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From celebrity diets to crazy fitness trends, people are willing to try anything to get healthy and lose weight. I know this because, for so long, I’ve been one of those people — one of the millions of Americans who struggle to meet the unrealistic beauty expectations of our culture. When my normal routine wasn’t working for me anymore, I decided to ditch the diet books and try hypnosis to get healthier.

A chronic yo-yo dieter and exerciser, it was never my inability to workout or eat healthy that stood in the way of leading a better lifestyle, but rather my own self-doubt and low self-esteem.

Whenever I was doing well, exercising, eating right, and feeling confident, I would inevitably hit a road block — a week without going to the gym, a night of binging junk food, an anxiety attack about the women around me who were always going to be skinnier and prettier than I was — and I began to make unhealthy, even unsafe, decisions.

My perception of body image was a negative cycle that I saw repeat itself over and over again, from my adolescent years into adulthood, and it was a problem, as I understood it, in my head, and not in my body.

That, I thought, is where hypnosis could come in.

A certified hypnotist, my aunt Mary runs her own full-time practice, Rubino Hypnosis, where she sees clients who are looking for alternative treatments for things like anxiety, stress, addictions like smoking or overeating, phobias, and weight management. Friends and family members of mine have seen her in the past. And thanks to her treatment, they were successful in quitting smoking, among other things — but I had always been nervous to turn to her for help.

Like a lot of people, I had this impression that under hypnosis, you lost control — like your mind was taken over by the hypnotist and you became powerless. As Mary explains, one of the biggest misconceptions about her work is just that, but it couldn’t be farther from the truth.

In hypnotism, the power is all your own.

Hypnosis, at the most basic level, is a state of deep relaxation coupled with the art of suggestion. While under hypnosis, your subconscious mind becomes open to receiving suggestions that can help change the negative behaviors you’re targeting.

While you’re guided by a hypnotist, someone there to help you reach a different level of consciousness and guide your predetermined suggestions, all hypnotism is actually self-hypnotism. Without your own active participation, you can’t be hypnotized, so if you were worried about clucking like a chicken, rest assured no one can make you do that but you.

Once I got over my misguided fear of mind-control, I decided to take the leap and see if hypnotism could actually help me get healthy, and a scheduled a session with Mary to find out.

In her calm and quiet private office, Mary and I sat at the beginning of our appointment to discuss the goals of the session. We talked about why I wanted to be hypnotized, what I wanted to get out of the experience, and how I wanted to change.

I explained that I wanted to work out more — I wanted to get stronger, and I wanted to be able to run faster. For me, it wasn’t about the numbers — I was hoping to lose weight, sure, but I decided that wasn’t how I wanted to define my success.

My main goal was to become more physically active and fit on a daily basis, and more in control of my self-motivation.

After going over my wants and desires, we talked more about the process of hypnosis itself. She walked me through the different steps involved, the different sensations I might have, and what I could expect out of the session. We talked a lot about relaxation, visualization (one of the main techniques in hypnosis), and positive affirmation. She made it clear that it was a process we would be doing together, and that — after our session — it was something I could try on my own. While most clients will see a hypnotist for several sessions, I wanted to learn as much as I could from the session, and continue self-practice at home for the remainder of the experiment.

When it was time to start, Mary directed me to get comfortable in a large recliner in the corner of the room, and after finding a relaxing position for myself, she covered me in a warm blanket. The lights were dimmed and quiet nature sounds played in the background. I closed my eyes and focused on the sound of Mary’s voice as she guided me into a deep relaxation.

First, she had me visualize myself being filled — from my toes, to the top of my head, and back down again — with the color purple. And the more I imagined my body being filled with purple, the calmer I felt. As someone who has always struggled with visualization techniques, I was surprised by how quickly and powerfully the experience affected my state of being.

I remember vaguely wondering to myself if I was even still awake, that is how relaxed I felt. It was sublime.

After I could see myself clearly as the person I wanted to be — the ideal version of myself — Mary started bringing me back to “now.” This is where things got a little fuzzy for me,. I don’t have an exact picture of what happened next, but a vague idea. She counted, and in between the numbers were positive suggestions; phrases like “I am strong, I am powerful, I am magical.” The words reinforced the picture of myself that I had made in my subconscious during visualization. She also suggested a color, purple, that would trigger my subconscious to remember the work we had done every time I saw it.

I came back into full consciousness feeling relaxed, calm, and clear-headed, and after a short debriefing, I left the office anxious to see if my session would change anything.

Like most other fitness hacks, hypnotism wasn’t an instant magical fix, but it did cause notable positive changes — and quickly. I didn’t wake up the next day 10 pounds lighter, of course, but I did wake up the next day and run to a 7:30 a.m. yoga class. When my alarm went off at an ungodly hour for a Saturday morning, I resisted the urge to hit snooze and instead visualized how I would look and feel with an iced coffee in my hand post-workout — which was enough to get me up and going that morning. And most mornings since.

I start off every day with a quick self-hypnosis session to get me focused and ready for the day, and I usually employ them before or during my actual workouts.

To my surprise, they work better than most other tricks and hacks I’ve tried over the years — probably because it isn’t just some trendy fitness hack.

The techniques I learned during my session — visualization, positive thinking, and relaxation — have all helped me develop a much better workout routine and a better self care routine in general.

While I’m running, instead of looking at my watch and stressing about the million unfinished assignments I have at home, I let myself breathe, relax, and visualize strength, calmness, and happiness. It’s a technique that has helped me both on and off the treadmill. When it comes to working out at the gym or going to a yoga class, I don’t feel that tug of self-doubt that could crush my motivation in a moment before hypnosis.

In my subconscious, I am already strong and fast and powerful, so I have one less obstacle (my own mind) standing in the way of me and my health.

Since I added hypnosis to my daily routine, I’ve noticed a marked difference. I am more motivated, more active, and my workouts are more productive. I have lost weight, yes, but more importantly, I have worked out almost every day since I made it my goal to do so. Hypnosis brought out the qualities within me that I already knew I had, but couldn’t access. It got me to a place I wanted to go, but I had stopped myself from reaching. It got me closer to my ideal self, someone I had already been all along.

I can’t wait to see what it does next.