Overview: What is hypnosis for binge eating? Can hypnosis help you stop overeating? This guide explores how and why hypnosis can help you maintain healthier eating habits. 

Our lives revolve around food, from holidays and birthday parties to dinnertime with the family.

Unfortunately, many of us develop an unhealthy relationship with food.

We crave high-fat food or sugar. We use food for comfort during times of stress, so-called “emotional eating.” Overeating and binging become more frequent. 

Why is overeating and binging so hard to stop?

Some psychologists suggest food addictions are caused by our subconscious attachments to food. We attach positive emotions to junk food and unhealthy eating habits. And often we don't even realize these attachments exist. 

Therefore, it's common for our subconscious to view food as a safety net.

Overcoming food addiction requires more than willpower. We need to work on reframing those attachments in the subconscious, and ultimately, form new attachments and patterns of thought about food. 

Hypnosis provides a way to access and reprogram the subconscious, and the research is compelling. Studies suggest hypnosis is a powerful tool for overcoming addiction, calming anxiety and stress, and soothing depression, all of which can exacerbate overeating and binging.

How Does Hypnosis Work for Overeating?

watermelons in a pile - visual for hypnosis for overeating and binge eating guide

Hypnosis is similar to meditation. During hypnosis, we follow relaxation techniques to relax and unwind. However, the difference is that hypnosis allows us to access the subconscious. 

The subconscious controls so many of our actions. We experience triggers and stimuli, and our subconscious tells us what to do.

In the state of hypnosis, we can explore our subconscious attachments to food and emotional eating, and we can begin to alter and update these attachments. 

An Example: Emotional Eating

For emotional eaters, stressful situations typically trigger overindulgence. They're seeking comfort in food.

Why? Because through conditioning and experience, the subconscious has learned to associate positive emotions with overeating and binging. These emotional attachments may have formed during childhood. Often, we don't know the effect they have or that they exist.

During hypnosis, you (or a hypnotherapist) provides the subconscious with new suggestions.

We might say, “In stressful situations, I will take a deep breath and reach for a healthy snack. I will feel satiated.” These suggestions can stick after 1 or 2 sessions.

In effect, we're setting up roadblocks for the automatic thought patterns that normally drive our actions. You can see this at work in this hypnosis session for emotional eating now:

Food Addiction: A Closer Look

Food addiction can take many forms. 

Binge Eating. Binge eating disorder, for example, occurs when people plan to eat an excessive amount of food regularly. A binge eater tends to eat thousands of calories in a short amount of time, often mindlessly, and these binges have serious health implications. Binging – like many addictions – is a compulsion. Once the compulsion has been triggered, it's difficult to stop it. Hypnosis helps us manage these urges and respond in different ways.

Compulsive Eating. Compulsive overeating, on the other hand, is similar. Cravings for sugar, dairy, or carbs can trigger compulsive overeating, and many feel they can't control these cravings according to the National Centre for Eating Disorders. Hypnosis teaches us to recognize cravings, it can help us calm and slow cravings, and it help us respond in more helpful ways. 

Carb/Sugar Addiction. Some people call themselves sugar addicts or carb addicts. Their cravings are for a particular food, and they can’t seem to kick their cravings for these unhealthy options. Hypnosis for sugar addiction, for instance, can help us reframe how the subconscious views sugar, and in effect, that can help them release our cravings.

Symptoms of Food Addiction

Regardless of the type of addiction, the most common symptoms of food addiction include

  • Eating quickly
  • Continuing to eat even when full
  • Eating even when not feeling hungry
  • Secretly eating
  • Feeling guilt or remorse for overeating
  • And feeling compelled or “driven” to eat

Overwhelmingly, the root cause of food addictions lies in the subconscious mind. We’ve been conditioned to attach positive associations with certain types of food, or overeating or binging. These associations take root and they drive our action.

How Our Thoughts Reinforce Food Addictions

Overeating, binging or intense cravings start with unhelpful thinking patterns. We experience stress, it triggers a response in the mind, and we binge or overeat.

Unfortunately, these associations are deeply ingrained. We’ve spent our lifetimes conditioning ourselves to eat unhealthily.

Parties, weddings, baking cookies with Grandma… We’ve learned that sugary snacks and fatty foods are our friends.  Many of us use food to reward ourselves, cure boredom or anxiety, or to self-soothe when we're stressed.

Very often, our cravings are involuntarily. We experience stress or boredom, for example, and head to the refrigerator without really considering why.

Subconscious triggers

Our subconscious thoughts are automatic, and they’ve been reinforced by a lifetime of experience. For example, after a traumatic childhood event, we may have found comfort in food, learning that food helped to numb feelings of pain or shame. 

blueberries in carton - hypnosis for binge eating guide

Positive events can trigger cravings, as well. Imagine this: Someone may associate sweets with baking with grandma. In turn, they create a strong emotional association between sweets and love/safety. 

The good news: We can retrain our subconscious thoughts. Research shows hypnotherapy is effective for many conditions like anxiety and stress, which can trigger cravings. 

Hypnosis can help us be hyper-aware of our cravings. We learn to recognize them. So often, they happen automatically, and without thought; however, when we learn to recognize them, we gain power over our cravings.   

Additionally, we can use hypnosis to access the subconscious and provide this incredible repository of information with new, more helpful information. Think of it like pulling weeds in order to plant new, healthy seeds. For example, we might reframe how we think about junk food and encourage the subconscious to seek out and crave healthier options.

Hypnotherapy for Food Addiction: How It Can Help

By now, you have an idea of how hypnosis helps: It empowers us to be conscious of our cravings and reteaches the mind how to think about food. But how exactly does that work?

Here’s are some ways hypnosis for food addiction can empower us to lead healthier lives.

