Psychological acupuncture leads to weight loss

28 March, 2013

Initial results of a clinical trial by Bond University researcher Dr Peta Stapleton have given strong credibility to a radical method of weight loss by reducing food cravings using 'psychological acupuncture'.

Clinical Psychologist Dr Stapleton has tested the effectiveness of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) in two trials and is starting to amass positive evidence that needle-free stimulation of pressure points can lead to reduced food cravings and long term weight loss.

Dr Stapleton – an expert in eating disorders and obesity – in is now looking for at least 50 volunteers for a third trial, which she hopes will give enough evidence to encourage the integration of the practice into mainstream weight loss programs.

"The first trial we conducted in 2009 was with a group of 96 people over a four week period, but the second trial last year involved 40 volunteers and spanned an eight week program," she said.

"This gave people more time to learn the techniques and to put them into practice.

"The result was that we achieved an average weight loss of just on two kilograms per person over the whole group.

"And the important thing was that 12 months down the track, the food cravings had not returned, which means we are teaching people a skill for life.

"We teach people how to do it themselves after the trial is finished, and the spin-off effect is that they are able to apply these techniques to other areas of personal behaviour such as stress relaxation or to addictive cravings like cigarette smoking."

Under Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) or psychological acupuncture, tapping to stimulate pressure points while a person concentrates on particular thoughts helps people to override emotional and physiological responses to different stimuli, such as a craving for food.

"I find that when medical causes have been ruled out, food and weight issues are deeply emotional and rarely physiological," Dr Stapleton said.

"The good news is that they can be overcome with expert support, and undesirable eating patterns can come to an end forever."

The latest clinical trial compared EFT to the weight-loss profession’s gold standard psychotherapeutic treatment for food cravings, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

"However, an important study in USA in 2007 analysed years worth of dieting/weight loss research and it indicated that weight loss is not maintained after a diet," she said.

"In fact, the more time that elapses between the end of a diet and the follow-up, the more weight is regained.

"The study clearly showed that up to two-thirds of dieters regain more weight than they lost, so it seems that the best way to gain weight is go on a diet!"

Dr Stapleton has already released three academic papers from the original trials and presented them to national and international conferences.

"Many current weight loss programs don't place emphasis on the psychological element of addictive behaviour," she said.

"I would hope in the long term to show that the addition of these skills into mainstream dietary and weight loss programs will become common practice."

Dr Stapleton is calling for trial participants, aged 18 and over, who are overweight, with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 25, or obese (with a (BMI of 30 or more) and have frequent food cravings.

Anyone who has diabetes (Types I and II), is pregnant or has hypoglycaemia is unable to take part as those conditions may affect food craving severity.

Participants will receive two hours per week of group treatment over a period of eight weeks (at no cost), with the first treatment groups commencing early March. Sessions will be held in the evenings for the convenience of volunteers.

Those interested in finding out more should contact Dr Stapleton on (07) 5595 2515 or email [email protected].