Obesity / Weight Control

Hypnotherapy notes

Before dealing with the presenting weight issue the therapist should initially seek to improve self-esteem and normalise any self image distortions.

Having done so underlying causes (if any - it is incorrect to believe that weight issues always have an underlying cause) should be addressed. In particular the therapist should ensure that underlying anxiety in the form of compulsive behaviours is not present.

Given that it takes time to lose weight it is sensible to tackle any presenting depression issues and to amplify motivation as far as possible.

One should note that a weight issue does not exist in isolation. It exists within a person's lifestyle and that person exists within an environment. The therapist should take time to look at the bigger picture and to advise accordingly if appropriate.


In some situations aversive approaches may be appropriate to reduce the desire to consume specific foods. Software based support utilities for home use are available. More...



Hypnotherapy CDs covering a wide range of weight control / healthy eating issues are available from this site. More...

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Obesity is a heavy accumulation of fat in the body's fat cells to such a serious degree that it rapidly increases the risk of obesity-associated diseases and mortality. The fat may be equally distributed on the body, on the stomach (apple-shaped) or on the hips and thighs (pear-shaped). An excellent method to measure obesity and overweight is the Body Mass Index (BMI). It is calculated as your weight (in kg) divided by your height (in metres) squared. People of average weight are considered to have a BMI between 18.5 and 25 (kg/m2), and people with a BMI of 25 to 30 (kg/m2) are considered overweight, while people with a BMI of over 30 (kg/m2) are considered obese.

How common is obesity?

Obesity is found a little more among men than women. Stomach obesity is more frequent and occurs in 30 per cent of adult men and, to a lesser degree, in adult women. Obesity and stomach obesity are rapidly increasing, especially in young people. The occurrence of obesity has increased by five fold since the Second World War.

What are the serious obesity-related diseases?

Most importantly, being overweight and obese may cause several psychological problems like a feeling of inferiority, often caused by discrimination. Furthermore, many physical problems are related to obesity, like difficulties in breathing, personal hygiene, pain in the knees and back and skin problems. People suffering from obesity more frequently have high blood pressure and diseases related to hardening of the arteries, with blood clots in the heart and the brain. Other related problems include non-insulin dependent diabetes, gallstones, some types of cancer, difficulties in mobility and increased risk of mortality.

What causes obesity?

Obesity can be hereditary, hence some people are at increased risk. However, obesity only develops from overeating, irregular meals and lack of daily physical activity. Many people think that when a disease is hereditary, it is inevitable that you will suffer from the condition but this is not true. If the people in Europe had grown up in China with plenty of non-fat foods and hard daily work in the rice fields, only a few of them would be overweight or fat. It is lifestyle which determines how the genes develop. The fact that the existence of obesity has increased by five times since the Second World War, is hardly due to a change of our genes. On the contrary, our lifestyles have changed rapidly. Besides genes, food and physical activity, it is possible that other so far unknown elements may play a part.

When is obesity dangerous?

With a BMI of more than 25, it is advisable to change lifestyles and lose weight, especially if it is stomach obesity (apple-shaped). The waist circumference may be used in order to determine if you are apple-shaped. Men with a waist circumference of more than 94cm (37in) and women with a waist of more than 80cm (31.5in) should not further increase their weight. An increased risk of obesity-related diseases is present with a waist circumference of more than 102cm (40in) for men and more than 88cm (34.6in) for women. Test if you are apple or pear shaped here. If your BMI is more than 30, it is required that you lose weight.

Research: You are getting thinner, you are getting thinner.... (excerpts) by Jean Fain (Harvard Medical School) (The Oprah Magazine), August 2004

"Close your eyes. Imagine your food cravings floating away. Imagine a day of eating only what's good for you. Imagine hypnosis actually helping you lose weight -- because the news is: It does.

"When I tell people how I make much of my living -- as a psychotherapist hypnotizing people slim -- they inevitably ask: Does it work? My answer usually brightens their eyes with something between excitement and incredulity.

"Most people, including my colleagues at Harvard Medical School, where I teach hypnosis, don't realize that adding trance to your weight loss efforts can help you lose more weight and keep it off longer.

"Hypnosis predates carb and calorie counting by a few centuries, but this age-old attention-focusing technique has yet to be embraced wholeheartedly as an effective weight loss strategy.

"Until recently, there has been scant scientific evidence to support the legitimate claims of respected hypnotherapists, and a glut of pie-in-the-sky promises from their problem cousins, stage hypnotists, hasn't helped.

"Even after a persuasive mid-nineties reanalysis of 18 hypnotic studies showed that psychotherapy clients who learned self-hypnosis lost twice as much weight as those who didn't (and, in one study, kept it off two years after treatment ended), hypnotherapy has remained a well-kept weight loss secret.

"Unless hypnosis has happily compelled you or someone you know to buy a new, smaller wardrobe, it may be hard to believe that this mind-over-body approach could help you get a handle on eating.

"See is believing. So see for yourself."


Research: Excerpt from Hypnosis For Change, by Josie Hadley and Carol Staudacher, New Harbinger Publications.

