The 7-Day Hypnosis Plan: Does It Work for Weight Loss?

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On today’s show, renowned hypnotist Paul McKenna shared his 7-day plan for weight loss using hypnosis techniques. The mind is the most powerful organ and using it to achieve your weight-loss goals can prove highly effective. You could lose twice as much weight with hypnosis as you would using most other techniques alone!

However, the concept is very controversial. The medical community still doesn’t officially recognize hypnosis as a valid method of weight loss. But there are many doctors who use it in their practice.

Hypnosis involves the induction of a trance state. It may or may not have a therapeutic purpose. When a person is hypnotized, he or she is typically required to think, feel and behave in ways that are incongruent with reality (i.e. You’re not hungry!). Many associate hypnosis with mind control. This is a myth. In order for hypnosis to work, the person must be a willing participant.

In addition to using it for weight loss, doctors and hypnotists have used this technique to help people quit smoking, relieve headaches, alleviate anxiety, and get rid of specific phobias— like a fear of flying. It was even used to “unlock buried memories” in the mind of a US Army sergeant who was “accused of killing five fellow servicemen” in Iraq.

How Hypnosis Works:
McKenna’s strategy for hypnosis involves subjecting yourself to seven sessions across seven days:

  • Day One: Curb Cravings — Most people have a guilty pleasure food that’s bad for you (i.e. pizza). Try reprogramming your brain to think of a food that you really dislike in place of your guilty pleasure food (i.e. sardines).
  • Day Two: Eliminate Emotional Eating — The majority of people who are overweight eat emotionally. They eat in response to bad emotions: boredom, stress, loneliness. Instead of eating through your stress, try Paul McKenna’s simple technique: Touch the side of your arms; then tap your collar bone. Close your eyes; then open your eyes. Look down to the right, then to the left. While closing your eyes, touch the side of your arms while imagining skipping over a rope. Then, open your eyes, and move them up, then to the left and to the right two times. After touching the side of your arms again, the stress should be gone.
  • Day Three: Stop Mindless Eating — People who are overweight tend to think about food too fast and end up eating even when they aren’t hungry at all. While eating a few meals, try doing it blindfolded without any distractions from the TV or internet. Without those distractions, it’s easier for you to listen to your brain telling you that you’re truly full. Otherwise, it’s much easier to mindlessly eat because you have nothing better to do. Eventually, you’ll start to eat more slowly and consume fewer calories.
  • Day Four: Developing Instant Motivation — Many people link exercise with exhaustion or embarrassment.  You can change the way you link things in our brain like Pavlov’s dog. Try thinking about something you love to do, your favorite hobby. Now, squeeze your thumb and index finger together as you think about it. You should feel pleasure. Now, close your eyes, and take that pleasure, and imagine you’re taking a few steps walking around the block, up the stairs. Now, take more steps. Now, open your eyes. Eventually, you can train yourself to look forward to taking longer and longer walks or jogs.
  • Day Five: Stop Self-Sabotage — There are two aspects of self. Part of you wants to lose weight; put that part of you in your right hand. In your left hand, put the part of you that sabotages you and says, “Hang on a minute, this is all too much.“ Now, let your unconscious mind figure out a way to let these guys work together. Both want what’s best for you. Now, take your two hands and push them towards your heart. Take that feeling and integrate it inside of you. Imagine going about your daily life with these two aspects rather than being conflicted about them.
  • Day Six: Supercharge Self-Esteem — Building self esteem is important for weight loss. When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Fat face, fat thighs, big nose. Would you ever allow somebody to come up to you on the street and say the same things? No. What I want you to do is think about someone who loves and approves of you. Imagine them standing in front of you. Now, float out of yourself and float into them. See yourself through their eyes. See the things they notice about you. Next, I want you to remember a time that somebody paid you a compliment and you felt good about it. Now, imagine yourself looking in the mirror. How much different do you feel?
  • Day Seven: Flip Your Confidence Switch — Research has shown that when people lose weight, they get more confident. As you change your projection of confidence, the world changes around you, and you feel more empowered to lose weight. Close your eyes and remember a time you felt confident (Getting that raise at work, or a time when you’re speaking with friends). Remember that feeling of self-assuredness. Then squeeze your thumb and finger like you did earlier. As soon as you’ve done that, I want you to imagine taking that confidence into situations that would normally throw you off-balance. Eventually, you’ll program your brain to give you that feeling of confidence on command.

With these exercises, you can reprogram your brain like a computer, and develop healthier ways of losing weight. Try it!

Does It Work?
Women all over the country praise Paul McKenna for his techniques, which has helped shed pounds and dress sizes. However, what does the medical research say?

An assessment of six different studies (also known as a meta-analysis) showed that using hypnotherapy to assist with weight loss allowed for double the weight loss. They compared those who tried to lose weight using cognitive behavioral therapy alone and using cognitive behavioral therapy with hypnosis to assist with weight loss. They also found that the participants who added hypnosis to their weight-loss therapy stayed slimmer longer. Dr. Guy Montgomery, a one of the authors of the study, uses it in his practice and claims it to be beneficial for his patients’ weight-loss journeys.

However, a reappraisal by different authors published the following year, challenged the above study’s claims. After analyzing the same six studies on hypnosis,  the researchers found what “appears to be a small [weight-loss] effect on average.”

Overall, I think more research is needed in order to make hypnosis more welcome in the medical community. It probably won’t work for everyone. However, the tenets of this therapy make sense for many who struggle with hunger and emotional eating on a daily basis.