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Subliminal weight loss apps: Are they basically flimflam?

Cecilia Snyder, MS, RD

With so many different weight loss products, plans, and tools out on the market today, it can be quite the challenge to know which ones are legitimate, which ones are backed by scientific evidence, and then to figure out which one best suits you and your lifestyle on top of it all. One of the latest trends to hit the market is centered around the use of subliminal messages to help people lose weight once and for all.  

 

You heard that right… subliminal messages, hypnosis, entering another state of consciousness in which one is more receptive to suggestions and directions. It might sound like flimflam on the surface, but subliminal messaging actually has a long and deep-rooted history. One might even call this an ancient practice. Evidence suggests that even Greek philosophers were experimenting with influencing others using subliminal messaging tactics as early as the fifth century B.C. But it wasn’t until later in the 1900s when the idea really began to infiltrate modern day marketing, advertising, and behavior change efforts.

Interestingly enough, the weight loss apps of today aren’t the first time that subliminal messaging has been linked closely to food and diet over the last century. In fact, subliminal messaging has been used for everything from encouraging the public to buy more popcorn and Coca-cola at the movies theatres to understanding how the use of brand-specific subliminal messages influences consumer decision-making.  

Now for the important question–where does this leave us, the general public, when we are considering a product such as a subliminal weight loss app? Well, if you think that this technique could possibly work for you, there doesn’t seem to be any harm in giving it a shot. But don’t count on guaranteed or long-lasting results using subliminal messages alone. Let’s break this on down a little bit further to get a better idea of the pros, the cons, and the hard facts when it comes to weight loss hypnosis.

What does science say about subliminal weight loss apps?

So where does the science stand on all of this? Well, you could say that research and subliminal messages have a bit of a complicated history. For much of the American public, the first claim they ever heard of subliminal messages was from James Vicary in 1957 when he reported that his experiment on moviegoers with subliminal messages promoting popcorn and Coca-cola had increases sales of these products by 18.1% and 57.7% respectively. These results initially shocked and impressed… until an employee of the cinema where the messages were tested later spoke up and revealed that the results had been falsified and that these messages in fact had no effect on soda or popcorn sales.   

Since then, researchers have continued to investigate whether or not subliminal messaging can significantly influence thoughts, behaviors, and performance. Unfortunately, when it comes to weight loss specifically, there still isn’t enough hard evidence on the topic to make a concrete assessment either way. Some studies have found subliminal messaging to be effective, while others have not.

Subliminal weight loss apps: Where to start

By now, you’re probably wondering where weight loss apps come in to play with all of this talk about subliminal message. Here’s a closer look at a few of the most popular weight-loss hypnosis apps and what they promise to provide.

With a 4-star rating in Apple’s iOS App Store, this app promises to “train your brain to lose weight, break bad habits, build confidence, and more.” The app uses a combination of subliminal messages and a user’s own positive affirmations about themself to boost motivation and rewire the way you think.  

How much will it cost me? $9.99 USD/month for your initial subscription plus an additional in-app purchase of $5.99 USD if you want to focus on weight loss specifically

Using a series of guided meditations and hypnosis programs, this app claims that it will encourage uses to get in shape, modify their diet, develop an exercise routine, love the way they look naked, and achieve their goals once and for all. How so? Through a series of 1,000 plus audio tracks, guided meditations, and expert-facilitated hypnosis programs.

How much will it cost me? Initial installation of the app is free, but be prepared to spend anywhere between $3.99 and $12.99 USD on in-app purchases if you want to focus in on specific goals related to weight loss, fitness, or personal growth

Developed by Ron Eslinger, Advanced Practice Nurse and Board Certified Hypnotist, this app claims that most participants notice changes to their eating habits and sleep schedules within three to four short weeks. How does it work? Simply play the app’s collection of upbeat music with underlying suggestions on repeat while driving or participating in other activities.

How much will it cost me? A one-time payment of $2.99 USD grants full access to the app.

Most of the apps we’ve covered so far focus on day-time hypnosis, but this app provides treatment via 8-hour affirmation sessions that can be completed at the same time you are enjoying a full night’s rest. In order to improve your relationship with food and with your body, complete a treatment session each night over the course of two weeks.  

