Researchers from the University of Iowa challenged a popular theory.
Today we are offered many weight loss programs, and visualization is one of the most popular techniques. Coaches recommend imagining yourself slim. The subconscious and then the conscious get involved and start the process of weight loss in the body. For illustrative purposes, you can display your photos at a normal weight, before you gained so much, and even use Photoshop to “cut off” the unsightly folds and bends.
Visualization helps, but it is important to adhere to certain rules. There is a popular opinion, confirmed by some studies, that seeing yourself through the eyes of another, increases your motivation. However, this does not always work.
This conclusion was made by a group of researchers from the universities of Iowa, Oregon and Pennsylvania, who decided to test the theory of “an outside view” on correct habits and healthy eating. Say a person wants to lose weight or get an athletic body and imagines the picture of a slender version of him/herself through the eyes of another person, in the long term and without a specific goal, this reduces the desire to achieve results and prevents the development of the correct form of behavior. This has been confirmed by a series of experiments.
In one experiment, participants whose goal was to reduce their sugar intake imagined a perfect picture of themselves from the first or third person, and then chose a granola bar. The experiment showed that participants who saw themselves from the outside and did not concentrate enough on the goal chose bars with a lot of sugar.
In another experiment where the participants’ goal was to lose weight, the researchers found that third-person visualization had a negative impact on their future behavior. It triggered negative emotions associated with self-awareness.
Losing weight or getting the fitness you want are hard-to-achieve goals that require a lot of work and focus. When a person imagines himself or herself “someday” and “from the outside”, it is difficult to concentrate on specific steps—the daily self-improvement. And when the picture in the head is too much at odds with reality, there is a feeling of dissatisfaction and a distorted self-perception, causing motivation to end.
The researchers concluded that to achieve the ultimate goal, it is better to divide it into small, intermediate stages and at each stage visualize the result separately.
“If you have too many options for achieving your goal, then obstacles begin to arise. Short-term goals are easier to achieve and get a concrete result,” said one of the authors of the study, Assistant Professor of the Marketing Department at Iowa State University, Beatrice Pereira.
To obtain a satisfactory result, it is better to focus on internal sensations rather than on your idea of how you look from the outside.