Hypnosis. It even sounds mysterious. It conjures up images of a bearded man with piercing black eyes and a mesmerizing deep voice swinging a pendulum back and forth, chanting, “You are getting very, very sleeeeepy.” Hypnosis is terribly misunderstood and the only exposure to hypnosis most people will ever have is a Las Vegas stage show. But stage hypnosis for entertainment and hypnotherapy for behavior change are completely different animals. Could “real” hypnotherapy help you get leaner?
I’ve wondered the same thing myself for decades, since I first started bodybuilding.
In the late 1980’s, Dr. Judd Biasiotto published numerous books about the mind in sports including one called, Hypnotize Me And Make Me Great.
That 70-page book, which has long since gone out of print (but still holds a hallowed place on my shelf), was one of the books that sparked my interest in mind power and hypnosis. His follow ups, 2001: A Sports Oddyssey, The Oddyssey Continues, and Search For Greatness all had me equally enthralled with this new frontier of using the mind to control the body.
In case you’re not familiar with strength sports, Dr. Judd is the guy who squatted 605 pounds at a body weight of 132 pounds – a staggering feat, as any powerlifter will tell you. When a world class lifter who also holds a PhD in sports psychology says there’s something to hypnosis, and that his mental training regimen was instrumental in his success, a teenage wannabe bodybuilder, desperate for muscle, listens!
All these years later, my interest in hypnosis and the powers of the mind have never waned. I’ve used self hypnosis as well as hypnosis CD’s, which were directed at improving performance in the gym, generating maximum intensity during workouts and pushing through the pain barrier.
While I don’t see hypnosis as anything magical, I do believe it has been helpful. I also believe that a comprehensive mental training program, which may include hypnosis, can make or break your weight loss program success and give athletes a competitive advantage.
More importantly today, I’ve continued to study psychology, including hypnosis, to gain a greater understanding of the problems people have with breaking bad habits and changing their behavior.
Any seasoned coach can tell you that which diet or training program you follow is irrelevant if you can’t follow it consistently. Many of the problems such as non-compliance, self-sabotage, inconsistency and lack of motivation are mind problems, not body problems.
What is hypnosis?
As I mentioned, there are a lot of misconceptions about hypnosis. One is the fear that you will lose command of your faculties during a session or that it is some kind of “mind control.” This is not true to any greater degree than your family, friends, peers or culture have “controlled” your mind.
The fact is, the mind is amenable to suggestion, (especially the mind of a very young child), and in that sense everything is hypnosis. Reading the newspaper or watching TV is hypnosis or “mental programming” in one sense. You get “programmed” by societal norms to become one of the masses, unless you make a choice to be different and become what you want to be.
Another source of misconceptions about hypnosis comes from stage hypnosis, which has virtually nothing to do with the type of hypnotherapy we are talking about. The stage hypnotist intentionally ferrets out the most susceptible individuals in his audience – who happen to be willing participants – and then proceeds to induce some hypnotic phenomenon for entertainment value, not to assist with personal change.
Hypnosis, as used in personal change work, is simply a relaxed state of altered consciousness and heightened focus where the conscious mind gets out of the way, allowing a message from the hypnotherapist to reach your subconscious more easily. When your subconscious gets the message, it stimulates positive behaviors, so hypnosis is simply a tool for behavior change.
Self hypnosis (by yourself), is as simple as taking long, deep breaths, getting relaxed (sometimes using progressive muscle relaxation techniques), then doing your visualization or repeating affirmations, or even listening to your own home-made affirmations tape.
Many people report great success with hypnosis, but others do not. The mixed results probably have to do with the practitioner, and some with the subject. What kind of results can you expect from hypnosis? Could hypnosis help you lose weight or change your body in other ways? Let’s take a closer look…
Bigger breasts and more hair with hypnosis?
I believe that there is a mind-body link and that it’s entirely possible that the brain, central nervous system and subconscious mind can literally “talk” to the various cells of your body and that this may be a factor in healing from illnesses. I believe that the body is a remarkable self-healing machine and its own natural pharmacy.
