Everyone is different and needs a tailored weight loss solution
The NLP and hypnosis approach to losing weight

How can NLP help with weight Loss?

Help with losing weight is one of the  two most common problems people come to see me about. And interestingly it’s one of the most difficult to treat. I believe that the solution to weight loss is not all in the mind, but equally, it’s very hard to keep the mind on track a couple of weeks into a new way of eating. Gary Taubes’ excellent article  “What if it’s all been a big fat lie?”  in the New York Times explains how we’ve been fed mis-information for the past few decades, and that has really screwed up our bodies in a way which has made us, certainly in the Western world, a race of people who are fatter now than at any point in history. It’s easier to gain weight, harder to lose it, and the side effects of being fatter are really unpleasant. Amongst others, tiredness, lack of energy and reduced motivation to do anything much. Taubes’ book “Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It” suggests that, contrary to popular culture, these side effects are actually a consequence of becoming obese, it’s simply not the case that they are the cause of obesity.  A fact that my patients find reassuring.

So how can we help someone lose weight?

When a client comes through the door wanting to lose weight, what do we do? Some people are easy,  I’ve had a number of people who eat mainly fresh food with junk only on high days and holidays, they are the people who simply tend to have a weakness that they can’t resist indulging.  Usually chocolate! There are any number of NLP and hypnosis techniques that will work brilliantly for this situation.  I prefer to choose the techniques which are not aversion based.  I don’t really want people gagging when offered a piece of chocolate.  I always think that it’s better if they can either take it or leave it, and simply feel not bothered whether they eat the chocolate or not.

What if diet really is the cause of the problem?

It’s more difficult to help people who simply don’t know that their diet is the cause of their problem. And here, because the solution does mean changes for which they are solely responsible, it’s really important to set people up for success. It’s important to begin with a little education and to find a diet which suits them and which they feel will fit into their lives without too much pain. One of my personal favourites is the paleo style Caveman diet, as gluten has been linked to a number of health problems which also cause lack of energy, digestive disturbances and the like. Noticeable improvement of any of these conditions helps to motivate the individual to stay with the eating plan on an ongoing basis. Of course one of the things which best motivates people is to see results.  For this reason a Fast weight loss diet plan can be the answer.  Having read a few fast diet plan tests,  I sometimes suggest the 3 Week Diet. Although it’s not the easiest plan to follow, standing on the scales each morning and seeing the weight drop off is usually enough to motivate most people to get started. And once they are started, we can work on discovering which strategies are most effective and how we can integrate those into their lifestyle to help ongoing weight loss and subsequent weight maintenance. Significant dietary changes can be too much for some people – and less radical diets can feel more achievable.  For women the Venus Factor might be the one they can imagine themselves succeeding with.  That’s the important thing. Once a person believes that they will get a result, it’s much easier to stick with the diet.

How do we stick to the diet?

It’s true to say that almost all diets will work – if people stick to them. But sticking to them is the really hard part.  So our next job is to examine the triggers for eating and develop mental strategies to re-train our minds into making healthier choices – and making healthier choices seem highly desirable. Mentally, we start by implanting the goal deeply into the client’s mind.  To do this,  we ask the client to imagine what will happen once the weight loss goal as been achieved.  Make the most vivid, detailed, positively realistic picture possible. Picture the scene; .you got on the scales that morning and you were at your target weight.  You feel wonderful,  filled with joie de vivre, full of the kind of energy you used to feel when you were younger. As you look in the mirror, you see a body you thought you’d never see again.  Attractive curves where before there was an overflowing stomach.  You notice how much better you look in your new, slimmer clothes.  As you go about your day, friends tell you how good you look, and once the day is nearly over, there is energy to spare for a wonderful romantic time with your partner – who you are happy to undress in front of.

So how to we stop wanting it now?

Then we turn to address the more immediate, short term, triggers for eating.  I feel unhappy or bored or If I don’t eat it up it’ll just go in the bin.  There are any number of these little habits or incidents throughout a week which are so deeply ingrained that it’s very hard for us to consciously argue with the “instant gratification” part of our brain which produces such strong feelings of need. The first thing to know is that these feelings of need will subside. They are difficult for our minds to maintain for very long and any distraction will help move the mind on to think of other things and allow the feelings to subside.  If the phone rings, you completely forget about the cake while you chat to your friend. The second thing we would do is to look at any specific triggers for unhelpful eating. The purpose of NLP at this point in the process is to help people be more conscious and thoughtful at the point where their “instant gratification” reaction (eat the cake) ultimately makes them feel bad.  Our job is to help people have a wider range of choices in the way that they respond to the trigger.  As everyone is different, the skill is picking the technique(s) which will be most helpful for the client and tailoring it specifically so they gain maximum benefit. The video below shows a clip of one of the UK’s most innovative NLP trainers, Andy Austin, working with a client who’s weight loss has plateaued.  As he questions her, he’s paying particular attention to the language she’s using, especially the metaphors. This gives huge clues as to how she is internally representing the different aspects of the problem.  And often why the problem is not going away on it’s own.  Often a change of perspective is one of the things which is required in order to find new solutions to old problems.  



There are big clues to picking the right techniques and approaches and that will have to be the subject for a follow-on post. If the person seems hypnotisable however, it’s almost always more beneficial to use a more hypnotic version of whichever technique. The reasons people put on weight are many and varied, I hope this post has given a brief overview of the way that NLP can help the weight loss process by tailoring the whole approach specifically to the individual, taking into account how they they see themselves, their life situation and motivations.

So what exactly is this “NLP” thing?

