Ever vowed to lose weight but given up after a week because you’re just not motivated?
We all know that the key to weight loss is to eat less and move more, but actually doing so can be impossible.
And that’s why experts are increasingly starting to come round to the belief that our minds are almost an equally crucial part of the weight loss puzzle.
In fact, a new study has suggested that simply visualizing your goal weight could help to boost weight loss by as much as five times.
Scientists from the University of Plymouth have been examining the role of “motivational intervention” in aiding weight loss efforts.
They compared a talking therapy called motivational interviewing (MI) with a new kind of therapy called functional imagery training (FIT).
In MI, you receive counseling while on a weight loss program that allows you to talk about what’s motivating you to change (i.e shedding excess fat).
What is FIT?
FIT is a coaching method that teaches dieters how to fully visualize — in as realistic a way as possible — achieving their weight loss goal and what that would allow them to do or experience that they don’t already do or experience at their current weight.
The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, looked at 141 people with body mass indexes of at least 25 (which is “overweight”).
Fifty-five volunteers underwent MI and 59 had FIT, each participating in two sessions of the therapy assigned to them — one face-to-face and one on the phone.
They then received follow-ups every couple of weeks for a period of three months and then once per month for another three months.
Scientists found that those who received FIT lost five times more weight on average as those who had MI.
And more specifically, the FIT dieters lost an average of nine pounds compared to just 1.6 pounds in the MI group and lost 1.69 inches more around their waists over six months than the MI participants.
Even after the study had finished, FIT dieters reported still losing excess weight. After 12 months, they had lost 14 pounds on average, while the MI group lost even less than they did in the beginning.
The study’s lead, Dr. Linda Solbrig, said: “Most people agree that in order to lose weight, you need to eat less and exercise more, but in many cases, people simply aren’t motivated enough to heed this advice — however much they might agree with it.
“So FIT comes in with the key aim of encouraging someone to come up with their own image of what change might look and feel like to them, how it might be achieved and kept up, even when challenges arise.
“It’s fantastic that people lost significantly more weight on this intervention, as, unlike most studies, it provided no diet/physical activity advice or education,” said Solbrig.
“People were completely free in their choices and supported in what they wanted to do, not what a regimen prescribed.”
So what makes FIT so effective?
While both techniques foster a positive mindset, FIT is more effective because it’s more multi-sensory.
Experts believe that by getting people to imagine everything about their improved experiences following weight loss — including how things might look, feel, taste, smell, they’re better able to make it a reality.
“We started with taking people through an exercise about a lemon [regarding the FIT technique],” said Solbrig.
“We asked them to imagine seeing it, touching it, juicing it, drinking the juice and juice accidentally squirting in their eye, to emphasize how emotional and tight to our physical sensations imagery is.
“From there we are able to encourage them to fully imagine and embrace their own goals.
“Not just ‘imagine how good it would be to lose weight’ but, for example, ‘What would losing weight enable you to do that you can’t do now?”
“What would that [look, sound and smell] like?’ and encourage them to use all of their senses.”
And that technique is thought to be particularly effective with people who find it really hard to keep up their motivation for losing weight.
How to do DIY FIT
It’s worth saying that the study focuses on professional therapists dishing out this treatment, so if you really want to reap the benefits, you might have to find a therapist who is qualified in it (not an easy task).
But you could start by trying to adopt a couple of simple habits to add to your existing weight loss plan (you definitely need to be willing to eat better and exercise for this to work!).
Visualize your future
Spend a good 20 minutes really thinking about how losing weight would improve your life.
Write down how you’d like to look like, what the clothes you’d like to fit into would feel like to touch, how being able to jog without struggling would feel, how the environment would smell if you went on a body confident beach holiday, what smells you associate with being healthy.
Set aside 15 minutes at the same time every week
Carve out a window of time once a week to evaluate where you’re at and to really think about the goals you’ve set in place. Reimagine how you want to feel.
Set an alarm on your phone to remind you of that habit.
Tap into each sense, one after the after.
How does fresh, healthy food taste? How does being fitter feel? How do properly fitting clothes look? What smells are associated with being healthier?
It’ll probably take some time to get into the swing of things but hey, it’s got to be worth a try.