If it feels like you’ve tried everything to lose weight but nothing seems to work then the time has arrived to use NLP for Weight Loss! Neuro Linguistic Programming (aka NLP) is an amazing tool that can help reprogram your mind to instantly feel motivated to exercise. It can also help take away the desire to make poor food choices. There are also many other benefits of NLP and these are my top five ways NLP can help you.
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How NLP works
Here’s the simplest way I can explain how NLP works. Imagine your brain is a computer with lots of wires in it. These wires all contain data gathered from your life experience and it has created your “map of the world” as a result.
The way you see things is not the same as the next person. Your filter of the world has been conditioned by your parents, culture and education among many other personal experiences during your life.
Sometimes the way you see the world is beneficial to you. For example, when you can see the positives and good in everything that happens or the opportunities that present themselves in any situation.
However, there are times that these “wires” in your brain have been programmed to produce a fear (or even worse, phobia) response to a situation, destroy your self-confidence or just straight-up lead to bad habits.
Rewire your brain for success
The job of an NLP Practitioner is to “rewire” your brain, through methods like internal visualization. This enables the program you run in a certain situation to become beneficial to you instead of detrimental.
An example could be when you see a chocolate bar. The program that runs in your mind is that you want to devour it as quickly as possible! This is detrimental to you since you want to improve your diet and eat healthily.
An NLP Practitioner will do a technique called “Matching Modalities” (more on this later on). This enables you to see that chocolate bar as undesirable and instead see a stick of celery as mouth-wateringly appetizing.
The theory behind Neuro Linguistic Programming
Neuro Linguistic Programming was created in the 1970s by Richard Bandler and John Grinder. They were psychology students at the time and realized that the old-school therapy methods focused too much on the problem and not enough on the cure.
For this reason, they created NLP with techniques that are heavily influenced by hypnosis, psychotherapy, and psychology. Ericksonian Hypnosis and Classical Conditioning are the two main examples.
They “modeled” the ones with the quickest effects which seemed to have the best results on patients and collected them to create what is now known as Neuro Linguistic Programming.
The theoretical basis of NLP techniques has been supported by research from the field of Psychology. A key example is the phenomenon called “Sub modalities” in NLP. The techniques have not all been fully researched yet.
The question is often asked: “Is NLP real”? Although it can seem a little too good to be true, NLP’s claims have been backed up and successfully applied in the field of Psychotherapy.
Now you know the theory behind this amazing tool let’s get into the details of how you can benefit from NLP for weight loss.
NLP for Weight Loss
When thinking about NLP and weight loss there are two important factors to consider. One is the need for a good diet and the second is regular exercise.
How many times have you decided to eat cleaner and work out every day only to give up after the first few days because it’s just too hard?
Don’t beat yourself up. Most of us have this problem, which explains why gyms are full in January and empty again in March!
You can have the best dietary plan and exercise program in the world. However, if you can’t get your mind in the right frame to do this consistently over a long period of time then it’s worth nothing.
If you really are serious about shedding those extra kilos then you owe it to yourself to try NLP for weight loss. The techniques will help to give you the best possible chance of achieving your goal.
The NLP visualization techniques I will teach you in this article work on changing the signals your prefrontal cortex receives in regards to how it views different types of food and how it feels about doing exercise.
The goal is to connect a desired association (motivation, disgust, appetizing, etc.) to an internal image you have (exercise, chocolate, celery etc). This is achieved through the focused and repetitive mental exercises I will discuss fully later on.
The way your prefrontal cortex responds to these things has been found to be a crucial element in weight loss. It not only dictates self-regulation (the lateral prefrontal cortex) but also motivation, desire, and value (the ventral medial prefrontal cortex).
There are astonishing findings which link weight loss success with active self-control regions of the brain.
NLP Techniques for Weight Loss
There are some incredibly helpful NLP techniques for weight loss but two really stand out for me.
The first is called “Matching Modalities”. It’s a must-do if you want the full effectiveness of NLP for weight loss.
I’ve already introduced how Matching Modalities works (earlier in this article) to help you see healthy food as desirable and junk food as, well… junk! So, you can already imagine how NLP and overeating can be directly affected and how this is going to help you to stick to that healthy eating regime you know is good for you.
