A study has shown that overweight people lost an average of 5X more weight using Functional Imagery Training (FIT) , which teaches self-motivating skills using mental imagery — compared with talking therapy alone. Plus these users of FIT lost 4.3cm more around their waist circumference in six months and continued to lose weight after the study had finished.

The study involved 141 participants, who were split into two groups either FIT or Motivational Interviewing (MI) — a technique where a therapist guides someone to develop, highlight and verbalise their need or motivation for change, and outlining the reasons for wanting to make the change. But FIT goes one step deeper than MI, and uses multisensory imagery to explore these changes by teaching clients how to create and practise motivational imagery themselves. Everyday behaviours and app reminders were used to cue the imagery practise until it becomes a habit.

Only 4 hours of consultation time was given to each participant and surprisingly neither group received any additional dietary advice or information.

Dr Solbrig said: “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. People were completely free in their choices and supported in what they wanted to do, not what a regimen prescribed.”

The study revealed that after six months people who used FIT lost an average of 4.11kg, compared with an average of 0.74kg among the MI group. After 12 months the FIT group continued to lose weight, with an average of 6.44kg lost compared with 0.67kg in the MI group.

Dr Solbrig continued: “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 accidently 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.”

“As well as being delighted by the success of the study in the short term, there are very few studies that document weight loss past the end of treatment, so to see that people continued to lose weight despite not having any support shows the sustainability and effectiveness of this intervention.”

 

Journal Reference for ‘Mental Visualisation Boosts Weight Loss’:

  1. Linda Solbrig, Ben Whalley, David J. Kavanagh, Jon May, Tracey Parkin, Ray Jones, Jackie Andrade. Functional imagery training versus motivational interviewing for weight loss: a randomised controlled trial of brief individual interventions for overweight and obesityInternational Journal of Obesity, 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41366-018-0122-1