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The ‘Big Picture’ on Dieting – Part I

A fact you may be unaware of (especially if you have yet to read Part 1 & 2 of my article, The Mental Side of Dieting) is that your subconscious mind (the part of you that governs all automatic behaviors) ‘thinks’ first and foremost in pictures. It would seem logical then, that in order to achieve anything you want to in the way of your ideal body, you need to harness the power of mental imaging.

One of the most common themes I read about on the fitness and body building boards is the desire to “get ripped for the summer”. I too fall pray to the line of thinking that begins somewhere at the beginning of the year when I realize that at some point I can no longer wear bulky clothes to cover up my somewhat large, glow-in-the-dark white ass. Since I do my best to stay in shape year round, thankfully the most desperate measure I usually need to take is to go for a Mystic Tan!

What I read repeatedly though is about people that take the extreme diet and workout routine to the max in an effort to meet a deadline like Memorial Day, July 4th or even your best buddy’s wedding. Having such a short term focus is bound to set you up for long-term failure. Who here hasn’t busted their butt, literally working it off while being the poster child for eating clean, only to attend the Sacred Event and gorge on everything in site?! Yup, me too.

One of the keys to success in achieving the results you want is to present a ‘big picture’ to yourself about your health and fitness goals. A target date for what you want to weigh is a good thing as your brain loves specificity and yet if it has nothing further than that in the way of a mental program; you may find yourself floundering once that date has passed on what to do ‘next’. Have you ever considered that you’d like to look the same on December 25th as you do on July 4th? Would you enjoy being able to put your blue jeans on just as easily November 1st as you do May 1st?

Most professional body builders have an on-season and off-season schedule they follow and I applaud that approach because it gives you room to give yourself a break and be less diligent with sticking to your eating plan at certain times of the year. Lyle McDonald has written a great book ‘A Guide to Flexible Dieting’ saying “There are a lot of reasons that diets fail but one of the biggest is that people expect nothing less than perfection. Any break in their diet and they figure that they’ve failed completely; the post diet binge begins.

What if I told you that it didn’t have to be this way; that taking a deliberately more flexible approach to your diet could make it work more effectively in the long term?”

…and I whole heartedly concur. The objective here is to take a larger view of what your training and eating can lead to, thus providing your subconscious mind a ‘target’ that is more all encompassing and less a one day event or one time occurrence.

When visualizing for success or using mental imagery to make your goals it is important to ‘see’ yourself as looking like you want to all the time – at the wedding, at the picnic, on the beach, when you head back to college, when you visit for Thanksgiving. Life isn’t static and your body certainly isn’t so you can’t expect your goal for fat loss and/or muscle gain to be either.

This ties directly to what I have written before on the concept of your self-image and whether you ‘see’ yourself as being fat or are able to picture your body with the level of muscle and body fat you desire – more often than for a few fleeting moments when you’ve just pushed through an extra set on the bench press; and with the endorphins flooding your brain convinced you’re ready to quit your full time job, enter and place first in the next body building contest, earning your pro card as a relative ‘unknown’ in the circuit.

© 2007 S.L.Gillespie – ALL RIGHT RESERVED

Daily ‘big picture’ thinking will assist you greatly in meeting your goals. This is often referred to as ‘creating a compelling future’ and like I’ve said probably too many times already, it MUST be about more than just one day or event. Even professional body builders have a life full of ‘next events’ that they train and eat for. It is a lifestyle they’ve adopted and as such, they look the way they do because they continually define and refine what it is they’re doing and what it is they’re going for.

On a purely technical note, seeing yourself with the body you want programs you for actually achieving it. For the few that haven’t heard of the basketball experiment with Russian players and free throws, here is an overview of one conducted by The University of Chicago:

A number of people were divided into three groups and they were tested on shooting a number of foul shots in basketball. The groups were then given different instructions.

Group 1 No practice on foul shots for 30 days.
Group 2 Practiced foul shots every day for 30 days.
Group 3 Practiced foul shots only in their mind (visualization) for 30 days.

After 30 days the 3 groups were tested again and the results, compared to their initial performance were nothing less than amazing –

Group 1 Showed no improvement at all
Group 2 Showed a 24% improvement
Group 3 Improved by 23%!!!

Jack Nicklaus said he never took a golf shot before clearly visualizing it in his mind. There is a reason I keep telling people to visualize – it’s because it works!

As you can see (no pun intended) the ‘big picture’ for dieting has many facets. It’s about holding the idea of what you want to look like and at the same time, choosing how you want to live. Your picturing ability is a powerhouse when it comes to affecting change in your life. The main message I want you to take away from this is that creating a vision for your health is of utmost importance. To make any transformation in your life, or body, it must first occur in the mind and by developing a crystal clear mental picture of what that will look like speeds you on your way!

© 2007 S.L.Gillespie – ALL RIGHT RESERVED

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