THE BLOG

Practice. Practice. Practice

07/25/2010 01:18 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

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You've done it before a million times. Maybe you're presenting at a meeting or confronting a co-worker on an issue. You run through it in your mind, like a play running through your head. You anticipate possible comments and come up with responses. You alter what you're going to say accordingly. You're not physically there, but you see the scene as though you are. You're getting ready, preparing for the conversation or event. Even if things don't go exactly as you had imagined, you've prepared responses, quips, actions that will make your actual 'performance' a success.

No one had to teach you this concept, it's a natural phenomenon. Believe it or not, there is a name for it. It's called Mental Rehearsing.

I vividly remember the first time I was on WTNH, Channel 8 in New Haven. I was asked to come in and share my story and to bring some of my favorite recipes for 6 minutes on air ... live. Yikes!

For weeks I prepared. I laid out my recipes on my kitchen table in order of how I would show them. My family got tired of eating the same food over and over again, but what else could I do with all the samples? As the time grew shorter, my nerves grew shorter, too. The morning of the TV debut my husband, Mark, and I loaded up the car and headed to the station. On the way there I was so nervous we had to pull over for me to throw up. Yup! All that preparation and I vomited. In the end, the segment came off flawlessly and I was asked to come back each week to share light cooking tips. I haven't thrown up since.

Now, before each TV appearance, I simply run through the segment in my mind. I never know exactly what will be asked or what piece of equipment will fail on live TV, but I do know that if I mentally rehearse, I will be prepared enough to handle it - even if I lift the lid of the blender before shutting it off.

Mental Rehearsing is effective in sports, in relationships, and believe it or not, in weight loss, too. You don't have to physically be in the food court to imagine yourself ordering the salad with grilled chicken or to see yourself bypassing the Cinnabon stand. Instead, you can rehearse the scenario in your mind - anticipate roadblocks and handle them successfully mentally first.

But does this really help? The statistics say 'yes'. Here's why. When you imagine performing a movement you activate the same nerve pathways from your brain to your muscles that are used to actually perform this movement. This process isn't intended to build unrealistic expectations. Instead, it is designed to improve your readiness for the real situation and increase confidence.

Come on. You've tried it for everything else. Mental rehearsing is a tool that can help you in any situation ... especially getting to your weight loss goals.
Practice makes perfect. It also builds great habits.