I see an increasing number of clients wanting to use hypnosis for weight loss. I am planning some marketing around this aspect of hypnosis as it’s not commonly known how effective hypnosis is for weight loss. Many people know about smoking, for example, but not weight loss.

I have had a number of recent referrals from dietitians and thought it would be a good idea to write a blog about how hypnotherapists work with weight issues.

The first aspect of hypnosis and weight loss is correctly understanding what is the concern the client has around their weight and how they would rather be. This is important: we need to understand the client’s goals and feelings about their body as well as connect the client to a vision of themselves they can really relate to.

The second aspect is understanding triggers and how they client gains weight and most importantly, why. Now many clients will go to dieticians, gyms, have a personal trainer, take specific weight loss supplements, drink weight loss teas and many other seemingly very useful and effective ways of becoming their desired shape. Unfortunately, they often don’t report the results they want. Why is this?

From a therapeutic hypnosis point of view we would say that is because the client is dealing with the symptom (in this case weight gain) and not the cause. The clients rational mind is telling them to lose weight but their subconscious mind has a very different reason for the overeating. The cause of why clients overeat or have an unhealthy relationship with food and their body is as varied as there are people in the world. So a big part of the hypnosis session is the therapist developing an understanding of how this works for their particular client. Hypnosis is not really effective if we don’t understand what is driving the behaviour.

The therapist needs to remain aware that the client themselves may not fully understand the emotional substructure to their eating pattern. This is when hypnotherapists become Super Sleuths. We ask many questions and give the client a few small exercises to try and uncover the real reasons behind the eating.

Here is an example I had a couple of years ago:

A client came to me and told me that he ate because of stress, he said he found himself stressed and he woke up at midnight and could not sleep and the only thing that comforted him was eating carbohydrates and then he would fall back asleep – still stressed but feeling a bit better.

We explored further and discovered that he has a particular routine at work and the days that he has to have a report in are the evenings he starts to midnight snack. Then we explored further and discovered that the days he has a report due and the days he has to rely on his other colleagues for input are the worst evenings for midnight snacks. We explored further and discovered that he finds it very difficult to assert himself with certain colleagues – in particular one very dismissive colleague – and as a result he felt his requests were not prioritised the way others were.

We explored further and discovered that other times when he feels dismissed he also eats. We found that he recalls always wanting to show his school report and achievement to his mother and she would be too busy – he had a deep pain of being dismissed. In fact, in reality, it was not being dismissed that was the problem – it was in this act of dismissal that his child self interpreted to mean he was unloved. A truly deep wound coming via a parental relationship – very painful stuff indeed. As a child he would eat to regain control and recover. As an adult unhappy interactions with his fellows triggered his feeling of being dismissed and therefore unloved and he would eat to regain control and recover as the pain inside was too deep to contemplate so the food was useful to cover it and “swallow” the pain. Many overweight people swallow their pain literally.

So, now I had an understanding what is really driving this behaviour I could use hypnosis techniques to release this client from the pain and sadness of not being loved and give him some resources to love himself and in turn his body. This then helped him make choices that would support and nourish his body in a healthy way, improving his self-esteem and in turn his habits.

So the most common comment from many of my “weight loss” clients is: “wow, but we have never really talked about food and now I am not eating what I did before and feeling so much better emotionally”.

So once the client has tamed their emotional reactions they can use the wonderful resources like dieticians and gyms and have those proven techniques be truly effective and release themselves from endless frustrations.

Hypnosis is effective for the reasons described above but it’s also a wonderful journey of discovery for the client.