Complementary & Alternative Medicine

Hypno Gastric
Successful therapy for weight loss


For many years hypnotherapy has been used to help people quit smoking, but nothing quite compares to the recent flurry of excitement about its effectiveness as a weight-loss tool, especially with the new treatment referred to as Hypno Gastric Banding. Hypnotherapist Graça Ward explains what it is all about.

You may have heard of psychoneuroimmunology. It is a new scientific discipline that is demanding attention. Thankfully it can be shortened to PNI and is commonly referred to as “mind-body medicine”. PNI research shows that hypnosis and trance are very real states of mind. Hypnosis, in particular, can be a powerful therapy because it not only affects the mind but also the body and is used to treat almost any bad habit or condition, emotional and physical alike. However, in this article we will look specifically at the new Hypno-Gastric Banding, which with the epidemic of obesity in the Middle East and other parts of the world, should find increasing application.

The Hypno Gastric Banding approach used depends on the therapist’s training and personal preferences. Some favour a more analytical approach and start by uncovering the reasons for the over-eating and uncontrolled behaviour dealing with food, while other hypnotherapists may be more solution-focused and resolve the symptoms without too many references to the past. An eclectic approach is quite popular nowadays and this incorporates a little bit of everything. Ultimately a good therapist wants to use the techniques which are most effective to a particular client and thus the actual treatment may differ from one client to another.

In order to provide an understanding of why the therapy is effective and often very successful, it is important to understand the basics of how hypnotherapy works and how it can influence people with food addictions or food-control issues.

Most people are very successful dieters, regularly going on difficult and depriving diets and losing large amounts of weight. However, these individuals cannot stay on the diet and usually return to mindless eating. With so much food readily available to us in the modern world, Dr Ronald Ruden MD PhD at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York (and author of The Craving Brain), says overeating is just like an inability to resist sleep and that the answer does not lie in the diet but in changing the response to signals from the brain. Even people with the best of intentions and a strong resolve to diet will find that their brains eventually override their minds. “This is the nature of any living organism where the brain dictates behaviour,” he says.

Hypnotherapy does not strengthen the resolve to stick to a fad diet. However, it does offer a mind-full awareness of what and when we eat and can help to control hunger and cravings by reducing the stresses that trigger the over-eating behaviour.

Paul McKenna, world renowned hypnotherapist and author of I Can Make You Thin says: “It’s the way you think and behave around food that makes the difference,” and he’s absolutely correct. Inducing a hypnotic trance and telling clients they now have a gastric band which prevents over-eating is a complete waste of time. We need to begin with hypnotic sessions which focus on reprogramming the mind to change the way we feel about food and this makes people feel much more in control. Using hypnosis to induce a belief that chocolate cake tastes terrible, can be done, but the belief does not last very long.

The emotional eater

Generally speaking for the therapy to be successful the emotional eater needs to change his response to feeling bored or miserable, tired or irritable or even sad or angry. All these emotions trigger off a desire to find satisfaction in food. It helps to understand the emotion, to react appropriately to it and to allow it to go away. What makes things more complicated is that over-eating is not just something that emotional eaters overindulge in, we all do it at times. We use food to celebrate at weddings, we book a restaurant for a birthday or to congratulate a friend on a promotion at work, we bake delicious treats on a regular basis because it makes people feel special and looked after. Often we give boxes of chocolate to people who invite us to dinner. It’s never-ending. Sometimes it’s even rude not to over-eat.

The typical treatment offered by a hypnotherapist for over-eating and obesity will begin by noting the case history. This helps to identify what sorts of emotions trigger the mindless eating that leads to being over-weight and unhappy or simply unhealthy.

Depending on the triggers for the behaviour, the therapist may do some regression therapy in a second session so the client can go back to an emotional occurrence but with the hind-sight and life experience which he or she has gained since that time. This helps to neutralize the emotion. From then on the event will be remembered in detail but it will no longer recall the painful memory associated with it. It’s not negative or positive, it simply is. This is a valuable session for those who started to gain weight rapidly after a traumatic event or a big life change.

