How to Use Visualization for Weight Loss
By Diane Petrella, MSW
Elite athletes routinely use visualization to improve their performance. But you don’t have to be an Olympic gold medalist to benefit from this proven, effective mind-power strategy. You, too, can create a confident mind-set and reach your weight loss goals more easily by practicing this powerful technique.
A recent study at McGill University reports that the best way to improve your eating habits is to not only create an action plan but to visualize yourself following through. Participants were asked to consume more fruit for one week. One group simply set the goal to eat more fruit. The other group set the same goal, wrote it down and also visualized carrying out the specific steps needed to eat more fruit. For example, they visualized themselves purchasing fruit and eating it at particular times. While both groups ate more fruit, the group that used visualization ate twice as much. This study supports the positive effects of visualization known for years by sport psychologists and peak performers.
What is Visualization?
We all visualize whether or not we’re aware of it. Anything you’ve wanted and received in your life first began with a picture in your mind. Think of other goals you’ve accomplished. You created the vision first. For example, you first held the image of seeing yourself in a particular job, or driving a certain car.
Visualization is the process of deliberately using your imagination to create a mental model in your mind. The mind doesn't know the difference between what is real and what is imagined, so when you visualize your subconscious encodes this new picture as if it actually happened. This helps you build confidence, keeps your mind focused on your goal and pre-paves the way for you to intuitively move in the direction of what you want.
A Basic Formula
Follow these simple steps to begin using visualization to reach your weight loss goal:
• Sit or lie down comfortably. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply for several moments to relax.
• Now, picture yourself at your goal weight or a weight you can easily see yourself reaching.
• Notice the feelings and sensations associated with this image. For example, see yourself walking along a street feeling confident as you move your body with ease.
• After three to five minutes, gently open your eyes. Continue longer if you prefer.
It’s important to be in a quiet space with no distractions so you can calm your mind and relax your body. The more deeply relaxed you feel the greater your ability to internalize the images.
We all imagine in different ways. Some people are more visual, others more kinesthetic. If you’re unable to “see” a clear mental picture, that’s OK. Just get a sense of the experience in whatever way feels natural to you.
Connecting with your feelings as you visualize strengthens its effects. For example, feel that sense of confidence at reaching your goal weight.
Commit to a daily practice, perhaps visualizing as you lie in bed in the morning or before falling asleep at night.
Uses of Visualization
Here’s the fun part. Following the basic formula above, use visualization to “mentally rehearse” your desired behaviors. Here are some suggestions:
Create New Habits: As in the McGill study, visualize yourself eating more fruits and vegetables, or taking daily walks.
Problem Solving: See yourself confidently managing challenging situations. For example, visualize yourself focused on eating your healthy lunch and disinterested when offered sweets in the office lunch room.
Emotional Eating: Visualize yourself successfully using strategies other than food when feeling overwhelmed. For example, imagine calming yourself by breathing deeply and then writing in your journal to release your feelings.
Goal Setting: Visualize wearing smaller sized clothing, releasing the next five or ten pounds or walking one mile on the tread mill.
As you become comfortable with visualization, you’ll be able to use it to not only lose weight, but to improve all areas of your life as well.
Have you practiced visualization to lose weight?
Diane Petrella, MSW is a psychotherapist and life coach. She offers her clients a spiritual approach to weight release and helps them develop a loving, respectful relationship with their bodies. Receive a free copy of Diane’s Seven Easy & Effortless Weight Loss Secrets by signing up for her monthly e-newsletter, Living Lightly, for spiritual insights and tips to release weight with confidence and love. To contact Diane visit www.dianepetrella.com.