We all know that beginning to live a healthy lifestyle is almost certainly going to require some sacrifices. It’s also going to take willpower and determination, and the ability to consistently maintain these eludes most of us.

Some of us can’t stop eating too much at every sitting. Some of us eat well but never feel motivated to exercise. Some of us eat a balanced diet but still constantly crave sweets. It’s our overindulging in our bad habits that gets us in trouble, so wouldn’t it be nice if those urges simply went away?

Why people are turning to hypnosis
The biological processes in our body don’t care if we look good in the mirror or fit perfectly into jeans. In the simplest terms, they want us to be skinny enough to complete our daily tasks at an acceptable pace, but fat enough to have energy to burn whenever our food source becomes scarce. Of course, these days, most Americans never do run short on food. While we hope that never changes, our bodies have yet to evolve or adapt to this new state of being. Our high-carb and low-fat diets confuse our bodies and mess up our insulin levels; and when our bodies aren't sure what to do with the extra calories and sugar we’re pumping into them, they turn it into stored energy, or what we know as fat.

It’s not reasonable or healthy to tell people to return to our evolutionary habits of eating less or starving ourselves. I do believe in intermittent fasting, but long-term fasting is simply a no-go, so how do we help this delicate ecosystem between our brains and stomachs stay regulated? One option for more and more people has become hypnosis.

How does it work?
Hypnosis isn’t mind control like most of us have seen on TV or movies. Instead, the sessions are more like guided meditation. It's all about becoming relaxed and repeating positive affirmations. For instance, one client is told to repeat: "I say no to sugar. I'm now in control."

As I’ve said before, 90 percent of people ignore the mental aspect of making healthy lifestyle changes. The goal and idea is a good one, but if you’re trying to cut calories at the same time you’re stressed at work, not sleeping well and/or suffering from depression, the added strain of a calorie deficit makes the job so much harder.

Hypnosis is not the "You are getting verrrryyyyy sleepy" stuff we see on cartoons. (Image: malovada, Flickr)

That's why hypnosis is often turned to only as a last resort when more traditional methods aren't enough. It can help people struggling with weight problems, insomnia, smoking addiction, stress and more. The goal is to stop the compulsions that worsen our health problems. Stopping smoking, for instance, doesn’t make someone healthy overnight, but it can begin a positive domino effect.

How often does hypnosis actually work?
Dr. Holly Phillips, a general internist in Manhattan, said patients "described it as stress-reducing and emotionally refreshing. I recall one patient called it a 'mental reset.'" Elena Mosaner, a certified hypnotist in Manhattan, said most issues she comes across can be solved in about two sessions. Afterward, she sends tapes to clients or assigns daily affirmation exercises. Although doctors remain skeptical of hypnosis, many patients swear that it helped them kick their bad habits.

Hypnosis or hypnotherapy (the use of hypnosis as a therapeutic tool by a licensed therapist) certainly isn’t for everyone. There are a limited number of reputable professionals in any given area, but the patients who believe in it have no problems paying upward of $200 a session.

Some similar options to consider
If you can’t afford or aren’t willing to try hypnosis or hypnotherapy yet, perhaps you can dip your toe in the waters with some similar methods such as meditation, yoga or deep breathing exercises. If you believe positive affirmations work well for you, write down or memorize some key phrases to repeat while you perform these exercises. Better yet, have your friend or significant other work with you to reinforce these ideas.

What these methods can’t do
While some patients who have undergone hypnosis report snapping out of their bad habits after only a session or two, this isn’t the case for most people. Some find that hypnosis doesn’t help them at all. Others say it lasts for a little while, but then their cravings and bad habits start to creep back into their lives. It makes sense, because the stress or other problems that caused them to sleep poorly or overeat don’t simply vanish. They’re still there, and our bodies try to deal with them as best as they can. That often means returning to our bad habits, even if they only provide us temporary relief.

So I think for most people it’s important to remember that our natural inclination is going to be to stop caring about what we eat or how many minutes we exercised last week. Whether it’s yoga, meditation or hypnosis, positive thoughts and reaffirmation of our health goals need to be frequently put back in the forefront of our minds. We can’t expect that by whispering "I hate sugar" to ourselves all day we’re never going to want a piece of cake again—nor should we refuse to ever eat dessert for the rest of our lives. The goal isn’t to banish those desires forever. The goal is to make it so they pop up less often and to be able to say no some of the time.

The goal is to go to bed when we’re tired, instead of staying up late binging Netflix or finishing a project. When the stress of the day hits you as you get out of bed, you'll need as much energy as you can get. You’ll certainly benefit from any positivity your mind can muster, as well.

Jay McKenzie loves soccer, history and feeling great. He's on a quest to eat better and exercise more, and he wants to share his experiences along the way. You can email him at [email protected] with comments or questions. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.