Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Imagine Yourself Paleo: Applied Shamanism

If you want help implementing a paleoish diet, look no further than your own imagination.  For decades I have used creative visualization to help me master martial arts skills and accomplish athletic goals, with awesome results.  Now psychologists have shown that creative visualization can help people change their eating habits.  As reported on Health Day News:

"Telling people to just change the way they eat doesn't work; we've known that for a long time," study author Barbel Knauper, an associate professor of psychology at McGill University in Montreal, said in a university news release.
"But research has shown that if people make a concrete plan about what they are going to do, they are better at acting on their intentions. What we've done that's new is to add visualization techniques to the action plan," she explained.
Knauper and colleagues gathered 177 students and asked them to set a goal of eating more fruit over a week's time.  As they reported in Psychology and Health researchers split the students into 4 groups: control (active rehearsal), implementation intentions, goal intention mental imagery or mental imagery targeted to the implementation intentions. The results reported at Health Day News:

"All of the students ate more fruit during that time. However, those who made a concrete plan, wrote it down and also visualized how they were going to carry out their plan (i.e. when, where and how they would buy, prepare and eat fruit) increased their fruit consumption twice as much as those who didn't plan or visualize."

Basically, if you want to eat more paleoish, but find it difficult to carry out, you can help yourself by taking some time to use your imagination to visualize shopping for, preparing, and eating meals consisting primarily of meat and fat, possibly supplemented by other paleo foods. 

By the way, these psychologists are just confirming what shamans have practiced for millenia: imagination guides materiality.   If you doubt this, look no further than the computer in front of you.  At one time, it was nothing but an idea.  Someone focused on that idea and kept refining and working with it until it became an item in materiality.  Ditto for the building you inhabit, the clothes you wear, indeed for anything man-made.

Which raises the question, which, if either, is more real, the imagination that has the power to change the materiality, or the materiality that appears at the effect of the imagination? 

Creative visualization can contribute what Taoists refer to as wu wei, often translated as "non-doing" or better, "effortlessness."  Basically, if you want to do things more elegantly, with less effort, you can save yourself a lot of struggle by "doing" them in imagination first.  From the Tao Te Ching, chapter 63, Wu translation:

Difficult things of the world
Can only be tackled when they are easy.
Big things of the world
Can only be achieved by attending to their small beginnings.
Thus, the Sage never has to grapple with big things,
Yet he alone is capable of achieving them!

Its much easier to achieve anything in imagination compared to materiality.  Amazingly, by first accomplishing it in imagination, you can more easily achieve it in materiality. So apply some shamanic magic to your eating and activity habits.  Just imagine yourself shopping for, preparing, eating meat-based meals with only paleo ingredients, and training for strength, watch it materialize with less effort and more grace!


Todd Hargrove said...


In case you are interested, here's post I did on some of the science behind using visualization as an aid to physical performance.

Don said...

Hey Todd,

Nice article, thanks for that link.

Anonymous said...


Read and weep:
Yeah I nearly wept for both the author and the condition of military nutrition.

Valtsu said...

I've also been thinking about this. I have some music hobbies, piano and guitar etc.. When I try to learn some guitar scales there's much mental work of remembering all those finger positions. I think I could actually do that well even with no guitar. But I havent tried yet.