Not all weight loss programs feel like they’re ripped from the pages of a 1950s Good Housekeeping magazine. These days, some folks say getting your mind right is just as important as counting calories.
Take subliminal weight loss plans, for instance. Sound too woo-woo to be true? Here’s everything you need to know about the chances of a slimdown powered by subliminal messages.
Do subliminal messages work for weight loss?
You may have heard that advertisers use subliminal messages (like colors, shapes, or hidden text) to sway you in favor of their brands. The idea is that super speedy or subtle messages can influence your unconscious mind to trigger certain thoughts and actions.
Some common ways folks try to use subliminals for weight loss are:
- subliminal music channels
- sleep hypnosis meditations (weight loss messages while you sleep)
- subliminal message “mind training” sessions
Skeptical? You’re not alone. But research suggests subliminal messages really *can* affect some behavior.
One 2020 study of babies found that unconscious learning can influence behaviors after a certain stage of brain development. And a 2012 study tried to uncover the exact region of the brain where subliminal messages get processed.
TBH, it’s tricky to measure “hidden” messages designed to influence your thoughts and behaviors without you realizing it. But that doesn’t stop people from trying! Folks have tried harnessing subliminal messages to quit smoking, to turbocharge their self-esteem, and yes, even to lose weight.
We’ll answer your question with another question: If listening to subliminal messages while you snooze melted away the pounds, why would there be zillions of weight loss products on the market?
The truth is, there isn’t much evidence to support subliminal weight loss programs. Scientists haven’t dug too deep into the unconscious mind as a weight loss tool, but existing studies don’t suggest that subliminal messages are associated with easy weight loss.
One older study (1992, y’all!) divided women with overweight bodies into three groups:
- folks who listened to subliminal messages
- folks who listened to a placebo tape (aww, remember cassette tapes?!)
- folks who didn’t listen to anything
After 5 weeks, all three groups had lost roughly the same amount of weight. Researchers concluded that while subliminal messages might make peeps more aware of their weight, they didn’t do a thing to change the number on the scale. #WompWomp
A bonus benefit: Positive thinking
Science doesn’t say subliminal messages will help you lose weight, but that doesn’t mean they’re total bunk. Using these messages to support a positive mindset might help motivate you to stick to your weight loss plan. Here’s what the studies show about subliminals for mindset.
They could improve your endurance. A small 2014 study (of only 13 people) found that cyclists who were exposed to positive subliminal messages had greater endurance than those exposed to negative subliminal messages.
They might be a positive influence. A 2012 review found that visuals geared toward weight loss or a healthy relationship with food influenced people to stick to their diets.
So, will subliminal messages help you lose weight? Not directly. But they may shift your thinking to support your weight loss journey.
Since subliminals aren’t proven to lead to weight loss, most mainstream weight loss programs don’t include them. However, a quick Google search will turn up dozens of potential programs. The trick is knowing which ones are credible.
There’s no way to verify whether a company has *actually* interwoven audio or music with subliminal messages, so you need to know that you’re going out on a limb.
A few tips for finding something legit:
TBH, only you can decide whether a subliminals program is right for you. But a few factors may affect how helpful subliminal messages could be for your weight loss journey:
- whether you respond more strongly to audio or visual cues
- your cultural background with food
- whether you’re hungry when you tune into subliminal messages
- how motivated you are to lose weight
If subliminal messages aren’t for you, or if you’re looking to supplement them with some tried-and-true tactics, you’re in luck. Here are some other weight loss strategies to try:
- HIIT up your workouts. High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a fast, not-so-easy way to turbocharge your metabolism. A 2015 review found that HIIT sessions can even reduce health risks in folks in the overweight and obese BMI categories.
- Drink more water. Research suggests that we sometimes confuse hunger and thirst. H2O will fill your belly and might curb cravings.
- Pump up your morning with protein. How about swapping that pancake for an egg? Research has found that noshing on protein for breakfast can keep afternoon munchies at bay.
- Dial down the sugar. Sugar = lots of calories and little nutrition. Nixing sugary snacks in favor of nutrient-dense noms like veggies, whole grains, and nuts is a good move for weight loss.
- Track your progress. Food journaling can support healthy, mindful eating. And there’s no motivation like seeing your efforts make a difference!
The bottom line
- Subliminal messages are audio or visual cues designed to influence your actions via your unconscious mind.
- There’s no scientific evidence that using subliminals leads to weight loss.
- Positive subliminal messages might boost self-esteem and motivation, which can indirectly support weight loss efforts.
- Subliminal weight loss programs could be helpful for some folks, but they’re not a one-size-fits-all solution.
- Healthy food choices and regular exercise are still the most effective ways to lose weight.