In terms of getting the motivation to go and do exercise, there is another very powerful technique in NLP called the “anchor”.
NLP anchoring techniques can provide you with an instant “shoot” of motivation to get you out the door and moving your body instead of opting to stay on the sofa watching Netflix for another hour.
Sounds good right? Let’s get into the specifics now…
NLP anchoring techniques
NLP anchoring techniques are known as Classical Conditioning in orthodox psychological literature. They were developed 100 years ago by Ivan Pavlov (who induced dogs to salivate by ringing a bell just before feeding them and then ringing the bell alone).
In the book “Abnormal Psychology”, American Psychologists Gerald C. Davison and John M. Neale speak about one of the earliest studies of classical conditioning.
This study involved an eleven-month-old boy named Alfred and a white rat which was given to him by the experimenter.
Albert wanted to play with the rat but each time he went to reach for it the experimenter frightened him by making a loud noise from behind the boy.
After the fifth time this happened, Albert panicked whenever he saw the rat. “Fear” had been anchored to his association with it.
Before you start worrying about Albert too much, in a similar way, the experimenter was able to remove the phobia also through anchoring. Neither the rat nor Albert were ultimately harmed in the making of this study!
Other studies on NLP anchoring techniques
There have also been various other studies conducted which show the incredible effects of anchoring. Some such studies include one in 1994 by German psychologist Horst Reckhert in which he removed students’ test anxiety with the Anchor technique[i].
Another study in 1989 by John Craldell[ii] was extremely useful for adult children of alcoholics since the anchor induced a “self-caring-state” for these subjects.
Mary Thalgott has also shown the value of anchors to support children with learning disabilities in her writings for academic journals[iii].
In the same way that Pavlov’s dogs started salivating at the sound of a bell and young Albert got frightened at the mere sight of a white rat, NLP weight loss anchoring will help you to associate a very powerful emotion with a specific hand signal. Therefore, you can supply yourself with this emotional surge on-demand when you need it most.
NLP weight loss anchoring techniques
When talking about NLP for weight loss we know exercise is one key factor for shedding the extra kilos. The problem is we hardly ever (sometimes never!) feel motivated to do this.
This is why today’s anchor will be focusing on giving you a kick of “motivation”. When you make the sign of a fist you will have that extra boost to get you off the couch, out the door, and into your workout.
Here’s how to do just that, step-by-step:
- Find a quiet place where you won’t be distracted (turn your mobile on silent!)
- Sit or lie down and get comfortable
- Close your eyes
- Think of a time when you felt super motivated. If a moment of motivation is hard to recall then think about when you were super excited like a special Christmas morning you remember, for example
- I want you to really try to experience this memory as if you were there…
- What made you happy about the moment?
- What are the colors like? Is it bright or dark?
- Can you hear any sounds in the memory?
- How do you feel at this moment? Tell yourself the story in detail and picture it vividly. At the peak moment of this memory when you feel the most motivated/excited, I want you to make a fist with your right hand (not in the memory but in real life!)
6. Squeeze your fist and feel the emotional energy of that moment surging through your body.
7. Now I want you to squeeze again but this time the feeling multiplies, the image in your mind of this motivating/exciting moment also becomes closer and bigger.
(This will condition your brain to associate the two squeezes of your fist as a trigger to feel motivated/excited)
The next steps in this NLP weight loss anchoring technique
9. When you feel that the key moment of emotion is starting to pass then release the fist.
10. Now imagine a dog wearing a tuxedo and drinking tea. (No, that’s not a typo!) This absurd image is a great way to reset your brain.
11. Open your eyes and take three deep breaths.
12. Repeat steps 3 to 10 another four more times at least.
13. Now you are going to do something called “future pacing”. This involves closing your eyes again and imagining the next time you will need to feel motivated/excited to do exercise.
(Perhaps you imagine yourself tomorrow morning sitting on the sofa watching TV and you know you have the opportunity to do exercise).
14. When you have this situation clear in your mind I want you to make a fist both in the imagined image in your mind & in real life. I then want you to squeeze your fist again and feel the motivation/excitement surge through you.
- See yourself bouncing up off the sofa and feeling great. See yourself go and do exercise happily with a smile on your face and a spring in your step.
