A new study published in the scientific journal: International Journal of Obesity showed that overweight people lost 5X more weight with Functional Imagery Training (FIT).
Basically, the researchers showed that some clever psychological techniques can help you lose weight. That psychological technique is FIT.
What’s really interesting is the study did not include any diet or physical activity advice. The only difference between the groups compared was their mental approach to weight loss. It’s a true testament to the power and importance of a good mindset in achieving your goals.
In this article you’ll find information on what FIT is and how you can start putting it to work for you.
What is Functional Imagery Training?
** The source material can be found here. Check it out to learn even more about FIT **
FIT is a technique that builds and maintains your motivation to achieve a goal using imagery. What separates FIT from other imagery techniques is what you focus on.
The technique was developed by Professor David Kavanagh at Queensland University of Technology in Australia and Professors Jackie Andrade and Jon May at Plymouth University in England. It’s based on a theory of motivation called Elaborated Intrusion Theory.
FIT is based on three core components: Imagery-based motivational interviewing, imagery-based relapse prevention, and functional imagery training.
Imagery-based motivational interviewing
Imagery-based motivational interviewing has 6 goals:
Identify your behavioral weak spots
If your goal is weight loss, imagery-based motivational interviewing will help you identify some of your current behaviors that are inconsistent with achieving that goal.
Maybe you’re eating too much processed food, inadvertently binging on unhealthy snack foods while watching Game of Thrones, or having a “cheat day” more often than you even realize… whatever the case may be, imagery-based motivational interviewing will help you identify your behavioral discrepancies.
By imagining how behavioral change will positively benefit you, you are able to visualize how change will bring you closer to your ideal self.
This serves two purposes: First, it builds excitement and motivation. Second, it gives you’re a vision of what achieving your goal would actually look like, which makes it easier to achieve.
Create a strategy
Having goals is great, but you’re never going to get anywhere without a plan.
Part of imagery-based motivational interviewing is figuring out exactly how your going to get from point A to point B: from where you are now to where you want to be. FIT helps you learn to visualize each step.
Break your goal down into bite-size pieces
Sub-goals are mile markers on your way to your imaginary destination: your goal. You learn sub-goals with FIT by imagining the benefits of change over the next few days or weeks.
Confidence is built with FIT by imagining successes you’ve experienced in the past, creating a plan for obstacles you’ll encounter on the road to your goal, and integrating strategies that have worked for you in the past into your plan.
Get you to commit
The goals of the first core component of FIT training help you identify problem areas and develop a plan for success. A side-product of these exercises is the commitment it helps you establish to your goal.
Imagery-based relapse prevention
Imagery-based relapse prevention has 5 goals:
Brainstorm what’s going to get in your way
Obstacles are inevitable and out of your control. They’re easier to overcome if you’re prepared for them.
Imagine yourself overcoming obstacles
Identify ways obstacles can be overcome using strategies you already know how to use and imagine them working for you on your way to your goal.
Use the cravings buster exercise
The cravings buster exercise helps train you to switch your attention from craving imagery to goal imagery. Find out more about it and how to use it here.
Celebrate your successes
Inevitably there will be obstacles; similarly, there are guaranteed successes to be experienced (no matter how small they may be).
The second core component helps you bring attention to those successes and incorporate their memory into your plan.
Conquering obstacles on your way to achieving your goal is like fighting the mythical medusa: no matter how many heads you cut off (the heads being obstacles conquered in this analogy) there is always one more to grow back in its place.
Obstacles are going to keep getting in your way. The only way to get passed is to keep conquering them again and again.
FIT prepares you for this by continually anticipating risky situations and using imagery to develop and rehearse coping strategies.
Functional Imagery Training
Components 1 and 2 are designed to help you develop emotionally-charged imagery of your goal and your path towards it using all your senses.
Core component 3 (Functional imagery training) is where the rubber meets the road. It has 1 main goal:
Make your imagery practice automatic
This is done by pairing imagery with an everyday behavioral cue (e.g. washing your hands, climbing the stairs, etc.).
At first you’re going to have to consciously think about the association. I’m washing my hands now… oh right, I’m supposed to visualize achieving my goal… and repeat.
Eventually this will become habit. Without and conscious effort you’ll soon be imagining your success every time you turn the tap on.
How to incorporate FIT into your life
There’s plenty of resources about FIT available if you want to learn more about it and start practicing it on Plymouth University’s website.
A quicker approach is probably lying in your hand right now.
The psychologists who developed FIT have also created a mobile app that helps you work towards your goals using multisensory imagery. It’s called Goal in Mind.
It’s a tool that allows you to practice imagery and boost your confidence without constant practitioner input.
I have an Android phone and the download worked perfectly. I’m assuming it will work well for Apple users too.
How the app works:
Its really easy and straightforward:
Download the app and Goal in Mind will take you to a screen asking you to set your goal.
It then allows you to pick and store images that represent your goal and related behaviors, gives you access to guided imagery and mindfulness sessions, and allows you to track your practice and goal progress.
Practice regularly and you could experience some of the benefits of FIT in achieving your goals.
Give it a try and let me know how it works for you in the comments section!
Sources and further reading:
https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/research/psychology/functional-imagery-training – for more information about FIT and how to use it.
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41366-018-0122-1 – the published journal arcticle.