Healthy Habit: Using visualizations in dieting

You have been following your diet plan religiously for the last few weeks.

You look good and feel good because you have been rationalizing with yourself about food and eating, and you begun to create new habits that work with your goals. While there may have been days when things did not go according to plan, you are still in control. Everything is good, and you are happy with the progress.

But something has come up. Something that is going to test your ability to rationalize and the control you have over food.

You have been invited to a party where you know there will be lots of food, most of which you have begun to eliminate from your shopping list, hence your diet.

What will you do?

How will you ensure that you do not fall apart?


Every time I am asked to give a talk or a presentation, I visualize the whole process from start to finish. I imagine what I’d be wearing on that day, and how I would stand at the podium, and how I’d be feeling on that day. If I was feeling nervous, I’d change that to a feeling of excitement. Because I can deal with being excited. As I get deep into the visualization, I find myself relaxing, and carefully rehearsing my speech. I would do this visualization for several days before I am due to speak. So on the actual date I do not feel nervous or anxious. I feel as if I have done this before and I am in control.

Your visualizations are very powerful as they are your thoughts in images. So as well as using self-talk to rationalize with yourself, use your visualizations.

One way you can use visualizations to relate to food and change your eating habits

First find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for about five minutes. Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Begin to picture yourself at the buffet. Notice what you are wearing, notice the people around you eating, and notice the spread of food. Of course you won’t know exactly what food will be there, but you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect. Allow yourself to experience the feelings and thoughts you will have at the sight of all the food at this party. If you feel worried and anxious about losing control, allow those feelings to come to the surface.

Next, change  the feelings that you have just brought to the surface into feelings you can manage using your rational self-talk. If you think that you might lose your control and fail, then you probably will. So instead of giving into these feelings, tell yourself something like this: “I know it is going to be difficult, but I can handle this” or “Yes, I know the food will be tempting, but it is not going to be impossible for me to manage.” You might be able to come up with other statements yourself that are rational. Remember you are not a failure, you have succeeded in many other life ventures, and you can succeed in this venture too. Think how good you’ll feel if you were to leave the party satisfied and not sick because you ate too much.

Everyday visualizations

I practically plan my entire day through visualizing what I need to do, what I want to do, and what I want to accomplish before the day ends. Although these visualizations are not as detailed, they help me make it through the day. Sometimes, they also prepare me to cope with things that may prevent me from getting through the tasks of the day.

I have started using visualization techniques to  plan my meals on a day to day basis, when it is possible. The more I use it, the more power and strength I give these visualizations and the self-talk.

Strengthening your rational self-talking

By now you are probably aware of how powerful your self-talk help you take control of your eating habits. If it is irrational, you may have found that you overeat, make poor choices, and stray from your diet plan. And if your self-talk is rational, you reason with yourself and hence you make good food choices, you eat to satisfy your hunger, and you stick with the diet plan.

But of course, there are and also will be obstacles. Let me share with you two examples of the obstacles or challenges I have had, and how I rationalized with myself.

  • Food is a way to celebrate. This was my biggest obstacle. We go out for a meal to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. But this need not be an obstacle.This kind of thinking is not helpful. So if eating is the way that we choose to celebrate an event, then I first ask myself “Do I have to overeat just because I am celebrating?” the answer is NO. Next, I decide that I am going to take a doggy bag home. Finally, I use the eating behaviors I mentioned in Don’t diet! Change your behavior instead 
  • Eating gives me comfort and pleasure. This was my second biggest obstacle. Curling up with a large cup of coffee and a snack, usually not a very healthy snack, was very comforting. I thought food would confort me. This was not rational thinking or behavior. Because when I asked myself the question “Would several scoops of ice cream comfort me right now?” or “Is eating the only way I can comfort myself?” The answer was always No. Eating was not the best or the only way for me to find comfort. It never was, it never is, and it never will be.

You might find other challenges in your life that are preventing you from adopting a healthy lifestyle. Perhaps take a few moments to figure that one out.

When you have identified self-defeating statements, then challenge them by asking yourself questions. Finally, replace your self-defeating statement with a statement that strengthen your rational thinking.

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Mauve Writer

Teacher, Learner, Writer

9 thoughts on “Healthy Habit: Using visualizations in dieting

  1. Wow! what a wonderful writeup on visualizations- I loved it and shall endeavour to try it out for myself. Lets hope I make myself prepped up to face difficult things in my life with ease and grace! Thanks

  2. I like to see how my clothes fit – that is my ‘scale’ to see how I am doing with watching what I eat.

    When my clothes ft and are not tight, I feel better about myself. Also, I know that I look better too! Sometimes the scales do not reflect that.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. I don’t really do scales myself. Once every two or three weeks I’d weigh-in. But weight loss is not the only goal for changing a diet plan, though it probably is for many people.

      I guess one would have to be quite serious about weight control to get regular body scans – don’t you think?

  3. I needed your advice in this post. I’m attempting to become a vegetarian due to health reasons. After reading your post I feel so much better about going down this path. Thank you.

    1. Kelly, I became a vegetarian in the mid-1990s, but not for health reasons. I was actually grossed out by a documentary on meat production. The switching back then was easy for me to do. It literally happened overnight with me telling myself, I will never eat meat again. I have not gone back since.
      But if you are doing it for health reasons, you might want to read up on some of the essential nutrients you get from meat that you do not get from vegetables.
      Good luck with the switch. Take one day at a time. Let me know how it’s going.

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