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Better than a Diet?

Por Claudia M. González, MS, RD, LD/N* -

Alternative weight-loss therapies, like hypnosis and acupuncture, promise to be the alternative to dieting. Do they really work? What are the pros and cons?

Would you stick needles in your ears if it would help you lose a dress size? Would you go through hypnosis once in a while to suppress your appetite? The truth is, most people (especially women) are willing to try just about anything, regardless of how crazy it may seem or how it affects their health, to lose a few pounds.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture consists of inserting tiny needles in the skin at specific points. Asian cultures have been practicing acupuncture for thousands of years. The theory behind acupuncture is that the inserted needles help stimulate the "energy lines" (known as meridians) found in different areas of the body. It is said that these energy lines get blocked during an illness. 

Western medicine explains this practice in a less sublime, more scientific manner. The belief is that needles stimulate the nerves and the production of endorphins (chemicals triggered by the brain which relieve pain).

How does acupuncture work in suppressing appetite?

Although needles are inserted in different parts of your body, it is mainly one small needle that is inserted in the upper portion of your ear. When you feel hungry, you put pressure on the needle. Your appetite is supposed to lessen by stimulating the nerves in the brain that control appetite. Although the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 1997 documented cases of acupuncture’s ability to control pain, there is no scientific evidence to date that proves that this treatment is effective for weight loss.


Hypnosis works at the subconscious and conscious levels. According to experts in the field, hypnosis helps counteract external stimuli that block weight-loss goals. When a person reaches a state of deep relaxation, the psychotherapist makes suggestions to overcome the weight problem. For example, if a person eats too many sweets, he/she is told that fruits and vegetables are healthier and tastier.

Based on a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, the participants that were hypnotized, lost about 12 pounds in a 6-month period. However, in addition to being hypnotized, they were also following a diet program.

In short, these alternative weight-loss therapies can help you attain your goals. However, if you are not self-motivated, don’t eat a well-balanced diet, and don't exercise, you’ll likely end up losing more money than weight.


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