone is inversely proportional to BMI, as it is secreted in adipose tissue. Once again, this study breaks a lance in favor of hypnosis.
3. An overview of several studies on hypnotherapy
In another paper called "Hypnotherapy for overweight and obese patients: A narrative review", published in January 2021 in the Journal of integrative Medicine, is undoubtedly the most interesting of the three. In this case, a sample group is not analyzed, but the results of 119 different studies are collected, of which only 7 meet the necessary inclusion criteria. In the end, data were obtained from 539 patients between 17 and 67 years of age, a much larger and more reliable sample group than those shown so far. than those shown so far.
The studies analyzed concluded that hypnosis promoted weight loss, not only during the treatment, but also in subsequent periods. However, we encounter the same problem as before: many of these studies have methodological flaws and the number of available publications is very limited. For this reason, the authors themselves recognize that more well-founded studies are needed in order to be able to apply hypnosis methods for weight loss with confidence.
A final reflection
Numbers don't lie, as long as they are well thought out and the methodology is reliable.. A study with a sample group of 60 patients says little or nothing, even more so if the average weight lost in those subjected to hypnotherapy is only 3.8 kilos higher than in the rest of the individuals. It is clear that the authors may try to tinge these data with discovery, but fortunately, any subsequent self-respecting review will treat these claims with a high degree of skepticism, as we have seen.
As the Mayo Clinic, a governmental medical body, points out, many of the results of these studies have been scrutinized and have failed the reliability test, making it very difficult to link hypnosis to weight loss in an effective and irrefutable way. Obesity is combated with therapeutic care, exercise and emotional support and, if all this fails, stomach reduction surgery is often necessary..
So, does hypnosis work for weight loss? Unfortunately, we can't give you a definitive answer, because at this point we have the same data as you do. There are sources that will tell you that yes and others that no, so the best thing you can do is to put yourself in the hands of a nutritionist and/or psychiatrist, so that together you can address in a multidisciplinary way your problem, in the way that the professionals consider most appropriate.
- Erşan, S., & Erşan, E. E. (2020). Effects of Hypnotherapy on Weight Loss and thus on Serum Leptin, Adiponectin, and Irisin Levels in Obese Patients. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 26(11): 1047 - 1054.
- Häuser, W., Hagl, M., Schmierer, A., & Hansen, E. (2016). The efficacy, safety and applications of medical hypnosis: a systematic review of meta-analyses. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, 113(17): 289.
- Is weight-loss hypnosis effective? Mayo Clinic. Recogido a 17 de marzo en https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/expert-answers/weight-loss-hypnosis/faq-20058291
- Roslim, N. A., Ahmad, A., Mansor, M., Aung, M. M. T., Hamzah, F., Hassan, H., & Lua, P. L. (2020). Hypnotherapy for overweight and obese patients: a narrative review. Journal of Integrative Medicine.
- Stradling, J., Roberts, D., Wilson, A., & Lovelock, F. (1998). Controlled trial of hypnotherapy for weight loss in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea. International journal of obesity, 22(3): 278 - 281.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)