By Dawson Church, PhD, TRN-3
What makes EFT successful for people like you and me who have failed at other weight loss programs? The answer is based on several key distinctions.
First, EFT has a phenomenal ability to reduce your cravings. Whether you crave ice cream, chocolate, alcohol, tobacco, sweets, or anything else, EFT is able to make those cravings go away in minutes.
This is not an unsupported claim; it is a scientific fact.
Together with Audrey Brooks, PhD, a research psychologist at the University of Arizona, I conducted a trial of EFT that examined mental health and cravings (Church & Brooks, 2010).
We gathered data from 216 health-care professionals.
These were psychotherapists, doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, alternative medicine practitioners, and chiropractors. They participated in a daylong EFT group workshop at one of five professional conferences. As part of that workshop, we examined addictive cravings for items like chocolate, food, alcohol, and tobacco in health-care workers.
The declines in cravings were substantial, averaging 83% (p < .0001). In a separate study, we measured psychological symptoms in a group of people with self-identified craving and addiction problems attending a 2-day group workshop focused on these issues. We found improvements across a spectrum of mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety (Church & Brooks, 2013).
Reducing cravings is a key manner in which EFT helps with weight loss. If your craving for that candy bar or bucket of ice cream goes away, and you don’t eat it, then all those calories don’t enter your body. Craving reduction is key to weight loss.
Second, EFT is able to reduce mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
Studies have found an association between depression and obesity. A study of 487 obese individuals found that weight loss was associated with a sustained reduction in depressive symptom levels, noting that obesity “causes or exacerbates depression” (Wing & Phelan, 2005, p. 2058). Obese people tend to have higher levels of depression, and depressed people tend to have higher levels of obesity.
This is not surprising, because being fat is depressing!
Depression levels are a predictor of how likely it is that you will regain weight after dieting (McGuire, Wing, Klem, Lang, & Hill, 1999). Depression decreases the likelihood that you will keep that weight off even if you succeed in losing it. That’s even more depressing!
Being fat is also a very obvious problem that you carry around with you every day.
Other problems might not be obvious to outsiders. You can meet a person who looks good, but is going through a miserable time in some part of their life. Yet you don’t know it from the outside. Problems like financial failure, divorce, and spiritual poverty don’t show up in the same way as obesity does.
If you’re overweight, everyone knows immediately, while if a person is failing in some other area of their life, their body doesn’t advertise it in the form of flab. Speaking from experience, it’s depressing to be dragging your problem pounds around for everyone to see. Your failure to maintain your weight is obvious to anyone the second they meet you.
In another cruel twist of reality, your failure is obvious, but your success is invisible.
I have a friend who recently lost 30 pounds. But she still has another 50 to go, and all people see now is the 50 she has to go, not the 30 she’s already lost. All her hard work, consistency, discipline, and focus that resulted in weight loss is completely unappreciated by anyone other than her friends. Strangers only see her failure, and cannot appreciate her success. That’s also depressing.
Many studies have found big drops in depressive symptom levels after EFT (Church, 2013). Whether depression is studied in veterans with PTSD, college students, or dieters, they all improve. By improving your mental health, EFT makes it much more likely that your improvements will stick.
Third, EFT helps with emotional eating. Clinical psychologist Roger Callahan, PhD, who developed one of the earliest methods on which EFT is based, observed that cravings usually mask anxiety (Callahan, 2000). Below the craving is anxiety, and we eat to suppress that anxiety.
There’s a Japanese story about two groups of disciples of two different spiritual masters.
They were having a fierce argument about whose master was the most advanced. The disciples of one group presented their evidence that theirs was truly an adept: He could fly through the air, turn base metal into gold, and read minds. The disciples of the other group laughed, and said their master demonstrated even greater accomplishments. The first group was flabbergasted. What on earth could the second master do that would eclipse those accomplishments, they demanded.
Here’s what the second master’s students said: He sleeps when he’s tired. He drinks when he’s thirsty. He eats when he’s hungry.
Their point was that he’d mastered simply being in a body, and living in a balanced manner. Those of us who are obese or overweight cannot make that claim. Roughly a third of those living in the Northern Hemisphere are obese, and another third are overweight. That means that two-thirds of the population has not mastered the skill of eating and drinking in a way that allows us to maintain a stable balanced healthy weight.
We eat for many reasons other than hunger.
We eat when we’re nervous. We eat when we’re lonely. We eat when we’re depressed. We eat to reduce stress. We eat to reward ourselves. We eat to mask our feelings.
None of these emotional reasons for eating has anything to do with the body’s need for nourishment. This disconnect between the act of eating and the body’s requirements for sustenance is characteristic of many people.
We might have even lost touch with our body’s signals that it’s had enough food, or that it doesn’t like some of the junk we’re shoving down our throats. Our emotions are overriding our body’s signals. That’s the problem with emotional eating, and EFT has a proven ability to help reduce the trauma that is the source of so much negative emotion.
Callahan, R. (2000). Tapping the healer within: Using Thought Field Therapy to instantly conquer your fears, anxieties, and emotional distress. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Church, D. (2013). Clinical EFT as an evidence-based practice for the treatment of psychological and physiological conditions. Psychology, 4(8), 645–654.
Church, D., & Brooks, A. J. (2010). The effect of a brief EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) self-intervention on anxiety, depression, pain and cravings in healthcare workers. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, 9(4), 40–44.
Church, D., & Brooks, A. J. (2013). The effect of EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) on psychological symptoms in addiction treatment: A pilot study. International Journal of Scientific Research and Reports, 2(1), 315–323.
McGuire, M. T., Wing, R. R., Klem, M. L., & Hill, J. O. (1999). What predicts weight regain in a group of successful weight losers? Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 67(2), 177–185.
Wing, R. R., & Phelan, S. (2005). Long-term weight loss maintenance. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 82, 222–225.
This article is excerpted from the book:
EFT for Weight Loss, by Dawson Church,