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What is hypnosis in psychology/Can hypnosis help you lose weight?

Obesity has reached epidemic levels on a global scale in recent decades. As the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates, weight disorders have almost tripled from 1975 to the present. This means that approximately 1.9 billion adults (or more) are overweight worldwide at the moment, or 39% of the total population. What is hypnosis in psychology?

Obesity is not only an aesthetic characteristic that is usually not very “normative”, but also translates into a greater risk of suffering from ischemic heart disease, accelerated cellular aging, an increase in the chances of the appearance of cancers in the colon and rectum, a greater probability depression (up to 55% more) and many other physical and emotional pathologies.

For all these reasons and many more, it is normal for people to want to lose weight. In any case, various sources estimate that only 2 out of 10 people who start a diet lose weight significantly: this type of process requires knowledge, education, supervision, mental health and in many cases purchasing power, something that not all have. In order to overcome obesity, extensive psychological treatment is necessary, so not everything is as easy as “eat less” or “exercise more.”

Based on this premise, more and more alternative methods are emerging that try to combat overweight and obesity without having to undergo surgery. Today we examine one of the most emerging and committed: does hypnosis work to lose weight?

What is hypnosis?

The term hypnosis is used to define an altered state of consciousness and the process by which this event is achieved in the patient. During the hypnotic trance, certain psycho-affective, physiological, cognitive and behavioral processes can be addressed and modified . In addition, it should be noted that the hypnotic state can be promoted by a professional (therapist) or by the individual himself (self-hypnosis). What is hypnosis in psychology?

The subjective experimentation of hypnosis is characterized by two different fronts: authenticity (the experience is real) and involuntariness (“it happens by itself”). Once the patient enters a hypnotic state, a suggestive verbal and non-verbal content is used that corresponds to internal expectations and has powerful effects on the mentality and somatic processes in the individual.

Contrary to popular belief, hypnosis is neither authoritarian nor passive, nor is it about the therapist controlling or manipulating the patient . This is conceived only as a resource and tool used for the individual to be able to control their emotions, learn more about themselves and obtain their goals, not for an external entity to achieve something of it. To this day, hypnosis from a clinical point of view is very far from what we are shown in the movies.

Can hypnosis help you lose weight?

In the medical and research arena, guesswork stays at the door. We could lengthen the lines of the space saying that “it may work for you and another person does not”, but we would be missing the truth, because we need reliable facts to support each approach, especially when it comes to individual health.

The good thing about the world of research and statistics is that, luckily, the numbers don’t lie. The fact that there is a correlation between 2 events (measured with objective parameters such as the P-value) does not always indicate a reality, but it certainly points us in the right direction, unless the experiment is a real disaster. What is hypnosis in psychology?

Therefore, we are going to present you the summary of 3 different scientific publications that try to answer this question . Let science speak for itself.

1. Compared the influence of hypnosis on body mass

In this study called “Controlled trial of hypnotherapy for weight loss in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea”, published in the International Journal of Obesity in 1998, it is about evaluating the effects of 2 types of hypnosis in comparison with a dietary follow-up in 60 patients with obstructive sleep apnea .

Weight loss was monitored in the sample groups at 1, 3, 6, 9, 12, 15 and 18 months after treatment, regardless of whether the patients were treated with hypnotherapy or with follow-up / dietary advice. It was observed that, at 3 months, all the sample groups had lost 2-3% of their body mass, an indication that something was working.

At 18 months of treatment, only the hypnotherapy group showed a significant mean weight loss compared to the rest of the patients, although this was very small , 3.8 kilograms. Analyzing the entire time interval, it was observed that the group with hypnotherapy and dietary follow-up achieved a greater weight loss than the other remaining segments, so a spear is split in favor of this technique, right?

Not at all. The problem with this research (acknowledged by the authors themselves) is that the benefits of hypnotherapy, while numerically significant, were clinically insignificant . Furthermore, a sample number of 60 provides very little information, since studies with much more statistical power are required to establish strong causality. What is hypnosis in psychology?

2. Analyzing physiological markers

This study called “Effects of Hypnotherapy on Weight Loss and thus on Serum Leptin, Adiponectin, and Irisin Levels in Obese Patients” is much more current, as it was published in 2020 in the Journal of alternative and complementary medicine. On this occasion, an attempt was made to investigate the effect of hypnosis to lose weight in obese patients using physiological markers , such as leptin, adiponectin and irisin, hormones and compounds highly related to adipose tissue.

Following the parameters of 30 obese patients, it was observed that the Body Mass Index (BMI) and serum leptin levels decreased significantly after treatment. The levels of irisin and adiponectin increased after the approach, something to be expected, since the concentration of this last hormone is inversely proportional to the BMI, as it is secreted in adipose tissue. Again, this study breaks a spear in favor of hypnosis.

3. An overview of various studies on hypnotherapy

In another paper called “Hypnotherapy for overweight and obese patients: A narrative review”, published in January 2021 in the Journal of integrative Medicine, it is undoubtedly the most interesting of the three. In this case, a sample group is not analyzed, but the results of 119 different studies are collected, of which only 7 meet the necessary inclusion criteria. In the end, data was obtained from 539 patients between the ages of 17 and 67, a much larger and more reliable sample group than those shown so far. What is hypnosis in psychology?

The analyzed studies concluded that hypnosis promoted weight loss, not only during treatment, but in subsequent periods. In any case, we are faced with the same problem as before: many of these investigations have methodological flaws and the number of publications available is very limited. For this reason, the authors themselves recognize that it is necessary to carry out more well-founded studies to be able to safely apply hypnosis methods to lose weight.

A final thought

The numbers do not lie, as long as they are well planned and the methodology is reliable . A study with a sample group of 60 patients says little or nothing, even more so if the average weight lost in those subjected to hypnotherapy is only 3.8 kilos higher than in the rest of the individuals. It is clear that the authors may attempt to disclose these data, but luckily any subsequent review worth its salt will treat these claims with a high degree of skepticism, as we have seen.

As stated by the Mayo Clinic, a government medical body, many of the results of these studies have been scrutinized and failed the reliability test, making it very difficult to link hypnosis to weight loss in a way that effective and irrefutable. Obesity is fought with therapeutic care, exercise, and emotional support, and if all else fails, stomach reduction surgery is often necessary .

So, does hypnosis work for weight loss? Unfortunately, we cannot give you a definitive answer, since at this point we have the same data as you. There are sources that will tell you yes and others that no, so the best thing you can do is put yourself in the hands of a nutritionist and / or psychiatrist, so that together you can address your problem in a multidisciplinary way, in the way that professionals consider most. adequate. What is hypnosis in psychology?

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