MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr Linda Solbrig PhD
University of Plymouth
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: Diets are restrictive; they work in the short-term, but re-gain is common. Individuals trying to manage their weight find that motivation fades over time and that this is the hardest part about maintain a healthy weight. When given choice to self-set goals we are much more likely to stick with them; they are more sustainable and we can succeed long-term. Using multi-sensory mental imagery supports motivation to change in the long run and also the opportunity to test out in our imagination if the actions we decided will lead to personal goal success actually fit with our lives, or whether we need to tweak, or even change them.
Functional Imagery Training (FIT) is based on two decades of research showing that mental imagery is more strongly emotionally charged than other types of thought and that it can directly interfere with unwanted food cravings. It uses multi-sensory mental imagery to strengthen people’s motivation and confidence to achieve their own goals, and teaches people how to do this for themselves, so they can stay motivated even when faced with challenges. It is not about creating a static picture, but encourages the use of all our senses, how a situation may feel, seeing with the mind’s eye and hearing with the mind’s ear and so on, creating a mini movie in our minds where we are the lead actors working on our personal goals, overcoming adversity and succeeding.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: Our research supported participants with overweight and obesity, in their own ideas of what they might wish to achieve in regards to weight loss and physical activity and taught them to use the FIT imagery techniques as a flexible tool they could apply to infinite personal scenarios, and goals. We provided no dietary/exercise advice, or education, like most commercial and community programmes.
What we found was that those participants who were randomised to the FIT group achieved on average 5 times higher weight loss than the control group, who used the same brief style of counselling intervention, but without the imagery-exercises. Both groups had access to the same maximum therapist contact allowance of four hours over six months, one hour face-to-face and the rest remotely by phone.
The main focus in weight loss at present is preventing re-gain and weight gain in general. The FIT group continued to lose weight by 12 months, while the other group stabilised, even though we had withdrawn the intervention at six months.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Mental imagery is a cognitive function we already possess and often we use it automatically without paying much conscious attention to it. Now, we can pay attention, focus the content and channel it towards our goals- using our own recourses.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: We are looking at remote delivery of FIT, due to a) squeezes in budgets for weight management provision b) to make FIT more accessible to those who cannot travel to see a practitioner etc. and c) we are looking at opportunities of trialling FIT further, nationally and internationally.
Finally, here in Plymouth, the University of Plymouth is collaborating with Livewell Southwet’s (NHS service provider) Wellbeing team (sponsored by Public Health England and NHS) to implement FIT as a motivational phone service for lifestyle behaviour change.
Linda Solbrig, Ben Whalley, David J. Kavanagh, Jon May, Tracey Parkin, Ray Jones & Jackie Andrade
International Journal of Obesity (2018)
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