John Gabriel spent years dieting, but no matter what he tried, he kept gaining. In 2001, he weighed 409 pounds, and he felt powerless to change his situation. Then, on September 11th, he was scheduled to fly out of Newark into San Francisco, and it was only through a twist of fate that he was not a passenger on United Airlines flight 93, the plane that was hijacked by terrorists. He felt something change, and he recommitted himself to finding a way.
In the past, John had used visualization, a meditative technique that has been used by athletes and others for relaxation, performance improvement, and achieving a variety of personal and career goals. He had been successful in stopping smoking and it had improved his headaches. He decided to try visualization for weight loss.
Within just over two years he had lost 220 pounds. He says it was almost “as if my body all of a sudden wanted to be thin and was actually helping me lose weight.” Ten years later, as a weight-loss coach, he encourages his clients to put visualization to work for them.
1. Visualize your ideal body.
Create a vivid image of the body you desire. See yourself thin and fit, with well defined muscles and taut skin. Don’t worry if the image seems unrealistic; you are seeing your goal. The images you create are the perfect way to send instructions to your brain, particularly when you are in a state of deep relaxation.
2. Use visualization to reduce stress.
Stress drives weight gain by changing your metabolism. Visualization is a proven tool for reducing stress. See all the situations in your life resolving easily and peacefully. Visualize the outcomes you want.
3. Use visualization to work through emotional issues.
Gabriel says he realized he was using his weight as a protective barrier, and he got in touch with memories of being abused as a child. He began to visualize himself surrounded in a column of light, which nothing negative could penetrate. As he felt safer, it was easier let go of the excess weight.
4. Visualize away your sugar cravings.
Once Gabriel understood just how easily his mind responded to suggestion, he tried an experiment. He would relax deeply, then imagine that sugar granules “were actually pieces of ground glass.” He pictured putting ground glass into his mouth. The glass would be tasteless, and it would physically cut up the inside of his mouth, and his whole digestive system. Sound he found he hated the idea of eating the sugary foods he had previously craved.
5. Activate the “Get Thin or Get Eaten” adaptation through visualization.
Gabriel says that in our evolutionary past, people in cold climates actually slowed down their metabolism to conserve fat stores in their abdomen and thighs. In contrast, some of our human ancestors faced the threat of large predators, and they developed the “Get Thin or Get Eaten” adaptation. They learned to outrun their predators. Of course, modern man no longer faces these extremes, but you can use visualization to activate this primal survival response. John often rides his bike full-tilt, while imagining he is outrunning a vicious dog that is chasing him. Sometimes he uses the visualization during meditation. If that feels too scary, imagine running fast in a game of tag.
We all know our minds are powerful. Why not put your mind to work, using these techniques? As you do, you may find ways to adapt the techniques to serve you even better.