How to amplify your weight loss by watching it fall off

Visualization is a powerful tool. Athletes use it. Business executives use it. Musicians use it. And if you’re trying to lose weight, you might want to too.

In case you don’t know, visualization is simply the act of rehearsing something in your mind. You close your eyes and imagine yourself achieving a certain a goal or outcome.

That could be scoring a perfect round on your weekly golf game. Closing a huge sale. Performing the perfect guitar solo. Or stepping on the scale and seeing the number drop dramatically.

When it comes to weight loss, research proves visualization can really supersize your results. In fact, a recent study shows it can help you lose five times as much weight.

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Functional Imagery Training makes the pounds melt off

A study from the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom found that people who use a type of visualization called Functional Imagery Training (FIT) lose a lot more weight than people who don’t.

The study included 141 overweight adults who were asked to add one of two practices to their weight loss efforts: Motivational Interviewing (MI) or Functional Imagery Training (FIT).

Motivational Interviewing is a type of counseling that gives people an opportunity to talk about what’s motivating them to lose weight. Functional Imagery Training (FIT) is a form of visualization where a person pictures themselves achieving their weight loss goal and imagines all the things they could do once they lose weight that they can’t do now.

Participants received two guided sessions of either Motivational Interviewing (MI) or Functional Imagery Training (FIT). Then researchers followed up with them every couple of weeks for three months and once per month for another three months to see how they were doing with the practice.

They measured participants’ weights at the six-month and twelve-month marks. And the results were astounding…

Lost five times as much

People who practiced FIT lost five times as much weight. A year after their two FIT sessions, they’d lost an average of 14 pounds. But people who practiced MI only lost an average of 1.5 pounds. That’s quite a difference!

It’s important to note that people in the study weren’t required to follow any specific rules about diet or physical activity. They were free to make the choices they preferred. And the people who practiced FIT still lost weight.

Why was Functional Imagery Training so effective?

Researchers think it’s because it encourages people to think about what change feels like, how to achieve it and how they’ll respond in the face of challenges. Basically, by practicing in their mind, it prepares them to take action in real life.

Using visualization to lose weight

If you want to experience results like this for yourself, you can find a psychologist who practices Functional Imagery Training or another form of creative visualization. Or you can practice your own DIY version of Functional Imagery Training at home. If you choose to go the DIY route, there are a few things you need to know…

For FIT to be effective, you need to use multisensory imagery. That means, when you’re picturing an experience, don’t just think about how it looks. Think about how it feels, tastes and smells too.

For example, when researchers started teaching people FIT, they asked them to picture a lemon. They had them imagine seeing it, touching it, juicing it, drinking the juice, and accidentally squirting the juice in their eye. Researchers believe the more senses involved, the more effective the visualization.

So, if you’re trying to lose weight, you can start by imagining how good it would feel to lose weight, but don’t stop there. Go deeper. Think about experiences you’d have if you lost weight. Like fitting into a dress you haven’t been able to wear in years.

Imagine how you’d look in the dress. The sound the zipper would make as you put it on. Imagine the smell of laundry detergent on the fabric. Paint a vivid mental picture that feels like reality.

Once you see a goal clearly in your mind, you’re more likely to believe that you can achieve it. And if you combine regular mental practice with practical actions like diet and exercise, you’ll be on the fast track to serious weight loss that you can sustain. All it takes is a little effort and a lot of imagination.

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.