The idea of drifting into a state of unconsciousness and waking up able to resist cravings and drop weight sounds too good to be true for most dieters.

Hypnosis is widely used to help overcome phobias and change certain behaviors, such as alcohol or tobacco use.

Interestingly, some claim that it can also promote weight loss.

This article looks at the evidence to determine whether hypnosis can help you lose weight and keep it off.

What Is Hypnosis?

Hypnosis is a state of consciousness involving enhanced attention and concentration, a decreased awareness of surroundings and an increased response to suggestion.

There are two different theories about how hypnosis works.

The “state” theory suggests that subjects enter an alternate state of consciousness with altered brain function, which accounts for the effects of hypnosis.

Meanwhile, the “non-state” theory says that hypnosis is not an altered state of consciousness. Instead, the subject is responding to suggestion and actively participating in the session, rather than under the control of the hypnotist (1).

There are various hypnosis techniques. One of the most common is the eye-fixation technique, which involves maintaining a steady stare at a bright object until the eyes gradually close.

Once you’ve entered the state of hypnosis, you are more suggestible and more likely to be receptive to making positive changes in your behavior.

Entering into a hypnotic trance is often described as a relaxed state of awareness. Once in a trance, the hypnotist will give verbal suggestions, such as “when you wake up, you will feel more motivated” or “you will not drink alcohol.”

Some claim that hypnosis can help retrieve repressed memories, cure allergies, treat addictions and reduce anxiety and depression.

SummaryHypnosis is a state of consciousness that involves increased attention and responsiveness to suggestion. Once in a state of hypnosis, you are more likely to be open to making positive behavioral changes.

Hypnosis Could Influence Certain Behaviors

Some studies have found hypnosis to be effective at modifying different types of behavior, including smoking and drug use.

In one study, 286 smokers underwent either standard counseling or hypnosis to help quit smoking. After six months, 26% of the hypnosis group had quit smoking, compared to 18% of the counseling group. This difference was still significant even after one year (2).

In another study, nine methadone patients using street drugs went through 10 weekly group sessions of hypnosis. After six months, all patients had completely stopped street drug use (3).

What’s more, other studies have found that hypnotherapy may improve self-esteem, reduce anger and impulsivity, manage anxiety and treat insomnia in certain groups of people (4, 5, 6).

However, current research on the benefits of hypnosis is limited and focused on small, specific groups of patients. Larger studies are needed to determine how it may affect the general population.

SummarySome studies have found that hypnosis may help people quit smoking and drugs. It may also improve self-esteem, reduce impulsivity, manage anxiety and treat insomnia. Larger studies are needed to determine how it may affect the general population.

Hypnotherapy May Enhance Weight Loss

In addition to its potential ability to modify behavior, research shows that hypnosis may increase weight loss.

In one study, 60 obese people with sleep apnea were either given dietary advice, hypnotherapy for stress reduction or hypnotherapy for reducing calorie intake.

After three months, all the groups lost comparable amounts of weight. However, only the group receiving hypnotherapy for stress reduction had sustained their weight loss after 18 months (7).

In another study, 109 people underwent behavioral treatment for weight loss, either with or without hypnosis. After two years, the hypnotherapy group continued to lose weight, while the control group exhibited fewer further changes in weight (8).

Moreover, an analysis of several studies found that adding hypnosis to a cognitive behavioral treatment for weight reduction resulted in nearly double the amount of weight loss (9).

Still, research on the potential effects of hypnosis on weight loss is limited. More studies are needed to measure how hypnosis could benefit weight management.

SummarySeveral studies have found that hypnosis could enhance long-term weight loss. However, research is limited and further studies are needed.

Hypnosis Should Be Combined With Other Weight Loss Methods

There are very few studies looking at the effects of hypnosis alone on weight loss. Not to mention, those that do typically have errors in their methodology that could skew results (10).

Most studies that have demonstrated a positive effect of hypnosis on weight loss have used it in combination with a weight management program.

In these studies, hypnosis enhanced weight loss when paired with dietary advice or behavioral treatment.

More quality research is needed to determine how hypnosis alone may affect weight loss.

For best results, hypnotherapy should be added to a treatment program that includes making healthy diet and lifestyle changes.

SummaryMost studies that have found that hypnotherapy aids weight loss have used it in addition to a weight management program. To achieve weight loss with hypnotherapy, it should be coupled with healthy diet and lifestyle changes.

Hypnosis Might Not Work for Everyone

Studies show that certain individuals may be more susceptible to the effects of hypnosis and thus more likely to benefit from it.

In particular, certain personality traits may predict how susceptible a person is to hypnosis.

Characteristics like persistence, selflessness and openness have all been linked to higher hypnosis susceptibility (11).

Additionally, fantasizers, or those with a vivid imagination who are more dissociated from reality, are more likely to be easily hypnotized (12).

Conversely, research shows that those who are quick to make judgments are less likely to be susceptible to the effects of hypnotism (13).

Other studies have found that hypnotic susceptibility increases after age 40 and that women are more likely to be susceptible, regardless of age (14).

If you display these personality traits or fall into these demographics, hypnosis is more likely to be effective for you. For others, hypnosis may not produce the same beneficial results.

SummaryCertain personality traits like persistence, selflessness, openness and a vivid imagination have been linked to increased susceptibility to hypnosis. Susceptibility is also thought to be higher in women, as well as those over 40.

Hypnotherapy Is Not a Quick Fix

Although hypnosis has been shown to enhance weight loss in some studies, it shouldn’t be viewed as a stand-alone treatment or magic cure for weight loss.

In fact, most studies that have found a benefit to hypnosis have used it in addition to behavioral treatment or a weight management program.

Hypnosis should be used as a tool to help modify certain behaviors that may contribute to weight gain. You must still put in the extra time and effort to see results.

Eat more fruits and vegetables, decrease your intake of processed foods and sugar and make sure you’re getting regular physical activity to drop the pounds — with or without the help of hypnosis.

SummaryWhile hypnosis may enhance weight loss, it should not be viewed as a quick fix for weight problems. Use it in combination with a healthy diet and active lifestyle to get the best results.

The Bottom Line

Studies have found that hypnotherapy could be an effective tool to enhance weight loss, especially when paired with behavioral treatment or a weight management program.

To keep your weight in check, modify your diet to include more whole, unprocessed foods and increase your daily amount of exercise.

Whether you decide to pursue hypnotherapy or not, making these simple lifestyle changes can lead to long-lasting weight control.