- Next time you have this situation in real life use the anchor (two squeezes of your fist). Chances are you will feel the emotion you need to get you going!
EXTRA TIP: In your everyday life if you ever feel motivated/excited at any time then also make the anchor sign in that moment. This will further solidify the link between that double fist squeeze and the emotion you are trying to elicit from it.
Matching Modalities in NLP for weight loss
Onto to the question of your food choices and how to rewire your mental association with ‘unhealthy’ food so you don’t even feel the urge to eat that ice cream (or whatever your vice may be). Instead, you’ll experience a desire to tuck into that bowl of vegetables.
This is one of my all-time favorite NLP techniques for weight loss. Again, it involves you closing your eyes and doing some imagining.
We will be changing the “submodalities” connected to the images of food you have in your mind’s eye. “Submodalities” is just a fancy way of saying the specific qualities you’ve attached to the way you feel, hear, and see something (bright/dark, loud/quiet/, soft/hard, etc)
The basic principle is this… if you change the way your internal picture looks, you’ll feel different.
NLP studies on matching modalities
In his case study for the Journal of Applied Psychology Paul C. Berry paid 25 volunteers who were unaware of the experimenter’s interest in gauging how office workers felt about the temperature in a room while being exposed to different color situations[iv].
The results showed that office workers in a room repainted blue will complain of the cold, even though the thermostat is constant, but will stop complaining if it is repainted yellow.
This study appears to back up claims that changes in the submodalities in one sensory system (in this case visual) will automatically result in changes in the other sensory systems (in this case kinesthetic) and in emotional changes too.
For this reason, we will be changing the submodalities for various food in your diet so you find the healthy stuff more appealing and the junk food less so.
NOTE: The following technique is much easier when someone helps you with it. This “other” person can take down the notes I mention in steps 4 & 8 and run you through steps 9 to 12 so you don’t have to try and remember it all by yourself.
How to use the matching modalities technique in NLP for weight loss
- Find a quiet place where you won’t be distracted (turn your mobile on silent!)
- Sit or lie down and get comfortable.
- Close your eyes
- Think of a specific type of food that you know you shouldn’t eat but constantly find yourself snacking on (chocolate, ice cream, potato chips etc.)
– I really want you to imagine this food clearly in your mind. What does the presentation of it (packaging etc.) look like?
– When you are about to eat it how does it look? Really go into detail. Are the colours bright? Is the picture clear or fuzzy? Is it BIG or small?
(take note of the “visual” submodalities you list above)
– What does it feel like? Is it warm? Is it hard/soft?
– When you put it in your mouth how does it feel? Thick or light? Juicy or Solid? etc.
– What feelings do you experience when you eat it? Mouth-watering? Happiness? etc.
(take note of the “kinesthetic” submodalities you list above)
– Are there any sounds attached to this internal image? Crunchy? Chewing sounds? Slurping? You making an “aaahhh” sound perhaps?
(take note of the “audio” submodalities you list above)
5. Rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how much you would like to eat that right now!
- Now think of a monkey playing the piano with a top hat on! (An absurd image to reset your brain).
- Open your eyes and take three deep breaths.
- Now repeat steps 3 to 7 but this time you are going to imagine something absolutely disgusting to eat. Just the thought of eating this almost makes you vomit.
It could be dog poo, moldy cheese… it’s much more effective if the disgusting thing has similar “visual qualities” to the unhealthy food.
For example: dog poo could look similar to chocolate. Clear vomit could look like ice cream etc.
Attaching each submodality to an unhealthy food you crave
Go through all the submodality questions above again and remember to take note of all the submodalities you list!
9. Here comes the fun part! You will now attach the submodalities of the disgusting thing to the unhealthy food which you crave so badly. Close your eyes and get ready…
10. Bring up the image of the unhealthy food again from Step 4.
Now, you are going to go down the list of submodalities you listed for the disgusting food and attach each of these visual, audio, and kinesthetic qualities to the image you have in your mind of the unhealthy food.
An example using chocolate
“The image of the chocolate now becomes darker, it becomes softer and runnier. The smell of it is repulsive, just like dog poo. It feels warm and when you put it in your mouth you instantly feel disgusting and the need to spit it back out, dry reaching as you do.”