"Sally Marcos, a 42-year old teacher, is five feet four inches tall and weight 215 pounds at the time she began self-hypnosis. She had tried several popular weight loss programs in the preceding years. Her experience had been that she would lose up to 50 or 60 pounds, only to gain it back again within a few months. Hypnosis was her last attempt at maintaining weight loss.

After her first session, she noticed a change in her habits. Her hypnosis sessions continued on a weekly basis for four months, and her weight loss occurred at the rate of 2 to 4 pounds per week. Even though the reduction would occasionally level off, Sally eventually lost 100 pounds.

She continued to use self-hypnosis for six months. After she stopped, she gained back 20 pounds, but leveled off at an attractive 135. Because stress was identified as the major cause of her unhealthy eating pattern, she now uses the induction whenever outside pressures begin to escalate."


Research: Sleep loss may increase appetite

Annals of Internal Medicine, December 7, 2004. Dr Van Cauter.

Consistently getting a good night's sleep may be one of the answers to maintaining a healthy weight, if early research findings are correct.

The small study found that when healthy young men slept for only fours hours on two nights in a row, they showed dips in a hormone that suppresses appetite, coupled with increases in an appetite-stimulating hormone. On top of that, the volunteers reported being more hungry after their sleep-deprived nights than after nights when they slept for 10 hours.

The two appetite-regulating hormones in question are leptin, which is released from fat cells and helps alert the brain that it's time to stop eating, and ghrelin, which is produced in the stomach and helps trigger hunger. Van Cauter's team found that when the 12 men in their study slept for four hours on two consecutive nights, their levels of leptin were 18 percent lower and their levels of ghrelin were 28 percent higher than they were after two nights of spending 10 hours in bed.

When the men were asked to assess their appetites after sleep restriction, they showed a 24 percent increase in their "hunger ratings." And the foods they craved most were sweets, salty foods like chips and nuts, and starchy fare like bread and pasta. More...


Research: Patterns of eating and movement that best maintain reduction in overweight

Booth, D et al (2004) Patterns of eating and movement that best maintain reduction in overweight. Appetite Vol 43 (3): 277-283

Two studies of the influences of specific patterns of eating and exercising behaviour on body weight in English Midlands women were re-analysed using correlations as the measure of effect size. As predicted from computational modelling of hunger-sating mechanisms, avoiding energy-containing drinks and foods at the ends of and between meals was the behaviour most influencing year-long weight loss. However, although eating between meals is often called snacking, the term 'snack' appeared to be too ambiguous in this culture for its use in helping efforts to control weight. Avoidance of particular sorts of fat-rich foods was also associated with longer-term weight loss. Attempts at severe restriction of intake at mealtimes were associated with weight loss during a period of intensive dieting, but did not contribute to maintenance of that weight reduction. Using diet formulae to attain rapid weight loss was associated with significant weight gain over a year. These results support the suggestion that the first line of defence against weight gain is avoiding all sources of energy during drink breaks, with personally relevant advice on lower fat versions of particular foods also being important. Continued neglect of the behaviour-specific correlational approach to gaining evidence for less fattening habits does nothing to slow the rise in obesity.


The phenomenology of food cravings: The role of mental imagery

Tiggemann, M; Kemps, E December, 2005

SUBJECTS: 130 undergraduate students

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the role of mental imagery in the experience of food cravings.

INTERVENTIONS: The participants were first asked to recall and rate a previous food craving experience. Second, they were asked to imagine themselves eating their favourite food and to rate the involvement of different sensory modalities.

RESULTS: Mental imagery was a key element in both the retrospective craving experience and the current food induction. In particular, craving intensity was related to the vividness of the food image (r=.46). The specific sensory modalities most involved were visual (39.7%) and gustatory (30.6%), followed by olfactory (15.8%). There was little involvement of auditory or tactile modalities.

CONCLUSIONS: Cognitive experimental techniques aimed at reducing the vividness of visual, gustatory or olfactory imagery, might usefully be deployed to reduce unwanted food cravings. SOURCE: Appetite. 45(3): 305-313


Cochrane, Gordon; Friesen, J. (1986). Hypnotherapy in weight loss treatment. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 54, 489-492.

Kirsch, Irving (1996). Hypnotic enhancement of cognitive-behavioral weight loss treatments--Another meta-reanalysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64 (3), 517-519.

Hypnosis as an adjunct to cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy for obesity: A meta-analytic reappraisal. by Allison, David B.; Faith, Myles S. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology. 1996 Jun Vol 64(3) 513-516

Controlled trial of hypnotherapy for weight loss in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea. Stradling J, Roberts D, Wilson A, Lovelock F. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1998 Mar;22(3):278-81.

Hypnosis as an adjunct to cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy for obesity: a meta-analytic reappraisal. Allison DB, Faith MS. J Consult Clin Psychol. 1996 Jun;64(3):513-6.

Hypnotic enhancement of cognitive-behavioral weight loss treatments: Another meta-reanalysis. by Kirsch, Irving Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology. 1996 Jun Vol 64(3) 517-519





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