Visual Imagery Can Help You Lose Weight

Yesterday I wrote about how proper breathing is integral to the practice of Pilates because it connects the focus of the mind with the activity of the body, but today I’d like to share a little more about how connecting the work of the mind to the function of the body can help you to be happier with your body and your lifestyle.

Have you ever found yourself out of breath while watching an underwater scene in a movie or cold while watching a snowy scene?  I’m afraid of heights so I get woozy when I watch a scene in a movie where there’s an aerial shot.  Even though I consciously know I’m safely in my seat, my unconscious brain’s reaction is more visceral, irrational, and forceful.  This really shouldn’t surprise anyone.  After all, the porn industry makes billions of dollars because people can see something on a screen and feel the effect of it in their bodies.

I’ve read fascinating research over the years about schizophrenics who have different physical ailments associated with different personalities.  Psychiatrists have documented cases where people with multiple personality disorders need glasses with one personality and not with another or even have one personality with symptoms of diabetes!  Our minds control our bodies!

So, why can’t we use this tendency of our bodies to our advantage?  If we can summon a mental image so clear and real that our brains can experience it, then our bodies can feel it.  It’s called hypnotherapy.  Now, I’m not a hypnotherapist and I’m not under the care of a hypnotherapist.  What I am is someone who believes in the power and accessibility of my own mind.  I’ve experienced great results, and I think mental imagery is a tool worth sharing.

When I started getting serious about being fit for the rest of my life in the easiest way possible, I started using mental imagery to help me.  For years I’ve thought to myself that when I eat and act the way skinny people eat and act, then I’ll be skinny, but as long as I eat and act fat, I’ll be fat. I’ve modified that somewhat:  If I think like a skinny person, I’ll be a skinny person; if I think fat, I’ll be fat. Every time I see someone lose tons of weight on a crash diet or from surgery gain it all back I’m reminded that as long as you think fat, you’ll be fat.  Those poor folks could change their diets and actions temporarily, but their minds caught up with them.

In case you think this is some kind of new age mumbo-jumbo, think again.  I didn’t come up with this idea.  Even the Bible says, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of you mind.”  That verse made me wonder, could I change myself by changing my mind?  For the last 12 months or so, I’ve been working on changing myself by changing my mind and I think it’s working.

Here’s what I’ve been doing.  Since my goal is to think thin, I’ve been imagining myself and my life as a thin person.  I’ve tried to picture what Skinny Me would do when she came home from work, how she would fix dinner, what she would eat for breakfast.  I’ve rehearsed how Skinny Me would behave at a social gathering or around a dinner table with friends.  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking of how Skinny Me thinks of herself and how she feels in her own body.  I lie still on my couch or on my yoga mat and concentrate on creating all the details I can.  First, it’s like a movie and then I insert myself into the picture in my mind’s eye.  It takes practice and about 10 minutes a day, but it’s worth it.  Holding on to a good mental image for a while is cathartic.

Here’s how you can try it:

  1. Think of the scene you want to picture. (My first scene was of myself fixing breakfast in the morning. I picked something routine so that I could concentrate on details.)  Decide ahead of time what you want to see in your mind.  If you don’t think ahead of what the scene should look like, you’re likely to find your mind wandering.  (I wrote mine down so that I could reread it if I forgot or got sidetracked.)
  2. Lie down on your back with your hands at your sides.  Focus on your breathing.  You don’t have to manipulate your breathing in any way.  It will become deeper and slower just because you’re thinking about it. Just notice it and let yourself feel the rhythm.  Breathing reminds me of the waves of the ocean.  I feel rocked and relaxed when I let myself fall into the rhythm of my breathing.
  3. Once you feel relaxed, start remembering the image you designed earlier.  See yourself moving and acting and being the person you are when you’re thin and healthy.  See yourself smiling.  Observe how relaxed and natural your behaviors are.  For me, I saw myself preparing healthy lunches unhurriedly, sipping herbal tea and waving off food.  Skinny Me was uninterested in food because she was always content and fully engaged with the non-food environment.  Skinny Me has conversations with her kids at breakfast because she’s not concerned with her own food.
  4. Keep filling in details to make the image as realistic as possible.  When you’re ready, see the image through the eyes of your Skinny Me.  See what she sees and feel what she feels. My Skinny Me feels her clothes barely skimming her waistline.  She feels tall and toned because she works out every morning. She breathes deeply and moves confidently because she is in control.  (I love her!)
  5. After you’ve played out your image, return to your breathing and look forward to the energy you will feel when you open your eyes.

Repeat this exercise every day for a week. If you feel good afterward, you can try new images and rehearse new situations.  And, please let me know if you discover some technique that works for you!

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Thank you for your wonderful articles especially the importance of information provided in this article.

    Reply

  2. You are a very smart person!

    Reply

  3. Very well written story. It will be beneficial to anybody who utilizes it, including myself. Keep up the good work – looking forward to more posts.

    Reply

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