Whether you call it visualization, guided imagery, mental rehearsal or anything else, you can use the power of your mind to prepare your body for success. The basic idea is simple. You create a mental picture of yourself succeeding at something. The more specific the image, meaning that it can include what you’re wearing, what you smell, what you hear, what you say, etc., the more “real” it is for your brain and the more effective it can be.
Olympic athletes use visualization to see themselves in their mind’s eye scoring the winning goal, catching the winning ball or running through the tape at the end of a race in record time.
You can use this same technique to enhance your health goals. Let’s say you have a party to attend and you know there’s going to be a lot of food there that is either heavily processed, full of sugar, deep-fried and generally not healthy. If you go in unarmed, chances are, you’ll be tempted to indulge in foods that aren’t the best choices for you.
So how can you prepare?
Take five minutes before the event to practice seeing yourself get through the evening making only healthy choices. Close your eyes, sit quietly and imagine the evening as vividly as you can. What’s the weather like? What are you wearing? Who are you with? Who else will be there? What conversations are you looking forward to having?
Imagine yourself surveying the food options are realizing there are very few healthy choices. See yourself reach for the cut veggies and adding some guacamole dip. Or whatever healthy choices there are. You might even imagine yourself setting down a platter of something healthy that you brought along to contribute.
Equally important, draw a mental image of yourself passing by the unhealthy choices, the foods you don’t want to eat. Imagine, with as much detail as you can, what you will do instead of focusing on the food. Will you sit far from the table? Will you enjoy great conversation with another guest? Will you offer to help organize the background music or an activity so you have something to do besides eat?
Here’s one more very important things to imagine in advance. Imagine the party is over. You’re home in your comfortable pajamas. You’re replaying the evening and you’re smiling because there was not one single moment when you were unable to withstand the pressure. You enjoyed the social aspects of the party without indulging in food that wasn’t consistent with your health goals. You feel great about that! And you feel great in your belly that isn’t overfull of fatty, sugary or heavily processed foods.
You can do this exercise every day for a few days before a big event. Each time, try to add more details so that you can really see yourself successfully navigating the party without compromising on your own health. Even if you only have time to do it once, draw such a clear mental picture that your body will know exactly how to act when you’re actually faced with a table full of unhealthy party food.
Rebeca Espinoza writes about health, fitness and weight loss for Spatz Medical, makers of the Spatz3 Adjustable Gastric Balloon. You can find her on Google+ or at firstname.lastname@example.org.