Your imagination can play a crucial role in your weight loss. You can either capitalize on it for your ultimate success or unintentionally use it to inhibit your weight loss.
When you think about imagination what do you think of? For most of us, we think back to our childhoods.
I remember spending hours playing “restaurant” in my next-door neighbor’s front yard. We pretended someone ordered, we pretended we were holding a spatula and flipping their burger and handing it to them. My family moved from that house eventually, and I remember going back when I was older and looking at that yard and being amazed at the world my brain was able to create.
Kids spend so much of their time imagining. At this point in your life, how much time do you spend using your imagination?
Imagination and the past
I bet you’d be surprised if I told you it’s just as much time as when you were young, only now, it’s not about fun and exciting possibilities. It’s about doom, gloom and regret.
How much time do you spend thinking about the past? For example, do you spend time thinking about what you used to weigh in high school, how much easier it was to eat healthy and workout before kids, or even about what you ate or shouldn’t have eaten yesterday?
The past is in your imagination. It doesn’t exist currently, it already happened. When you are thinking about something you wish you’d done in the past and you are feeling regret, you are experiencing the emotion of regret now, in the present.
The thought you’re having is about the past, but the emotion is happening in your body now. What we feel now drives what we do now. So if you’re feeling regret, regret is the fuel you use now to show up in the world. What is that regret fuel going to create?
I’m not saying that you should never think about the past, but I think it’s important to point out that you can think about the past in a way that serves you in the present or not. That’s totally up to you.
Imagination and the future
The future is also in your imagination. It hasn’t happened yet. Just like with the past, when we imagine the future, we feel emotions in the present.
Imagining the future, however, is different from imagining the past. Because we have experienced the past we don’t have to work very hard to recreate it in our minds. But,the future that you most desire you may have never experienced. The future where you are living at your ideal weight, not dealing with any food drama, or comfortable in your skin can be totally unfamiliar, and therefore much harder to create in your mind.
Why mantras don’t work
I want to just take a second to give mention to the concept of positive mantras and why I don’t think they’re useful tools. A mantra is a thought that you want to believe and use to help and serve you. Often, these are thoughts that are very different, or even the opposite, of what you currently believe.
Maybe what you currently believe is, “I hate my body.” Instead of saying this, you decide to use the mantra, “My body is a gift.” But, if you don’t actually believe it, a mantra is just a disconnected sentence.
It simply won’t work unless it is connected or tethered to a feeling.
You can chant, “My body is a gift,” all day but if you actually believe and feel that your body is broken nothing will change.
Use your imagination instead
This is where your imagination becomes your playground and your greatest tool. Once you can imagine, not just the thought, but what it will actually feel like to believe it, you will be connected to power. Plugged in to possibility.
We have to use our imaginations to conjure the emotions because emotion is what powers action.
How can you possibly imagine believing something that you have never believed or feeling something you have never felt before?
You know exactly how, because you do it all the time. If you’ve ever felt anxious or worried about an upcoming event, or excited about a vacation you’ve planned, you have imagined a future outcome and believed in it.
That thought created a resulting emotion. We’re looking forward to a feeling in the future, and therefore creating and experiencing those feelings in the present.
We do it by default. Now we want to start spending time creating and living in the positive emotion, even for a few minutes at a time, on purpose.
Two tactics for using your imagination to create a feeling
Using your imagination is like trying on a new outfit. You see it on the rack, you think it’s cute, and then you take it in the dressing room and you try it on. You experience what it’s like to wear it, to inhabit it, and then you take it off and you buy it or you put it back.
It may be hard for you to access, in the present, some positive emotions. They may not be emotions you are used to feeling about yourself. Here is where our imagination can step in.
The first tactic you can use is imagining you’re someone else
I’ll think of an example of someone who I imagine might feel that emotion regularly and I pretend to be them for two minutes.
For example, maybe the feeling I want to imagine is confidence. I ask, what does it feel like to be someone who I imagine is confident? I might think of someone like Oprah, for example. What is she thinking that creates confidence for her? I try on those thoughts like outfits. I imagine hard and I experience confidence, even for just a second.
It’s okay that it’s pretend at first. Just expanding my emotional vocabulary to include the feeling of confidence is a start. When we spend time creating and living these unfamiliar emotions, even for a few minutes at a time, we teach our brain new options. We open it up to new things and new possibilities.
This is called changing our emotional set point. If you want to learn more about this you can find further information here.
The second tactic is thinking about another place in your life that you have experienced that feeling
For example, I remember really wanting to feel proud of myself. I asked myself, “Where in my life do I experience the feeling of pride?”
I feel proud when I think about my kids. It’s easy for me to experience the emotion of feeling proud when I think about what they have accomplished, overcome and who they are.
When I think about them I experience feeling proud in my body, and this opens me up to what it might feel like to feel proud of myself. I get curious about which circumstances and thoughts would create the feeling of being proud to be me, and I can then try on those thoughts like outfits and imagine that life taking shape.
You can feel how you want to feel NOW!
You don’t have to save the joy for later. The best time to feel it is now.
You don’t have to wait to lose the weight to experience feeling proud. You don’t have to see a certain number on the scale to feel confident. These are feelings you can open up to and create for yourself now.
You don’t have to wait anymore to love yourself or wait for the future to take care of yourself like you want to. You can feel and do those things right now.
I always say as long as we’re using our imaginations, we might as well create something amazing. So use your imagination and ask yourself these questions:
What if I believed ____________?
What would it be like to believe ____________?
What would it feel like?
What would I do when I feel that way?
What if it were true?
It gets easier and easier to access that feeling with practice, and pretty soon, you’ll be able to feel and act from the future by using your imagination in the present.
This kind of thought work is invaluable on your journey to losing weight for life. If you’re ready to get started, watch my free video on how to lose the first five pounds — and keep going.