The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that in: 2014–15, almost two-thirds (63%) of Australians aged 18 and over were overweight or obese.  Put another way, approximately 11.2 million adults were overweight or obese (ABS 2015).  About 1 in 3 (36%) adults were overweight but not obese, while about 1 in 4 (28%) were obese.

While more men than women were overweight but not obese (42% compared with 29%), similar proportions of men and women were obese (28% of men and 27% of women).

Other figures suggest that one in four Australian adults are trying to lose weight, most of the time, and women go on diets an average of 2.7 times a year.

Professional clinical hypnotherapist Karen Holt has one simple and clear message about all of this: STOP!

That’s because her experience with such clients has shown dieting to be pointless, until they can tackle the root cause of their problematic relationship with food.

“There’s a reason that the plethora of fad diets that are available these days don’t work long-term,” she said.

“That’s because mind really does matter when it comes to conquering bad habits like over-eating and what people actually need is a mental reboot.”

January and February are the months when good intentions are most in focus, but Karen said what’s really important is tackling the root causes of dependencies on food and other things, no matter what the time of year.

Very often, these ‘triggers’ go as far back as our childhood experiences, according to Karen.

“When we’re born, our clever little bodies are kitted out with everything they need to sense when we are hungry.  Babies cry because they need nutrition, not because they want to over-indulge. They don’t yet have any awareness of what that even means.

“Then, as we grow, experiences form habits. For example, maybe our parents offer us sweets or chocolate as a treat or when we have a minor crisis, and we start to associate such things with feeling happy, content and safe.

“In this way, food becomes more of a habit and lifestyle choice, than a means to keep us alive and healthy which is what it’s ultimately there for.”

And the reverse psychology involved in dieting is potentially damaging too.

“The trouble with diets is that they focus us on the negatives, like depriving ourselves, from the outset. They also accentuate an obsession with food – while they might push us to replace ‘bad’ foods with good ones, they still have us focusing on eating all the time, which is counter productive,” she said.

“In my opinion, this is why most diets aren’t sustainable in the long term. While the most successful ones might see us achieving our weight release goals initially, nine times out of 10 we’ll fall back into our old ways eventually. This is because they don’t address the fundamental causes of our tendency towards eating unnecessarily.”

So, the first step towards developing a long term better relationship with food, is to re-set our subconscious to do away with such ingrained behaviour. It is this focus that makes Karen’s weight release programmes successful.

“A lot of people have stereotypical images of hypnotherapy, fuelled by stage hypnosis routines, placing people into trances to make them perform tricks for the audience’s amusement,” continued Karen.

“The reality, though, is that we spend a significant proportion of our waking life in a state of hypnosis.  Many of our fears, phobias and anxieties, for example, are our subconscious mind seeping through to influence our conscious life.

“Hypnotherapy is actually about breaking these patterns that negatively affect our lives, and re-setting our thinking.

“Our attitudes to food are example of this.”

Most participants that use hypnotherapy to assist in their weight release usually lose half to one kilogram per week, by following simple advice coupled with the hypnotherapy techniques.

“What it does is to get to the root of where their attitudes to food come from, so that they can start to change them.”

For example, I had one lady for whom it was linked to feelings around not being good enough. She was a very intelligent and successful woman, with significant standing in the community. Anyone who knew her would wonder how she could ever feel like that, and fall prey to an eating disorder.

However, it emerged that it went back to her days at primary school. She’d been in a situation where she had to climb up a rope and she was the only one in the class who couldn’t do it, and the embarrassment of that one incident had led to her not feeling good enough in other areas of her life.

In situations like this, I often find that people subconsciously put on weight almost as an extra, protective layer, as well as seeking the short-lived highs that often come from eating the wrong things.

With this particular lady, she was worried that if she lost weight, she would expose herself to more accusations of not being good enough.”

The human mind is a more powerful machine than most of us give it credit for.

In many ways, our minds don’t understand what’s real and what’s pretend. When someone has the wrong kind of relationship with food, their subconscious might tell them “you deserve a reward” or “if you eat that piece of chocolate you’ll feel better”. So, changing that mind-set is a way of re-setting, just like updating the old software systems in a computer.

It’s about snapping out of ‘trance eating’ – while driving or sitting at your desk, for example – to eat the right things, at the right times, consciously throughout your day.

People undergoing hypnotherapy for weight release, usually participate in a series of hypnotherapy sessions, to help people change habits and, in this case, develop a new relationship with food.


Karen’s suggestions to long term weight control:

  1. Buy yourself something new

There is a powerful psychological technique called the law of concentrated attention – the idea that if there is something in life you really want, if you behave as though you already have it, you are likely to actually get it.

Go and get something new to wear, hang it on the OUTSIDE of your wardrobe, in a place where you’ll see it often, to help you focus all your attention on being that person.

  1. Eat slowly and consciously

Enjoy every mouthful of food, slow down your eating, chewing your food thoroughly (around 15-20 times per mouthful).  Put your knife and fork, or sandwich, down between mouthfuls.

Don’t do other things, like watching TV or reading, while you are eating. You need to be fully conscious of what you are eating, so sit down and focus purely on the food in front of you.

  1. Stop eating as soon as you feel comfortable

Listen to your body. Modern life, where we can have more or less what we want, when we want, has conditioned us to eat what we fancy rather than what our bodies are telling us we need.

Many of us have received messages that “you must eat everything on your plate”, or “don’t waste food”.  It isn’t waste if you place less food on the plate!

Stop eating and relax.

  1. Eat only three small meals a day plus 1-2 healthy snacks (if you need them)

Eating regularly and in a routine is one key to reforming new habits, so try to eat three meals and one to two healthy snacks (if you need them), at set times, each day.  

Invest in smaller plates and bowls to help you control your portion sizes.

Planning your meals ahead, so that you don’t have to think about food all of the time, you’ll be amazed what this increased focus on eating responsibly will make to your food choices.

  1. Drink plenty of water

Again, this can have a dramatic impact on how alert and well you feel as well as suppressing any hunger pangs and these two combined effects will help you to make healthier choices or leave foods out that are not so good for you.

  1. Exercise regularly

Building at least 30 minutes of daily exercise into your routine can have a dramatic impact on your overall sense of wellbeing, as well as your size. This could be as simple as going for a walk or doing some skipping, no matter what you feel like just “move it”.

  1. Dealing with head hunger

Head hunger refers to those times when you think you need food but it’s not actually your body that’s demanding energy. Something else is triggering you to eat, the thought of feeling will pass if you keep yourself distracted with a positive activity.

  1. Give yourself support

Going the distance with any lifestyle change requires focus and determination, and you will need to seek out ways of spurring yourself on.  Be positive about what you are doing, take pride in it and celebrate it when you achieve a short or long term goal.


Statistical sources:

  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (relating to 2015/16)



For more information about Karen’s hypnotherapy and her weight release programmes, visit her website at