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Effectiveness of hypnosis as an adjunct to behavioral weight management: three studies.

24 Nov

Three different studies from the U.S. and the U.K. show the effectiveness of hypnosis for helping people lose weight, especially when it is used as an adjunct to a behavioral weight loss program.

This study examines the effect of adding hypnosis to a behavioral weight-management program on short- and long-term weight change. One hundred nine subjects, ranging in age from 17 to 67, completed a behavioral treatment either with or without the addition of hypnosis.

At the end of the 9-week program, both interventions resulted in significant weight reduction. However, at the 8-month and 2-year follow-ups, the hypnosis subjects showed significant additional weight loss, while those in behavioral treatment alone exhibited minimal further change.

More of the subjects who used hypnosis also achieved and maintained their personal weight goals. The study concludes that hypnosis is an effective adjunct to a behavioral weight-management program.

Citation: Bolocofsky DN, Spinler D, Coulthard-Morris L. Effectiveness of hypnosis as an adjunct to behavioral weight management. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 1985 Jan; 41 (1): pp. 35-41.

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Researchers from Churchill Hospital, Oxford, UK, looked to see whether hypnotherapy was effective for weight loss. A randomized, controlled, parallel study looked at two forms of hypnotherapy - one directed at stress reduction and the other at intake reduction, as compared to dietary advice alone, in 60 obese patients with obstructive sleep apnea.

Weight loss was measured at 1, 3, 6, 9, 12, 15 and 18 months after the intervention, as well as assessing the percentage of weight lost from original body weight.

All three groups lost 2-3% of their body weight at three months. But at 18 months, only the hypnotherapy group which focused on stress reduction continued to show a significant (P < 0.02), but small (3.8 kg), mean weight loss compared to baseline.

Analyzed over the whole time period, however, the hypnotherapy group which focused on stress reduction achieved significantly more weight loss than the other two treatment conditions (P < 0.003), which were not significantly different from each other.

The study concludes that stress reduction hypnotherapy, as an adjunct to dietary advice, produces statistically significant if modest weight loss.

Citation: Stradling J, Roberts D, Wilson A, Lovelock F. Controlled trial of hypnotherapy for weight loss in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders. 1998 Mar; 22 (3): pp. 278-81.

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Researchers from the Department of Psychology at the University of Connecticut published a 3rd meta-analysis of the effect of adding hypnosis to cognitive-behavioral treatments for weight reduction, using additional data from 2 new studies, and computational inaccuracies in both previous meta-analyses were corrected.

Averaged across post-treatment and follow-up assessment periods, the mean weight loss was 6.00 lbs. without hypnosis and 11.83 lbs. with hypnosis. The mean effect size of this difference was 0.66 SD. At the last assessment period, the mean weight loss was 6.03lbs. (2.74 kg) without hypnosis and 14.88 lbs. (6.75 kg) with hypnosis. The effect size for this difference was 0.98 SD. Correlational analyses indicated that the benefits of hypnosis increased substantially over time (r = .74).

The study concludes that hypnosis is an effective adjunct to a cognitive-behavioral program for weight loss.

Citation: Kirsch I. Hypnotic enhancement of cognitive-behavioral weight loss treatments--another meta-reanalysis. Journal of Consulting Clinical Psychology. 1996 Jun; 64 (3): pp. 517-9.
Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award