Really get into it and imagine it with as much clarity and feeling as possible. If your face cringes and you feel a little queasy that’s a good sign!
11. Rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how much you would like to eat that right now! Compare this with the score you gave in step 5.
12. Now that you have the submodalities clearly listed for both things (unhealthy & disgusting food choices) you can repeat step 10 whenever you want over the coming days (the more the better) to further solidify that repulsive association you’ve made.
You should now feel VERY differently about eating that chocolate bar in the future.
NOTE: In the same way that we have made appetizing food seem disgusting we can make healthy, unappealing food much more desirable.
Repeat the matching modalities weight loss technique with a healthy food option
Repeat steps 1 to 7, but for Step 4 you’ll be imagining the healthy, unappealing food instead of the unhealthy one.
Since you already have the original list of submodalities from the unhealthy food when you used to crave it you can skip right past step 8 and go directly to step 10.
In step 10 you’ll attach all the submodalities that you elicited for the unhealthy desirable food (the first time around) to the healthy, unappealing food so that it suddenly becomes MUCH more appetizing!
Finish this process with steps 11 and 12.
You should now find that your attraction to this healthy food you know you should eat has become much stronger and you actually “feel like” eating it!
This can help you stick to that healthy eating regime you know is good for you. It’s just another reason why I love NLP for weight loss.
Final Advice on NLP and weight loss
The techniques I’ve spoken about in this article can help you to stay on track mentally. Obviously, this requires you to have a good plan to stick to in the first place.
This is why I highly recommend seeing a nutritionist to get a dietary plan which specifically suits your needs and objectives.
By the same token if you’re really serious about getting the most out of these NLP for weight loss techniques then do some research into the best exercise programs for you to reach the goals you have for yourself.
Practice makes perfect, just like a muscle your mind needs a constant working out too. Make a habit to keep practicing these techniques every week and continually strengthen these new connections you have made in your mind.
Slip up but don’t give up
Go easy on yourself! If you slip up every now and then don’t beat yourself up. What’s important, and where your focus should always be going, is on what you will do next… get back on the horse and start again. As the late, great Nelson Mandela once famously said
“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”Nelson Mandela
Finally, if you find yourself constantly going back to your bad habits then perhaps it’s time to look at possible ecology concerns for why that is happening.
What I mean by this is there is probably something that action is giving you (most commonly an emotion) which you are not substituting with anything else.
For example, eating chocolate gives you a feeling of comfort which you are not getting from anything else. For this reason, this core need is constantly gnawing away at you until you give in to it again.
A bonus tip to discover some feel-good alternatives to build healthier habits
If this sounds like you then it’s time to do some brainstorming. Take out a pen and a piece of paper and once you’ve identified the root emotional need which the habit is making you feel then write it at the top of the page.
Under that heading I want you to brainstorm at least six other, healthier, ways you could obtain that same core feeling.
For example, if it was comfort you might list things like a particular smell/fragrance which brings back good memories, watching a funny video, listening to your favorite feel-good song, or drinking a warm cup of tea. Other ideas include thinking about a really nice memory from your past or curling up under a blanket on your sofa with a good book.
Now, imagine doing each of those things one by one. Choose the three that give you the most feeling of comfort.
Put an * beside these three options. Now you’ve got three other alternatives to give you the core feeling you desire instead of the unhealthy automatic reaction you’ve been turning to up to now.
I truly hope that these NLP techniques for weight loss help you achieve the life and health you deserve!
If you enjoyed this article, you may also want to learn about these five foods that help improve circulation for better brain health.
[i] Reckert, H.W. “Test anxiety removed by anchoring in just one session?” in Multimind, NLP Aktuell, No 6, November/December 1994
[ii] Craldell, J.S. “Brief treatment for adult children of alcoholics: Accessing resources for self care” p 510-513 in Psychotherapy, Volume 26, No 4, Winter, 1989
[iii] Thalgott, M.R. “Anchoring: A “Cure” For Epy” p 347-352 in Academic Therapy, Volume 21, No 3, January 1986
[iv] Berry P.C. Effect of colored illumination upon perceived temperature. Journal of Applied Psychology, 1961; 45, 248–250
Thanks to Mike from NLP Keys for this informative article.
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