Mental imagery can boost weight loss significantly, research finds.
Functional Imagery Training (FIT) enabled people to lose 8 times as much weight as those using an alternate talk therapy.
The technique is designed to help people imagine how good it will feel to lose weight.
The imagery training also helped people lose almost two inches from their waistlines.
Surprisingly, people in the study did no extra exercise, nor did they go on a diet.
The mental imagery was designed simply to increase motivation.
It involves people focusing on how they will look and feel after they lose weight.
Dr Linda Solbrig, who led the study, explained the basics:
“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.”
There were 141 people in the study who were either given the FIT training or an alternate technique called Motivational Interviewing.
The results revealed that after six months people in the FIT group lost 9 pounds in contrast to just 1.5 pounds in the comparison group.
One year later, people in the FIT group had lost 13 pounds, compared with only 1.5 pounds in the Motivational Interviewing group.
Dr Solbrig explained:
“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.”
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).