  • Mindful Eating: With food addiction, we often overeat without thinking. Food is a compulsion, but mindfulness offers relief. We can use hypnosis to be more mindful of our eating patterns, be more aware of our cravings, of how full we feel, our feelings of hunger, and of the actual act of eating.  
  • Breaking Habitual Thoughts: Habitual thoughts trigger cravings or overeating. You might experience a stressful situation at work, and rather than taking a breath, you start to think you’re underqualified or the stress turns to anxiety. Without eliminating these spiraling thinking patterns, we can’t release our food addictions. Hypnosis empowers us to regain control of our thoughts and turn our subconscious into a powerful ally.
  • Repairing Underlying Conditions: Depression and anxiety perpetuate food addiction. Hypnosis empowers us to manage them and improve their symptoms.
  • Restoring Confidence: If we don’t have confidence in ourselves, we might not even try to change. Hypnotherapy is a powerful tool for gaining confidence and learning to love ourselves more. This is important for food addictions. When we love and believe in ourselves, we’re much more likely to face cravings and work toward making healthier lifestyle choices.

Self-Hypnosis for Releasing Bad Eating Habits: What You Will Do

People have a few options for trying hypnotherapy: One-on-one sessions with a hypnotherapist, listening to hypnosis recordings , and self-hypnosis. Self-hypnosis is one of the most convenient, because you can use it in the comfort of your own home or at the office.

It’s also highly recommended for food addictions.  Try a short hypnosis session for binge eating now: 

Tips for Practicing Self-Hypnosis

As you can see, self-hypnosis is simple. However, there are some points you may want to keep in mind as you begin:

  • Note Your Well-Being: How are you feeling? It’s helpful to assess how you feel, so you can reassess it at the end of the session.
  • Guided Breathing and Visualization: Deep breathing signals to the body and mind that it’s time to relax. Visualization is another method for initiating relaxation.
  • A Guided Countdown: You may choose to countdown from 10. This helps the mind enter into a state of hypnosis.
  • Positive Affirmations: Once you’re relaxed, you can speak directly to the subconscious. Offer it affirmations, positive suggestions designed to recondition the mind. For example, with food addiction, you might repeat something like: “I am free from overeating. I listen to my body to know when to eat and choose to eat healthy foods in perfect portions.”
  • Visualizing the Change: After you’ve given your subconscious positive suggestions, visualize how you will follow the healthier path. See yourself living with a healthy relationship to food. This reinforces the idea and enables it to take hold and sustain.

Aversion Therapy and Hypnotherapy: Reframing the Mind

Obesity, diabetes, a lack of energy, and even depression are all linked to food addiction. This leads to losses in productivity, a lowered sex drive, and anxiety, to name a few. But yet, we’re still compelled to eat these foods.

What if we could help the mind to stop craving unhealthy foods?

Aversion therapy is one hypnotherapy technique. Aversion therapy allows us to create negative associations with something, while creating positive associations with the better option.

It's commonly used to help with addiction. For example, with using hypnosis to quit smoking, we might reframe how the mind thinks about the taste or smell of cigarettes. “Cigarettes smell like burning plastic,” is a common one, for example.

Aversion therapy for food

For food addiction, aversion therapy is often one of the most effective solutions.

Truth be told, we’re not big fans of aversion therapy for most topics. We’d much rather have our clients focus on what they want, like a healthy body. However, when it comes to food and sugar, we find that aversion therapy can be so helpful in changing attitudes toward food.

A hypnotherapist may start by saying that food is life. Food is natural and that it comes from a nature.

Then, they might create a negative association for junk food (i.e. that it’s harmful to us, or even that it’s poison for our bodies).

Remember: The subconscious wants us to feel safe. So when we eat sugary, fatty snacks and those reward centers light up, the subconscious thinks it has done us a favor. 

Therefore, aversion therapy is especially effective in helping the mind retrain the mind to think of junk food as a reward. This can help us make healthier eating choices.

Does Hypnosis for Food Addictions Work? What the Research Says

Most of the research into hypnosis for food addiction or hypnosis for quitting sugar has been conducted around weight loss. And the research is crystal  clear. Hypnosis has been shown to be a powerful tool for helping people lose weight.

In fact, one study found that, on average, people who used hypnosis lost 20 percent more than those who did not. Additional studies have found hypnosis for healthy eating contributes to longer-term results, as well.

Hypnosis and Weight Loss

In 1986, researchers explored how hypnosis could help 60 participants lose weight. Researchers studied hypnosis's effect on ego-strengthening, decision-making and motivation. The group that used hypnosis lost 30 times more on average – or 17 pounds to just 0.5 pounds. (Check out our blog on weight loss hypnosis to learn more!)

A meta-analysis of weight loss hypnosis research examined 18 studies comparing cognitive behavioral therapy – i.e. relaxation training and guided imagery – vs. those same therapies complemented with hypnosis. The results: Hypnosis helped people lose more weight and keep the weight off. Hypnosis subjects lost more than 90 percent of the non-hypnosis group and kept it off for two years.

One study examined how hypnosis supplemented a behavioral weight-management program. In the study, 109 participants completed a behavioral program with or without hypnosis. After 9 weeks, both groups had lost significant weight. But at the 8-month and 2-year follow-ups, the hypnosis group continued to lose significant weight, and continued to maintain their weight goals.

Start Your Hypnosis Journey Today

Want to overcome  your cravings and stop overeating? The Grace hypnosis app, our most popular product, offers several ways for you to start. It’s like having your own virtual hypnotherapist available to you at all times. Start with self-hypnosis now, or see our guide to weight loss hypnosis. Of course, you can always schedule a private, one-on-one session, as well.