Perhaps the most desired personal transformation in the Western world is to lose weight and have a more healthy and fit body. Many, many people are overweight today. With a third of Americans classified as obese and 70% as overweight, the weight epidemic is a huge drag on personal health, productivity and happiness as well as a public health crisis.
Many of these overweight individuals have a desire to lose weight and try quite hard and spend a lot of money trying to make a change. As a result, the weight loss industry is a huge business, estimated at $64 billion in 2014 in the United States alone. Diet food companies, exercise studios, fad diets, supplements, surgeries and new weight loss programs are everywhere and growing.
Yet the epidemic continues unabated with waistlines expanding faster and faster all over the world. Occasionally an overweight person succeeds at changing their body size, but the vast majority of weight loss programs end in dismal failure for most people. Something is obviously not working.
Certainly there is much blame to go around for this epidemic, including sedentary lifestyle, poisonous and high calorie processed foods, and predatory charlatans selling ineffective and dangerous diet programs. Yet even those who try seriously on diet-and-exercise programs have a dismal success rate. The most well intentioned dieter may try many different programs, starving themselves with crash diets and hurting themselves at the gym only to lose little to no weight and in many cases end up even bigger than before.
Why is this? What are we missing?
The Unconscious Self Image
In a previous article I described the concept of the unconscious self image, and its role in determining everything of who we are. This role extends to determining our body size and shape.
Our unconscious self image is like the blueprint for our body. This blueprint gives the subconscious mind instructions on how to build and maintain our bodies. The subconscious mind is very good at executing the directions provided with whatever resources it is given. Therefore diet and exercise programs that do not also change the self image are working against a super powerful supercomputer (the subconscious brain). This is why those weight loss programs are destined for failure.
Losing weight is not only a matter of manufacturing a caloric deficit and raising the metabolism. Without a new self image, our subconscious mind will find a way to execute its programming and keep us the same size.
This is why some people can eat whatever they want and not gain weight and others struggle through painful deprivation diets and intensive exercise programs only to barely budge the scale downward. The unconscious self-image dictates our size. This is also why many people start a diet with initial good progress yet then inexplicably fall off the wagon and give up the diet for no apparent reason, going back to their original weight. This is simply the subconscious mind doing its job executing the instructions it is given by the unconscious self-image.
Many people who are overweight spend way too much time looking at the mirror and seeing themselves as fat. They focus their minds on what they don't want (the undesirable body shape they currently have) and instead of what they want (their desired goal body shape). Standing in front of the mirror and emotionally disliking what we see is one of the worst things we can do to ourselves. It reinforces the programming of the subconscious self image of what we don't want. Fat people who deep down see themselves as fat will stay that way.
To lose weight, we must remake our subconscious self image. We do that through a regular, diligent and patient visualization practice. This means to consistently and intently focus our minds on what we want our body to be, bit by bit redrawing the blueprints. Regularly and repeatedly, we find a quiet place and time, get physically as relaxed and comfortable as possible, empty our minds, and practice seeing ourselves in the shape that we want to be. Once the blueprints are changed, the weight will come off easily and naturally with little effort or willpower needed.
Here are some important tips for this visualization process:
1) Be patient and diligent! We spend years developing into our current shape and size and spend much time looking into the mirror and reinforcing our self image as that shape. A few days of visualization work is not enough to change a strongly entrenched self image. Instead, patience and an attitude of relaxed play will get us there in time.
2) It's best to visualize first thing in the morning or right before bed, when the mind and body are the most relaxed and open. The mind state best for programming the subconscious is the almost dreamlike state we experience right before we fall asleep or right as we wake up. This is equated to the theta brain state.
3) There should be no feeling of "trying hard" in this visualization practice. Instead, "try easy"! Instead of forcing the images, just ask casually, "What if I was exactly the size and shape I want?". "What would my body look like?" "How would it feel?" Just daydream about the goal and the images will come.
4) At the beginning, the images will be hazy at best, and may not come at first. Don't worry, over time the images will become clearer. We start by seeing ourselves however we can. Maybe we can see only one or two body parts at a time, from one or two angles only. As we continue, we will be able to see ourselves clearly, completely, and from many angles.
5) Make the visualization as rich as possible, involving as many senses as possible. Try to feel what it would feel to be the ideal size, the freedom of lightness, of greater strength, ease and self confidence. What else can we see? Perhaps we can see ourselves living a more active life, exercising, with a better social life, acceptance, energy and confidence. Try to take in the experience of being the ideal size as richly as possible.
6) Emotion is a great force multiplier. Use emotion to lock in the images of body shape change. Imagine the joy that will come from being the ideal shape and size and feeling confident, attractive, accepted, and healthy. Feeling the joy and excitement of success will multiply the effects of this technique. Conversely many overweight people feel many negative emotions as a result of not liking their body shape, only reinforcing the undesirable unconscious self image.
7) The visualization will change our behavior as well as our body shape. To be healthy and fit, we will probably need to exercise and eat a healthy diet and live other healthy lifestyle habits. Once our self image is changed to that of a healthy in shape person, we will be unconsciously driven to engage in this healthy behavior. Therefore, it will take less effort to go to the gym or order healthy at the restaurant; in fact we will find ourselves working out, taking the stairs, ordering the salad, and acting in more healthy ways without even trying.
Here is a guided visualization to get you started. I suggest eventually making your own visualization, but to get the basic idea you can easily start with this.
While patience is required for any self transformation visualization to be effective, it will not take forever if done effectively. Conscious self-scripting is much more powerful that haphazard accidental self programming. I predict for most people that 60 days of 30 minutes a day of effective self-visualization will be enough to start the physical processes of changing us into our ideal shape.
This technique's potential benefits go beyond just losing weight. Visualization is a powerful tool. We can also use it to heal ourselves of illness, learn new skills, improve our relationships and come up with answers to many other problems and questions. Let us as humanity rediscover our power of imagination and all work together for a healthier and happier world.