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Can hypnotherapy provide a solution to obesity?

Why and how the Virtual Gastric Band Programme can be an effective aid. 

What is the Virtual Gastric Band Programme? 

The Virtual Gastric Band Programme is a four session programme of hypnotherapy that is conducted with a client face to face. It is designed to change how someone thinks about food, to enable the client to adopt a new set of eating habits, by making some small realistic changes that the client can realistically live with.

It is not a diet; clients eat what they want, but are trained to be satisfied on smaller amounts. Portion control is addressed from the very first session, by utilising the concept of a virtual gastric band, the aim of this is not to make a client ‘think’ that they have a gastric band fitted, moreover it is a tool to get the client to respond to the instinctual signals, and stop eating when they feel comfortable.

Clients report varied experiences of this with many reporting no conscious connection with this element of the programme, but they are eating less. Many report to only be eating a third of what they were eating before. The programme also has numerous elements to address emotional aspects of eating, craving control, food choices, motivation and exercise; using metaphors for change and goal setting. 

The average weight-loss a client reports is 7lb in the first week, with 1 – 2lbs per week after that. A research project was undertaken with responses from over 4000 clients (published in April 2014) who had experienced the Virtual Gastric Band (as opposed to the Hypno-Band or other similar sounding systems).

The results show an average weight-loss per client as 24.64lbs. The conclusion was that weight-loss with hypnosis can work effectively and brings about results due to the Virtual Gastric Band focusing on the key issues that are already clinically linked to obesity, namely portion sizes, stress, carvings and exercise.

Hypnosis can and does help create and reinforce the new habits within the mind, and give greater focus towards achieving goals. In addition the programme addresses the top cited reasons why diets fail. Most health professionals will agree that to make a “diet” a success, it shouldn’t be thought of as a diet. Instead, making a lifestyle change that allows you to continue eating your favourite foods – in moderation - is considered key. Never continue eating after you’re full, and try not to use food to comfort yourself.

Clients seen through the Virtual Gastric Band programme have been retrained to recognise and respond to satiety, feel calmer and more relaxed, and have an improved perception to types of foods. They are also retrained to recognise and remove their inner “voice of the cravings” and have an increased motivation to exercise.

The therapist can tailor the programme to the client’s needs – in terms of both content and pace of sessions. In fact hypnosis can be seen as a viable alternative to invasive surgical procedures.

With the growing demands on the NHS and the knowledge that diets do not work – it is now being more widely recognised that psychological support is the key component to long term recovery. It can help the client address the issues that caused their overeating in the first place and helps to make the necessary changes.

Hypnotherapy certainly has an advantage over other talking therapies in that a qualified therapist can communicate with the subconscious mind directly to identify causes and habits that underlie a problem – bypassing the conscious analytical mind, with the advantage that change can be brought about much more quickly and be targeted more effectively.

“Hypnosis for weight-loss is a very effective and innovative technique to treat compulsive overeating or binge eating” (Overcoming Binge Eating for Dummies p116).

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