Neuro Linguistic Programming or NLP is based on modelling excellence.  Breaking down how people who are brilliant at certain things do that skill. Then, just as importantly, teaching the skill to others so that they too can get excellent results. Perhaps not quite as excellent of course. But it certainly gives a huge insight and head start into achieving the same results.

The difference that makes the difference

You might think that that sounds straightforward. And you would be right. But it’s not just the physical things people do; it’s the attitudes and beliefs that they have when they are “performing” their skill that can be even more key.

We can probably all think back to our school days and recall a few of examples of different types of teachers.  There was the teacher who came into the room, filled it with fear and instantly everyone was quiet and on their best behavior. There was also the one who had absolutely no control of the classroom. And then there are the teachers whose students behave well not out of fear, but out of respect and affection. These are often the ones who just seem to know how to get the best out of the diverse individuals in front of them.

All these teachers may have gone through the same training, but it’s the way that they are, their attitudes and personal beliefs that make the difference.

I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from some great hypnotists – and also I’ve learnt what not to do from a couple of really dreadful ones.  My observation is that the great ones have an absolutely unshakeable belief that they are going to succeed in hypnotising their volunteer.  There is no shadow of doubt in their minds.  Once they’ve picked their subject,  everything else is a foregone conclusion and they truly are The Hypnotist.  The mediocre ones simply don’t have that presence, attitude or belief.  

So Is NLP Therapy?

The early pioneers of NLP, Richard Bandler and John Grinder, modeled the very best psychotherapist, hypnotherapist and family therapists they could find.   Then to see if they had identified “the difference that makes the difference” they tested out their observations by treating real patients themselves. They wanted to find out if they too could achieve the same positive outcomes for their patients as the therapists they had studied. 

NLP is often thought of as “therapy lite”  but it actually is not, in itself, therapy.  In the course of their therapeutic modelling, Bandler and Grinder had documented their discoveries and turned them into systematic techniques which anyone can use to help individuals change. These techniques can help to reduce anxiety, cure phobias and really encourage people to see their problems or challenges in new and different ways.

So how is it relevant to me?

Of course, just because two people modeled therapists doesn’t mean that therapy is the only area of interest.  Charles Faulkner modelled Chicago bond traders and market wizards, and as he explains, he always starts by testing out what he’s learned on himself.  So you can imagine he’s done quite well out of that!

Colleagues who would never think of speaking in front of a group of people have modelled great public speakers and now can hold forth confidently in front of even large audiences.

And of course for something a little more fun, friends have modelled how to flirt (believe that that the other person wants to talk to you, but accept rejection as nothing personal and move on). How to wrap beautiful Christmas presents, and how to successfully train for a marathon (OK not so much fun, but it was hugely helpful).

So what would you like to be better at?

So if I want to learn something new I usually just buy a book on it.  And then I can muddle through and develop a basic level of competence.  But for things which we want to excel at, there’s something we can all do which the instruction books rarely mention.

Find someone who can already do it and find out how exactly they do it so well.  Ask them not just  how they do physically do it, but also what the critical things that they pay attention to. Find out what they believe about themselves while they are doing it. What attitudes are important for them to perform the skill at such a high level.  Who are they when they are doing it well.  What is the difference that makes the difference?  




I stumbled into personal development completely my accident.  I had treated my mother to a day at a health spa for a pampering mother’s day treat.   While we were there I thought I might as well take full advantage of the wonderfully relaxing treatments myself.

So there I was, lying on a massage table, being attended to by the most gorgeous young man.  Much to the disappointment of many of his clients, it was his last weekend at the spa. He was off to America to train in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).  As he started to enthuse about it, I began to understand why he was so fascinated.

A Fascination for Hypnosis

Co-incidentally, I had long been interested in hypnosis.  When I was a teenager, Paul McKenna was on the TV on Saturday nights doing stage hypnosis.  My friend Jane and I thought it was great so we got a book on hypnosis out of the library and practiced hypnotizing each other.  We would read the script in the book to each other, but never really had any success, as by the time we got to the part about relaxing our buttocks, we were usually in hysterical laughter.  None the less I found it fascinating.

Time to learn more

So when I stumbled upon the chance to do and NLP practitioner course, certificate in personal coaching and a diploma in hypnotherapy at the same time I jumped at it.

It was hard work.  10 weekends over the course of a year, plus lots of extra study and assignments for the diploma.  But it was completely absorbing and I was literally entranced.

I also loved hanging out with a completely diverse group of people from all walks of life, from librarians to sportswomen to record producers. They all had the same fascination with learning more about people and how to use that knowledge to help both themselves others.

And Now?

Many years later I’m now a teaching assistant on advanced NLP courses. I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the UK’s most respected coaches and trainers. I’ve been practicing professionally since 2008 as an NLP coach and Hypnotherapist specializing in anxiety and weight loss. I have learned not to mention NLP when I tell people what I do, as most people still look completely bemused when I mention it.

So how has life changed as a result of this Personal Development Journey?

For me, principally it’s meant a new career.  I enjoyed my old life in IT, but sometimes it’s nice to talk to real people instead of a computer.  And it’s incredibly rewarding to get enthusiastic feedback from the people I’ve helped.

I also find it very motivating.  Knowing that I can achieve my goals.  All I need to do is find some-one who’s done it before and there is a model for me to be able to achieve everything I might want to to do.

I know pay much greater attention to other people. What they say, how they say it.  People are very literal in their choice of words.  They will tell you what they really want, but you may only notice if you’re really paying attention.

If I had my time again I’d definitely do it all again. I’ve loved the learning process. The insight into how the mind works and the skills and knowledge which I use to my advantage every day.  But most of all I’ve enjoyed the company of everyone I’ve had the pleasure of sharing this journey with.