How much will it cost me? No purchase required.

Utilizing deep hypnosis and meditation, this app promises to take you deep into the depths of your subconscious. It will help user’s cultivate discipline, find a renewed motivation to exercise, and remain persistent in changing food habits. What can you expect with this app? A collection of advanced hypnosis techniques that use comforting voices, calming background music, natural sounds, and beautiful visuals.  

How much will it cost me? Initial installation of the app is free and includes a 40-minute weight loss hypnosis. But if you want to focus in on any other habits in particular like reducing cravings, eliminating stress, or increasing your daily movement and activity levels, be prepared to fork up anywhere between an additional $4.99 and $19.99 USD depending on the package you choose.  

Here’s the deal with subliminal weight loss:

Now that we’ve got a better idea of what exactly subliminal weight loss apps provide, let’s take a minute to explore their effectiveness. Like we talked about earlier, the jury is still out when it comes to determining whether subliminal messaging has significant impacts on weight loss in the long run. Most recently, a study conducted in September of 2018 concluded that self-hypnosis did not result in significant differences for weight loss between the experimental and control groups, but it did in fact show that self-hypnosis techniques helped individuals to improve satiety levels, reduce inflammation, and improve quality of life overall.

These results are pretty intriguing. But let’s consider another factor that could be coming in to play. A 2012 study that examined when choice is most influenced by subliminal messaging found that intrinsic motivation (driven by personal reward and satisfaction) plays an extremely important role when it comes to the effectiveness of subliminal persuasion. In other words, individuals who already feel more motivated to make changes are more susceptible to the influence of subliminal messages.

Why is this important? Well, many of the subliminal weight loss apps on the market promise to help users find the motivation they need. Could it possible that those people who benefit the most from these apps are in fact already feeling pretty motivated to make changes to their health? And what if you aren’t feeling all that motivated yet? Does that mean that these types of weight loss hypnosis apps won’t be as useful for you? These are just a few questions to consider before making any type of purchase.

You might be wondering: How does Noom compare?

Now don’t get me wrong, motivation is a huge piece of any health journey. It’s almost impossible to make any significant changes without it. So why not choose a proven weight loss app that helps you boost your motivation and more! So how does Noom stack up to these subliminal messaging and rapid weight loss hypnosis apps? Let’s find out!

For starters, Noom won’t just capitalize on your current motivation levels, but with the help of your health coaches and your peer group mates, Noom will teach you exactly how motivation works, how to identify what stage of motivation you are currently in, and how to stay motivated in the long run, even in moments of frustration. On top of that, Noom teaches its users about the power of affirmations, neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to create new behavior patterns), and how to take advantage of these techniques 100% on your own and without having to rely on subliminal messaging long-term in order to do so.

And it only gets better from there. Yes, motivation is critical! But, without the tools and techniques needed to make the most of that motivation, you might find yourself looking around and wondering where to go next. Noom can help with this too though. Through the Noom app, you can take advantage of tools like weighing-in daily, logging your meals, and chatting one-on-one with your own personal health coach to develop a weight loss plan that is personalized to you and your individual circumstances.

How much will it cost me? A monthly subscription with Noom starts at $59 USD/month. But if you’re planning on sticking around for a bit longer, you might consider a 6-month plan for $149 USD ($24.83/month) or a 12-month plan for $199 USD ($16.58/month). You’ll also receive a full 14-day trial of the app for only $1 so you can know for yourself exactly how the program works before you make a commitment. Still have questions about what Noom will cost you? Take a look here for a complete description.

What’s the bottom line here?

As researchers continue to explore the effectiveness of subliminal messages and hypnosis on weight loss, it’s becoming more and more clear that there could be some genuine benefits to these techniques. But in the end, these types of weight loss apps address only one piece of the puzzle. And while they might be effective in the moment, there’s not much to suggest that these apps can help you lose weight and take control of your health for good. Still wondering exactly how Noom might be able to do this for you though? Read up on what sets Noom apart from other virtual health programs here.