Shaping Your Body With Thoughts

November 7, 2009 Updated: October 1, 2015

Science has shown that mental imagery can directly shape your body.
Science has shown that mental imagery can directly shape your body.
Positive thinking is a powerful tool in shaping one’s body. Studies have shown how mental imagery can help one lose weight or increase breast size. Performing mental imagery costs nothing, requires no drugs, has no side effects, and only involves practice.

When we are under stress, our body releases cortisol, a stress hormone. With less cortisol, the body can burn a higher percentage of body fat. Thousands of studies have now shown that stress-reduction techniques can reduce or prevent the slow cortisol drip that plagues so many today. Anyone who takes the time to mentally reprogram their perceptions can prevent the cortisol flood and ensuing body fat storage.

The stress-cortisol connection is so well established that a drug has been created to reduce the toxic effects of cortisol. Drawing upon the studies that have linked elevated cortisol blood levels and weight gain, CortiSlim says their product “addresses a root cause of being overweight.” CortiSlim works by negating the effects of cortisol.

However, cortisol is not the root cause of their being overweight. The root cause lies in why their body has elevated levels of cortisol in the first place. Without taking the time to address one’s perceptions, the body will continue to be stressed and produce cortisol. Many could find themselves trapped in a terrible cycle of diminishing health and increased weight.

Tools like mental imagery, hypnosis, and meditation reprogram habitually negative responses into positive and useful responses.

“The thoughts and feelings you bring with you to the table are just as important as the sensible balanced meal you sit down to,” writes Candace Pert, Ph.D., research professor of physiology and biophysics at Georgetown University Medical Center, in “Molecules of Emotion.”

Science has also shown that mental imagery can shape your body even more directly.

“The use of hypnosis for breast enlargement has a long tradition in the clinical field,” says "The Oxford Handbook of Hypnosis." The text is regarded as the field’s definitive reference text and sites numerous studies from the last several decades. LeCron, L.M. used a combination of suggested visualization and increased physiological activity to increase breast size in 20 women, aged 20 to 35 years old. Overall, breast size increased 1.5 inches, with five showing an increase of two inches and three showing no change. Willard also demonstrated breast enlargement in 22 women using imagery, adding “those most able to visualize the changes show[ed] the largest increases.” Another study by Staib and Logan found that three months after suggestions of visualization and sensations of growth, an average of 81 percent of the gains had been retained. Williams also performed several studies finding that it was not enough simply to enter a hypnotic state—visualizing and feeling sensations of breast growth were necessary to achieve results. The Oxford Handbook concludes, “These studies uniformly support the use of hypnosis for breast growth.”

“Molecules of Emotion” also recounts a study from the famed psychiatrist and hypnotherapist Milton Erickson. Erickson “addressed the subconscious minds of several young women who, although having been subjected to all kinds of hormone injections, remained completely flat-chested. He suggested to them while they were in a deep trance that their breasts would become warm and tingly and would start to grow.” Pert writes, “All grew breasts within two months, presumably because Erickson’s suggestions caused the blood supply to their breasts to increase.”

"The Oxford Handbook of Hypnosis" has additional sections dedicated to the research showing mental imagery to improve vision, sexual and urinary function, and skin disorders, among others.

Studies like these make it hard to refute how practicing certain thoughts can literally create the shape of your body. There are many researchers and scientists around the world who believe that changing one’s thoughts can significantly alter one’s physical body.

Dr. Elmer Green, Ph.D., the Mayo Clinic physician said, “Every change in the mental emotional state, conscious or unconscious, is accompanied by an appropriate change in the physiological state.” Many researchers have suggested that the body shows what lies in the mind. Pert says, “The body really is the gateway to the mind.”

What would happen if one simply visualized a toned, defined body? Is there reason why mental imagery cannot work to improve any bodily change one desires?

James Goodlatte is a certified holistic lifestyle coach who currently assists new parents and pregnant moms to achieve optimal health. He can be contacted at or through