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Beyond Dieting: Alternative Approaches to Weight Loss

How acupuncture, hypnosis, meditation, prayer, and other mind-body practices may help you lose weight.

Qi Gong

Qi gong, a Chinese form of meditation, has shown some early success in weight loss and is being studied further.

The practice includes gentle movements to help stimulate digestion and mental exercises to learn how your body works best, in terms of energy, sleep, and activity.

“As you become more in tuned with what your body needs, you get more from what you eat, so you eat less,” says Alex Holland, MAc, LAc, president and co-founder of the Asian Institute of Medical Studies in Tucson.

Holland stresses finding a reputable instructor and using qi gong to complement a regular weight loss program.



The research is still scarce, but there is some evidence that hypnosis might help you lose extra weight when used with diet and exercise.  

Studies have shown an average of about 6 pounds of weight loss through hypnosis, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“You learn to focus your concentration and enter a state of inner absorption, like a trance,” says mind-body psychologist and clinical hypnotherapist Steven Gurgevich, PhD, author of The Self-Hypnosis Diet.

Combining hypnotic suggestions with other mind-body methods -- such as affirmations, visualizations, and mentally rehearsing how you will approach food and exercise -- can train you to make those changes, Gurgevich says.

“Effective self-hypnosis relies on being highly motivated, and on believing it’s going to help you,” says Gurgevich, , a clinical associate professor of medicine at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.

It takes consistent effort. People practice at least twice a day for about 20 minutes for a few months before seeing results, Gurgevich says.

Some people might require extensive work with a licensed hypnotherapist to get past certain barriers, like past psychological traumas. But after learning the techniques, most people practice self-hypnosis on their own or with a CD for guidance.

Gurgevich recommends finding a medical professional trained to treat your specific condition who also practices clinical hypnotherapy.


Popular faith-based weight loss books include The Weigh Down Diet, The Hallelujah Diet, The Prayer Diet, and The Maker’s Diet.

Some of them suggest that spiritual hunger is often mistaken for physical hunger, and encourage people to turn to God, rather than food, to ease their emotional pain.

Many of these programs focus on your mental and emotional relationship to food, hunger, and feeling full -- and on how you relate to a higher power.

Some faith-based weight programs take a relaxed attitude toward eating, instead emphasizing your spiritual side. Others tout stricter regimens, like vegan diets or 40-day diet plans.

“Prayer can be a contemplative, peaceful event to help you control your life emotionally. Like meditation, it’s a great way to tune out mental noise and use your inner resources for positive reinforcement,” says Roberta Lee, MD, vice chairwoman of the integrative medicine department at New York City’s Beth Israel Medical Center.

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