The client will also be given positive suggestions throughout the treatment and this will bring about an enormous awareness of how much to eat, what to eat and when to eat. Often regression therapy takes a client back to a time and place which they do not recognise at all. Carl Jung, the renowned psychologist, believed that these images are part of the collective unconscious and they are memories shared by everyone, which are passed down to us from our ancestors. Regression therapists and psychologists sometimes refer to these memories as past-life regressions and these are very effective because they provide an opportunity to simply observe a problem without the attached pain or embarrassment associated with it. Even symbols of a metaphorical nature can come up in hypnosis and help people feel more aware of why they behave in the ways they do, so they can make appropriate changes which make them happier and healthier. Healing past hurts is part of the process.

Deep hypnotic trance

When the therapist feels the client is able to go into a deep hypnotic trance and if he is willing to participate fully, to day-dream and use his imagination, it’s then time to use a session for the Hypno Gastric Banding and again it’s up to the individual therapist as to how to control the procedure. The therapist may opt for a more medical visualisation, where the medical procedure of an actual gastric banding is described in detail and the client imagines they are being operated on. The anesthetizing process is described and if the client has ever been in an operating room he will surely be able to relate to that feeling of becoming more and more sleepy until he cannot count backwards from 10, past the first few numbers. It is important to give the client a lot of detail about what is going on in the operating theatre, who else is there, what the instruments look like and exactly where the band is being placed. The client values all the information provided, such as how the band is now creating a smaller area of stomach at the top and the larger part of stomach hangs down below it. They become convinced that small amounts of food will enter the top part of the stomach and make them feel full and satisfied and any extra food or fatty foods will stretch the small stomach created and make them feel over-full and uncomfortable. The therapist will explain that the gastric band is in place and secure and talk them all the way through to their awakening from the anaesthetic (this happens at the same time that they are counted out of their hypnotic trance).

It is quite common to give the client a golf ball and explain that this golf ball is the size of their new stomach. The client should take the golf ball with them wherever they go for the next week or even two as a visual reminder of how much to eat, now that their stomach is much smaller.

Clients are further empowered with neuro-linguistic-programming (NLP) techniques to help reduce cravings. All this helps to focus on the fact that the stomach has reduced in size, leads to weight-loss and a great amount of pleasure and accomplishment as a result. Sometimes clients are also asked to eat only liquidised foods for two days after their gastro-hypnosis and then soft foods for a further day before small amounts of regular foods are introduced.


For clients needing to be even more in control, the therapist may choose to use a visualisation where they become small enough to travel into their own body, sometimes in a submarine down the bloodstream for example. When they reach the stomach they can take a look around and install their own gastric band. The process should be creative and detailed. One client who told me it was dark and she couldn’t see anything, was absolutely delighted when I suggested she uses her flashlight! After that she was able to carry out the procedure with the precision of a gastric-surgeon.

So, what if the client relapses and goes back to mindless over-eating after a while? Well they should come back to have the gastric band “tightened” or “re-fitted”. One of my clients came back to tell me she actually felt hers snap off minutes before she was filled with uncontrollable hunger. One last session sorted the problem out and she’s not been back.

The success of the therapy depends on the experience of the therapist and the nature of the client – put a good therapist and a good client together and the weight loss can be remarkable. It is believed to be as successful as smoking cessation through hypnosis which has quite a high success rate around the world. Actual figures are not readily available as the profession is not regulated in most countries and hypnotherapists don’t have to provide results to any governing body.

The Author

Graça Ward is a hypnotherapist working in Dubai with many years’ experience. She uses a variety of techniques learned from other great therapists. “Clients always teach me so much more than courses and teachers and books,” she says. Email:

 Date of upload: 26th Sep 2012


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