I think it’s pretty difficult to prove, but being that a legitimate science exists on this subject (it’s called psychoneuroimmunology), the scientific community seems to think enough of the mind-body connection to spend time, money and resources to formally investigate it.
There are many exciting and plausible theories. We also have the placebo effect to consider, where a belief can affect biology in truly amazing ways.
That said, when it comes to hypnosis, I think you should look at it with an eye of caution as well as interest. First and foremost, and perhaps exclusively, you should see hypnosis as a tool to change behavior. When you look at a claim made for hypnosis, you should ask yourself whether that claim is a result that can be achieved through a change in your behavior.
For example, if someone promotes hypnosis for muscle growth, is it possible that your behavior might change in a way that you gain more muscle? The answer is yes. The hypnosis might help you change your eating habits, and you might just push yourself harder in the gym. Therefore, the muscle growth occurs as a result of behavior change – eating better and training harder – rather than the hypnosis itself.
It’s the same with body fat reduction: Will hypnosis magically increase your metabolism from a mind body connection? While I like to keep an open mind, I seriously doubt it and I’m not too enthused about hypnotherapists who say they will hypnotize you and your metabolism will speed up. If it can happen, I’m not sure it will ever be provable using the scientific method, so it may ultimately come down to your will to believe the claims.
So, could hypnosis help with breast enlargement? Well, maybe. A thought might bubble up from your subconscious mind that it’s a good idea to save up your money, go visit the doctor, and fork over the three grand for implants (sarcasm intended).
Guys, I could give the same warning about hypnosis for enlargement of your…. uh… your amount of hair… yeah, hair growth, that’s it… watch out for those hair growth hypnosis claims. I’m not so sure I believe them (grin).
What does research say?
Although the results are not definitive, there’s some clinical psychology research that’s been published in peer reviewed journals which shows successful results from hypnosis for weight loss. In my podcast interview with Michael Lovitch of the Hypnosis Network company, you can hear more about what those studies found (audio below).
Even more eye-opening in my view are some of the documented cases of medical hypnosis, which range from simple pain relief from dental work to surgery without anesthesia (which is pretty freaky if you think about it).
The mind does affect the body.
Hypnosis – passive or active?
In my opinion, hypnosis sessions or hypnosis CD’s can be a valuable adjunct to a comprehensive fitness, nutrition and lifestyle program for some people, if you get them from a reputable and skilled hypnotherapist.
Even better, I believe the ideal type of session would include conscious coaching and education as well as traditional hypnosis, not just a passive situation where you listen and expect your mind to be positively “programmed.”
Then again, I think this is why weight loss hypnosis CDs sell like gangbusters, because they are often sold under the pretense that you do absolutely nothing. Just listen and get slim – the perfect “quick fix.”
I don’t think it’s that simple or easy. You have to accept responsibility for change, take an active role in creating change and have a bias for action if you really want to be successful. You have to work on the physical and mental plane simultaneously not just “think positive” or rely on self help CD’s of any kind.
The world’s best hypnotherapist: YOU
If you already have a structured training and nutrition plan, but you’re having challenges with the behavior change side of things, it may be worth trying hypnosis or positive mental programming CD’s as an additional tool in your “mental training” tool kit.
So while I DO believe hypnosis can be a valuable tool, just remember, at the end of the day, programming your mind for success all boils down to what you say to yourself (and see/read/listen to), most of the time. You can’t work with a hypnotherapist every day for the rest of your life, but you do talk to yourself non stop every single day, and repetition is a proven way to condition the mind.
The way you talk to yourself, most of the time, IS “hypnosis” if you think about it… it’s self-hypnosis.
For more information go to www.burnthefat.com
About the Author:
Tom Venuto is a lifetime natural bodybuilder, personal trainer, gym owner, freelance writer and author ofBurn the Fat, Feed The Muscle: Fat Burning Secrets of the World’s Best Bodybuilders and Fitness Models. Tom has writtenover 140 articles and has been featured in Iron Man Magazine, Natural Bodybuilding, Muscular Development,Muscle-Zine, Exercise for Men and Men’s Exercise. Tom is the Fat Loss Expert for Global-Fitness.com and the nutrition editor for Femalemuscle.com and his articles are featured regularly on literally dozens of other websites.