People can lose five times more weight by simply changing how they think, according to a study.

Researchers found simply imaging yourself as being slimmer can be enough to help dieters achieve their weight-loss goals, the DailyMail reports.

University of Plymouth scientists found dieters using functional imagery training (FIT) lost 1st (6.3kg) and 9cm from their waists after a year, on average.

In contrast, patients who tried "motivational interviews" - being encouraged by a counsellor to shed fat - lost just 0.1 stone (.63kg) and 0.24cm from their waists.

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All of the patients were on a diet or exercising regularly - two known factors that can boost weight loss efforts even further.

FIT involves people visualising what it would feel, smell, look and taste like to be thinner.

The researchers analysed 141 overweight volunteers; defined as having a BMI of at least 25.

Fifty nine of the participants received FIT, while the remaining 55 had "motivational interviews" (MI).

Speaking of FIT, lead author Dr Linda Solbrig said: "We started with taking people through an exercise about a lemon. We asked them to imagine seeing it, touching it, juicing it, drinking the juice and juice accidentally squirting in their eye, to emphasise how emotional and tight to our physical sensations imagery is.

"From there we are able to encourage them to fully imagine and embrace their own goals. Not just 'imagine how good it would be to lose weight' but, for example, 'what would losing weight enable you to do that you can't do now? What would that look, sound, and smell] like?' and encourage them to use all of their senses."

MI involved the participants being counseled on why they wanted to lose weight.

All of the participants had two sessions, the first of which was for an hour face-to-face and the second 45 minutes over the phone.

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"Booster calls" lasting up to 15 minutes were provided every two weeks for three months, after which the calls were every four weeks until six months after the study started.

Weight and waist circumferences were measured at the start of the study, and six and 12 months on. After six months, those receiving FIT lost 0.6 stone (3.8kg) and 7cm off their waists.

But the MI participants had still lost just 0.1stone and even gained 0.24cm in their waist circumferences since the six-month mark.

All of the participants reported greater quality of life after six months, but the FIT group more so. The results were published in the International Journal of Obesity.

"Most people agree that in order to lose weight, you need to eat less and exercise more, but in many cases, people simply aren't motivated enough to heed this advice - however much they might agree with it," Dr Solbrig said.

"So FIT comes in with the key aim of encouraging someone to come up with their own imagery of what change might look and feel like to them, how it might be achieved and kept up, even when challenges arise.

"It's fantastic that people lost significantly more weight on this intervention, as, unlike most studies, it provided no diet/physical activity advice or education. People were completely free in their choices and supported in what they wanted to do, not what a regimen prescribed."

FIT is thought to be more effective than MI due to it stimulating many different senses.

This allows dieters to visualise what weight loss would be like, which may motivate them to achieve their goal.