From yoga to meditation, you may think you’ve done it all when it comes to managing stress. But odds are you haven’t yet heard of tapping, an intriguing combination of Eastern acupressure and Western psychology that’s been shown to reduce stress, improve mood, and even aid in weight loss. Here, Jessica Ortner, tapping expert and author of The Tapping Solution for Weight Loss and Body Confidence, gives us the scoop on this simple, slightly "woo-woo," yet effective weight-loss technique.
Shape: First of all, what is tapping?
Jessica Ortner (JO): I like to say that tapping is like acupuncture without the needles. Intuitively, when we are stressed out, we’ll touch between our eyes or on our temples—these are two meridian points, or points of comfort. The tapping technique I use, known as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), requires you to mentally think about whatever is causing you discomfort, whether it’s anxiety, stress, or a food craving. While focusing on that issue, use your fingertips to tap five to seven times on 12 of the body’s meridian points, from the side of your hand to the top of your head. [Watch Ortner demonstrate a tapping sequence in the video below.]
Shape: How does it help reduce stress?
JO: When we stimulate our meridian points, we’re able to comfort our body, which then sends a calming signal to your brain that it’s safe to relax. So when you start to feel anxious, just begin to tap. It breaks the link between the thought (anxiety) and the physical response (stomach or headache).
Shape: What first drew you to tapping?
JO: I first heard about it when I was sick in bed with a sinus infection in 2004. My brother Nick had learned about tapping online, and told me to try it. He had always played practical jokes on me, so I thought he was just messing around—especially when he had me tapping on the top of my head! But I started tapping while focusing on my sinuses, and it started to relax me. Then I felt a shift—I took a breath and my sinuses had cleared up. I was blown away.
Shape: How can tapping help with weight loss?
JO: For any woman—any human, really—if we don’t find a way to deal with our anxiety, we turn to food. It becomes our anti-anxiety medication: “Maybe if I just eat enough, I’ll feel better.” If you can reduce your stress and anxiety through tapping, you start to realize that food is not going to save you.
And it's worked for me, personally. I had been using tapping for stress relief for years, but I wasn’t using it in my struggle with my weight. I used to be so convinced that it was all about diet and exercise, but in 2008, I quit dieting and started tapping to help with my weight loss. I lost 10 pounds in the first month, then another 20—and I’ve kept it off. Tapping helped relieve all that stress and emotional baggage that had plagued my weight loss efforts before, so I could finally sense what my body needed to thrive. And the more I appreciated and loved my body the way it was, the easier it was to care for it.
Shape: How can we “tap” to overcome food cravings?
JO: While food cravings feel physical, they’re often rooted in emotions. By tapping on the craving itself—the chocolate or potato chips you’re dying to devour and how badly you want to eat them—you can lower your stress and process, and release the emotions behind the cravings. Once you do that, the craving goes away.
Shape: What’s the most important thing that women who struggle with body confidence should keep in mind?
JO: It’s not about the weight—we need to deal with that critical voice we have in our head that’s holding us back in that harmful pattern. We can lose weight and say, “Oh I still need to lose five more pounds, and then things will be different.” It makes the process of getting healthy difficult because it’s hard to take care of something you hate so much. When we silence that critical voice through tapping, it gives us breathing room to love our bodies as we are and feel confident.
Shape: What would you say to someone who thinks tapping is too “out there” to work?
JO: Sure, it may be a little “woo-woo,” but it works—and there’s research to back it up: One recent study found that hour-long tapping sessions led to a 24-percent decrease (and up to 50 percent in some people) in cortisol levels. And the weight-loss benefits have been proven too: Australian researchers studied 89 obese women and found that after eight weeks of tapping for just 15 minutes a day, participants had lost an average of 16 pounds. Plus, our growing group of followers [more than 500,000 attended last year's Tapping World Summit] points to the fact that it really works—news is spreading that it only takes a few minutes to tap and feel a difference.
Watch this video to see Ortner demonstrate a tapping sequence you can try to reduce stress and eliminate food cravings!