Mental imagery helps people lose weight without diet or exercise advice, recent research reveals.
People given imagery training lost almost two inches from their waists.
They also lost 8 times more weight than people given another form of therapy.
The successful technique is called ‘Functional Imagery Training’ or FIT.
It is designed to increase motivation and involves imagining how good losing weight will feel.
When thinking about their goal to lose weight, people are encouraged to imagine how they will look and feel when the weight comes off.
Boosting motivation is the key, says Dr Linda Solbrig, who led the study:
“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 imagery of what change might look and feel like to them, how it might be achieved and kept up, even when challenges arise.”
For the study, 141 people were given either the FIT or Motivational Interviewing, which is also designed to boost motivation.
Dr Solbrig explained the FIT technique:
“We started with taking people through an exercise about a lemon.
We asked them to imagine seeing it, touching it, juicing it, drinking the juice and juice accidentally squirting in their eye, to emphasise 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 / smell like?’, and encourage them to use all of their senses.
The study’s results showed that people using the imagery techniques lost 9 pounds over 6 months, in comparison to only 1.5 pounds in the motivational interviewing group.
After a year, the weight loss figures were 13 pounds for FIT and only 1.5 for the motivational interviewing.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the International Journal of Obesity (Solbrig et al., 2018).