You’ve probably seen some books on the shelf with too-good-to-be-true titles about thinking yourself slim. While you can’t escape the fact that you have to put some work in, there’s some pretty crazy stuff that goes on between your ears.
The Placebo Effect
You’ve probably heard about the placebo effect, but do you know quite how powerful it is? Or how you can put it to work for you?
What Is The Placebo Effect?
The placebo effect is basically when something happens because we expect it to happen.
Is The Placebo Effect Real?
It’s not some made-up thing, it’s very real; so real that scientific studies into drugs have to be placebo-controlled to make sure that it is the drug producing the effect and not our minds.
But what I’m about to tell you is all true.
- Morphine administered by a Doctor is much more effective than if delivered by IV drip when the Doctor is not there.
- Fake surgeries on the knees and spine have been found to be as effective as the actual procedures.
- The placebo effect makes up a significant portion of the effect for those taking anti-depressants.
- You will be filled up more if you believe you’re eating a more filling meal, regardless of whether it actually is.
- Men who believe they are taking anabolic steroids gain more muscle and strength even if they’re not.
- Women who believe they have active lifestyles lose more weight and experience better health than those who don’t believe they are inactive.
- Brand name pills are more effective than supermarket brands, not because they are different but because they are more expensive and people equate price with value.
- People who believe stress is bad suffer from stress way more than people who don’t.
How crazy is that?
This is your mind on placebo.
I should probably cite some studies to back these up. I’m not going to. A bigger project I’m working on will include most or all of these cases with references included but for now you can Google it if you’re curious.
But how can you possibly use the placebo effect on yourself? It’s it like being hypnotised?
Well, you can’t exactly, but you can use the underlying principle.
The Power Of Expectation
The placebo effect is caused by our expectations. If you believed you were taking anabolic steroids but did not know what anabolic steroids did, you would not experience greater muscle mass or strength. You would not expect the result therefore the placebo effect would not occur.
There are lots of expectations we have of ourselves that affect us each and every day.
Self-talk could be described as the voice in our heads, although things you actually say out loud are a part of it too.
“I gain weight just by looking at junk food.”
Shut up Sandra, no you don’t. But this kind of self-talk genuinely holds people back. Here are a list of things people say to themselves that make them fail.
“I have no will power”
“I can never stick to anything”
“I always give up”
“I want to look good, but I love food too much”
Do any of them sound familiar?
The worst kind are the ones I hear most, when I ask someone about their goal and they start their sentence with a self-defeating statement
“I know I wasn’t meant to be skinny, but…”
“I won’t ever be slim, but…”
Now I’m rational, to a fault sometimes, but it has some benefits. The best way to get over defeatist self-talk is with a large dose of logic.
“I have no will power” – If you’ve ever got up when you’d rather stay in bed then you have will power. False statement.
“I can never stick to anything” – You hold down a job don’t you? You brush your teeth every day too. False statement.
“I always give up” – Are there no places in your life where you didn’t give up? No places where you actually stuck to something and experienced success? What makes this different? False statement.
“I want to look good, but I love food too much” – Does that mean that everyone in the world who loves food looks bad? Or that no one who looks good loves food? False assumption.
All of this defeatist self talk has real effects. You probably won’t gain weight from it, although it wouldn’t be the strangest thing I’ve ever heard, but you will be more likely to fail because you expect to.
A kind of cruel self-fulfilling prophecy.
Taking Control Of The Voice In Your Head
So what if you trained yourself out of these limiting beliefs? What if you believed you couldn’t fail?
How much more enthusiasm would you have? How much more likely would you be to succeed?
Take these as examples:
“I can lose fat” – True statement, no one is immune to starvation.
“I can build muscle” – True statement. It’s a normal physiological adaptation.
“I can control my behaviour” – True statement. At times it may be harder but you’re a human, we’re the best species at it.
Little things like this affect you big time. Keep in mind that we’re taking about the same function in your head that can make pain go away and help you recover from chronic problems without actually having the damn surgery. It’s powerful stuff.
So if you’re going to have expectations, make them great.
Go into your next session expecting the weights to fly up, expecting to hit every rep and then some. Expect your body to change, expect your energy to increase. Are you tricking your mind?
Maybe, but the effects? They’re real.
Until next time,