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Jan - Feb 2012
The Newsletter for Bariatric Patient Education and Motivation

Visual Brain Power

By Monica Ganz, PhD

 

Visual images hold amazing power. According to brain specialist Amy Hutchens, 99% of learning is done on a non-conscious level. “That’s a fancy way of saying that vision dominates your brain activity and behaviors,” she says. Basically, what we see can determine how we act.
 
You can capture this power to your advantage to help you lose and maintain weight. If you surround yourself with visual cues, you have a greater chance of meeting your goals. A picture of what you want (or don’t want) to look like or a picture of your kids who you want to live to see get married – these images can stay with you and pull at you even when they’re not in sight. Seeing is believing. Seeing is also achieving.
 
When you write down your visions, it will come to mind when you need it. In my experience, overweight people sometime feel powerless over controlling impulses. Seeing a visual in your head can help you to “stop and think” – to make better choices.
 
In my weight loss journey, I had a picture or as I referred to it, a ‘visual’ exercise, in my mind. I used this visual exercise many times when I was struggling with my weight loss. I imagined myself running on the beach in a bathing suit. Now, this was not a two dimensional picture it was a three dimensional experience. In my mind I could see myself on the beach, visualize the swim suit I had on, could even feel the sun on my skin. I felt the breeze on my face, and could smell the freshness of the air. I could hear the birds and even see them flying. I felt the sand in my toes and the cool sea water on my feet. By doing this visual exercise in my head using all of my senses, my mind believed that it was real. Whenever I was challenged by sugary snacks, Italian bread, or any of the million of things I used to eat, I would close my eyes and think of this picture taking in all of my senses to believe that this experience was really happening right now. This gave me the strength to say no to my temptations. It also worked when I had excuses for not exercising when I should.
 
After having bariatric surgery, I hit my first long plateau after about 9 months. I used this visual exercise to break my plateau. I continued to lose weight until I lost 342 pounds. I have now maintained this loss for over 9 years. But here is the best part… about 2 years ago, my family and I went to the beach for the day. There I was in my bathing suit with my typical large tee shirt and sweats. We were setting up our “site” for the day when I looked at the ocean and saw my picture in my mind ready to come true. I took off my tee shirt and sweats, standing for the first time in my life in only a bathing suit. When I looked around, no one was pointing at me, laughing at me, or even noticing me. It was time to make my dream come true, so I took off running along the edge of the beach; it felt like I had been here before. I could smell the air; feel the sand between my toes and the water on my feet. My family slowly joined me in my run. I ran about a mile and stopped; with tears running down my checks I hugged my family. They were a bit confused until my husband told them that I had made another dream come true today, and then everyone understood. It was a magically day for me. I still use the same visual exercise along with other impactful ones that I have developed.
 
Once you write something down or see a picture of your goal, your brain starts to work on that goal without you even realizing it. You’ll be drawn toward making the right decisions. We all have dreams. The difference between dreams and goals is ACTION.
 
Do whatever it takes to surround yourself with visual cues. You’ll see success – both in your mind and in your life.

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Maria Robinson