Visual images hold amazing power. We can all still “see” the Challenger disaster, the flag rising over Iwo Jima, even our own high school yearbook pictures. The images are still with us today. And so are the emotions that go with them.
You can use this power to your advantage to help you lose weight. If you surround yourself with visual cues, you have a great chance of meeting that goal. A picture of what you want (or don’t want) to look like; a vacation postcard that you’re using as a reward; a picture of your kids who you want to stick around for – these images can stick around and pull at you even when they’re not in sight.
Seeing is believing. Seeing is also achieving.
How Do Visual Cues Work?
First, let’s look at how the brain processes information. The mind simply can’t keep up with the 36 million bits of visual data that bombard it every second. So the conscious mind doesn’t bother trying. It simply passes most of the info along to be processed somewhere else.
According to brain specialist Amy K. Hutchens, 99% of learning is done on a non-conscious level. “That’s a fancy way of saying that vision dominates your brain activity and behaviors,” she says. Basically, what we see can determine how we act.
Seeing The Good Stuff
Your brain needs a method of filtering through the clutter and locking onto what’s important. This is where the science comes in. The “reticular activation system” (RAS) sorts through those millions of bits of data, making sure that you’re only aware of certain things. It calls your attention only to the details that you don’t want to miss, such as hearing your name in a crowd.
Have you ever bought a home or rented an apartment? Once you made a conscious decision to start shopping, it probably seemed like For Sale or For Rent signs were popping up everywhere. In actuality, the signs probably had been there for months, but you just noticed them for the first time. That’s because this specific priority was now “registered” with your RAS.
Weight loss is a priority that can be “registered” the same way. Mare Petras, a fitness expert who helped organize the first Great American Workout, sees this as a perfect reason to write down or put visuals to your goals. She explains, “If you put down a solid vision of how you want to look, your vision will pop up when you need it. In my experience, overweight people are sometimes powerless over impulses. Seeing a visual helps them to stop and think – and make better choices. It adds color to a black and white goal.”