Visualize yourself as skinny as a spider scurrying up walls

Burt's Eye View

“Think thin” is more than an old catchphrase. Researchers in Australia say dieters lose five times as much weight by visualizing themselves slender.

That sounds a lot easier than huffing through crunches, puffing through laps and grunting refusals of seconds. This is mind over matter. And the matter is clumped together directly above the belt buckle and directly below the belt’s backside.

In a study by the University of Plymouth and Australia’s Queensland University of Technology, researchers taught a technique they called Functional Imagery Training.

“FIT trains the habitual use of personalized, effective, goal-directed mental imagery to plan behaviors, anticipate obstacles, and mentally try out solutions from previous successes,” the researchers explained in the “International Journal of Obesity.”

If you see it, you can be it. I’m not sure what to think other than I visualize better over a Boston cream doughnut.

For the study, researchers used newspaper ads to recruit 141 adults with body-mass indexes of a hefty 25 or greater. The group instructed how to visualize themselves slimmer lost an average 9 pounds over six months compared to a meager 1.6 pounds shed by the unimaginative control group, researchers reported.

The FIT people also lost an average of 1.7 more inches off their waistlines than the folks with little imagination.

The movie “Field of Dreams” once taught us “If you build it, they will come.” I envision that fitness dreamers will amend that phrase to “If you imagine it, the pounds will go.”

Now my basic body configuration makes sense. I spend good portions of my day dreaming about loaded, deep-dish pizzas. That must be why I grew a deep-dish belly about the circumference of a large pie.

Doctors keep suggesting I’d thin out if I ate more raw vegetables. Have you seen the shape of a stalk of broccoli or a head of cauliflower? Envision those and I’d turn out just as puffy and pretty lumpy, too. That’s not the kind of body building I imagined for myself.

I know the scientists collected plenty of evidence in favor of visualizing oneself into slenderness. I’ve conducted my own case studies and the results don’t match.

For example, I often daydreamed that I was Spider-Man. I spent hours visualizing myself scurrying up walls, swinging from web lines and hanging out on the ceiling. I daydreamed this stuff as a kid, too.

But after decades of imagining it, not once have I been able to take more than two steps up the living room wall without landing in a crumpled heap on the carpet. So much for visualization.

There were reports of secondhand success. My mom and my wife both have claimed I drive them up the wall. But I never saw either one plastered to the paneling. I suspect they were taunting me.

Still, there might be something to it. If these obesity scientists say weight loss can be accomplished through mental imagery, then I will unleash the powers of visualization on my quest.

And if it works, if I find that I can spin a web like a spider can, I’ll think myself thin, too.

— Daydream with Cole at burtseyeview@tribtoday.com, at the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook or @BurtonWCole on Twitter.