April 24, 2009

Q:I'm close to my goal weight, yet my friend keeps pushing me to eat. Why can't she just be supportive?

A: First you need to make sure your goal is realistic, says Carolyn Kaufman, an eating-disorder and weight-loss specialist at Columbus State Community College in Ohio. Your friend may be concerned because she truly thinks you're too thin and is worried about your health. Calculate your body mass index (BMI) at shape.com/tools; if it's between 18.5 and 25, you're already at a healthy weight and should focus on maintaining your loss instead of trying to drop more pounds.

If you're certain you're aiming for a reasonable number, it's possible that your friend has her own weight issues and is envious of your progress. Or she may be feeling left out if your new routine means you don't spend as much time together (for instance, skipping your lunch date to go to the gym). "While it's not your job to fix her problems, you want to be sensitive to her feelings," says Kaufman. "Try bringing her into your new world by inviting her out for a walk." And the next time she urges you to eat more, establish boundaries with an honest, nondefensive response, such as "I'm full, but thanks for offering."

Q: Can hypnosis really help me drop a few pounds?

A: Hypnosis, or hypnotherapy, has been shown to be an effective weight-loss tool in some studies. It can make you more aware of your eating patterns and provide strategies that will help you change them, but it's not a magic bullet. During a session, a hypnotherapist uses calming techniques to put you in a daydream-like state (you're relaxed yet alert and focused). She'll then feed you suggestions designed to train your subconscious, such as "You will find yourself craving fresh vegetables and fruit."

"This practice helps you visualize what it's like to achieve your goal, and it allows you to experience the emotions that go with it," says Jean Fain, a hypnotherapist and teaching associate in psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School/Cambridge Health Alliance. "Those feelings can motivate you to change your behavior." She recommends seeing a therapist who has been certified by the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (asch .net). Although this form of therapy can be pricey ($100 to $150 a session), some insurance plans will cover it; ask your provider. For a less expensive alternative, try a self-hypnosis CD, such as Tom Nicoli's Weight Loss ($40; prosperusa.com) or The Self-Hypnosis Diet ($25; soundstrue.com). Says Fain, "They're a good bet if you're self-motivated."