Struggle with weight control? Hypnotherapy can help
Do you struggle with weight control? Have you successfully lost weight only to regain it some time later? Yo-yo dieted? Tried every fad diet going? Find it an uphill battle to release excess weight and keep it off? You’re not alone as this affects many of us, including myself.
Over a quarter of all adults in the UK are classified as obese (survey 2022, UK Parliament). Interestingly, even with this relatively high statistic for adults who are in the obese category, having a BMI of 30+, the UK does not rank in the top 10 countries for obesity. NHS guidelines say anyone with a BMI of 27+ is overweight, although this is just guidance as some people may look and feel perfectly healthy with a BMI of 27.
Reasons for weight gain
Often weight gain is down to consuming more calories than we expend each day. Although, there can also be medical or physical factors involved, including medications that cause weight gain, hormone imbalances, insulin resistance and metabolic disorders that slow down the metabolic rate. Even where physical factors are involved, it is still possible to reduce excess pounds and maintain weight although it can be far more of a challenge where these aspects are concerned.
There can also be psychological or emotional elements influencing consumption of excess calories; particularly with food types that are calorific rich – chocolate, cakes, biscuits, crisps, ice cream, chips, fries, etc. These may be eaten as comfort foods in times of stress or emotional upset, they are then craved for and soon it becomes the norm to eat these foods on an increasingly regular basis.
Another psychological factor, referred to as secondary gain in hypnotherapy, is where there might be another reason that benefits the individual in keeping the excess weight. For example, a secondary gain of being obese could be that they believe they will be less likely to be seen as sexually attractive to others and will therefore prevent unwanted attention. This could be to prevent straying in a long-term relationship or due to previous experiences of unwanted sexual attention.
Hunger or head hunger?
Are we actually truly hungry when we eat and do we pay attention to when we get the signal that we are full and should just stop eating? It’s natural to feel hungry because we all need food as our energy supply to fuel our brains and bodies. We need to eat regularly to maintain our power supply.
Food, however, comes in many varieties that often look, smell and taste very appealing. The vast range of dishes and products available to us can encourage us to want to eat them when we are not actually hungry and are already satisfied in terms of physical appetite.
When we have the desire to keep eating it is called head or mouth hunger, rather than actual physiological hunger. How many times has a piece of cake, chocolate or dessert called to you in your mind even though you have already eaten your meal and don’t really need that sweet treat? Some people are better at responding to signals from the body than others and don’t have the head/mouth hunger at all, although many of us who battle with our weight do.
Weight loss - the honeymoon phase
There are several measures that can be taken to help reduce obesity from strict diets to bariatric surgery. They are often successful in the short term and are undeniably of great help to those who are termed ‘morbidly obese’. Studies have shown that some people regain weight, however, even after bariatric surgery. Typically two to 10 years after surgery it is estimated that around 30% will have regained the weight and 50% regained some of the weight lost. Bariatric surgery is becoming more popular with people flying to other countries such as Turkey for private operations.
Mr Bruno Sgramo, consultant bariatric surgeon, explains that “bariatric surgery controls the real hunger but it doesn’t control emotional eating or change thoughts and feelings about food… It may feel that this is under control during the honeymoon phase immediately following bariatric surgery, but it is likely to reappear in the long term. Emotional hunger needs to be managed with support” (from The Dietologist website).
Not everyone opts for surgery, of course, others use weight control medications or diet plans such as Slimming World, Weight Watchers, Cambridge Diet, Intermittent Fasting, etc.
If you have emotional hunger and food/mouth hunger, it will need to be managed whatever you opt for to shed that excess weight.
Primitive mind function
There is a further theory about why we regain the weight we have worked so hard to rid ourselves of. Professor Robert F Kushner, expert in obesity, nutrition and weight management, explained on a Zoe podcast that we have an automatic function in our brains stemming back to primitive times. He told listeners that this automatic function seeks to regain the weight because it is unable to recognise that the weight released is good and healthy for us.
This dates back to primitive times of feast and famine where primitive people may have gone days without a substantial meal whilst waiting for the hunters of the tribe to successfully bring down their prey to be prepared for a feast. The body and mind adapted to this eating pattern as a way of protection to maintain their body weight. After a perceived famine the automatic function in the mind will seek to feast to regain the weight lost to keep the equilibrium.
This was originally to protect us but now can work against us as it actively endeavours to increase our appetites once the perceived famine (the diet) has ended in order to recoup any weight lost. In other words, our own automatic functions are working against us thinking that they are helping us. This can occur slowly too, with typical weight regain taking place one to five years or more after the initial weight reduction.
How hypnotherapy can help
Hypnotherapy can help with suggesting feelings of fullness after smaller portions, encourage more wholesome food choices and foster healthier relationships with food. Visualising a healthier, trimmer future self with more energy, feeling and looking great can really help with positive mindset and motivation.
Fabrizio Benedetti, Department of Neuroscience University of Turin, explains that placebos given in medicine are not ‘inert substances’ but they are ‘made up of words and rituals, symbols and meanings, and all of these elements are active in shaping the patient’s brain’ (Neuropsychopharmacy, PMC PubMed Central). His research proved that the brain is activated and the body secretes certain hormones as a result of the participant being talked to and receiving a placebo.
Hypnotherapy delves a lot deeper, talking directly to the subconscious mind. A hypnotherapist can carry out a similar approach by using a form of virtual placebo in hypnosis. The subconscious mind believes what it is told and can stimulate the brain in the same way.
Hypnotherapy can go even further than this too by talking directly to the part of the subconscious mind responsible for the automatic function of weight regain due to the primitive mind’s famine/feast perception and ask it to work together with the individual to help to maintain a healthy body weight once it has been reached. This is a relatively new addition to hypnotic weight control and is certainly worth trying.
I am currently trialling a new, fairly unique, hypnotic weight control programme I have devised as a result of undertaking a great extent of research. If you would be interested in releasing excess weight by participating in phase two of the trial of this programme please reach out and contact me. You must be over 21, have a BMI of 28+, do not have an eating disorder (or have a history of an eating disorder) and be open to trying hypnosis (a significantly reduced rate will be applied for any trial participant who completes a regular weekly short survey throughout the trial).