Using Hypnosis to Explore Subconscious Childhood and Early Adulthood Emotional Traumas and Situations Predisposing Towards Adult Refractory Obesity

Postdoctoral Researcher in Nutrition Psychology Food, Nutrition and Health Research Group, School of Education, Health and Community, Liverpool John Moores University, Barkhill Road, Liverpool, United Kingdom


Background: It has been suggested that many participants in weight management programmes are unable to achieve the permanent emotional and psychological changes necessary for long-term weight loss maintenance because of their having unrecognised, unresolved childhood food, eating, or weight associated traumas that continue to influence their adult eating habits and body self-image, and impair their weight reduction efforts. Hypnosis is now accepted as a valuable tool in the management of many chronic clinical conditions because of its efficacy in producing remedial behavioural change in individuals with seemingly intractable health problems. Hypnosis would therefore seem to be an ideal tool for identifying and resolving possible childhood obesogenic subconscious agendas, and in helping individuals with refractory obesity to minimise any recidivistic weight regain.

Methods: Seven participants with refractory obesity agreed to undertake a series of regression hypnosis sessions designed to allow them to search for childhood and teenage experiences that might be contributing to their current inability to lose weight.

Results: During their hypnosis sessions, each of these participants was able to recall childhood or early adulthood memories of emotional traumas or parental disharmony, which resulted in their making aberrant decisions at that time about their food preferences, eating habits, or their chosen body image. These episodes had subsequently become subconsciously internalised, but had gone on to have a significant and lasting, detrimental effect into their adult years, leading to their subsequent adult obesity.

Conclusion: This study has shown how covert, long-forgotten childhood emotional experiences can play an aetiological role in refractory adult obesity. It has also demonstrated the cathartic role of regressive, exploratory hypnosis in bringing to light such unresolved traumas in order for them to be discharged, and thereby, in facilitating future efficacious weight loss management.

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