If you’re looking to drop those numbers on the bathroom scale, it’s okay to think about eating your favorite candy bar. In fact, go ahead and imagine devouring every last bite — all in the name of your diet.
The key word being “imagine.”
A new study, published in “Science,” shows that when you imagine eating a certain food, it reduces your actual consumption of that food. This flies in the face of the old assumption that thinking about something desirable increases cravings for it and its consumption. In fact, when you think about eating something, maybe you trick your mind into thinking it is satisfied, that it has received that candy bar.
Previous research has shown that perception and mental imagery engage neurons in your brain and affect emotions, response tendencies and skilled motor behavior. This time, researchers went a step further to test the effects of repeatedly imagining eating something against its actual consumption.
The shining result: simply imagining eating that unhealthy (but delectable) food could actually lower your appetite for it.
It shows that trying to suppress that thought of eating a desired food may not be the best approach to quitting that food. Instead, people who repeatedly imagine the consumption of a morsel of food — a piece of chocolate or cube of cheese, for example — in actuality ate less of that food. The findings could help develop future interventions to reduce cravings for things such as unhealthy food, drugs, and cigarettes. Healthier food choices could be within your grasp.
The study was a series of five experiments. In the first, people imagined performing 33 repetitive actions, one at a time. A control group imagined inserting 33 quarters into a laundry machine (an action similar to eating “M&M’S”). Another group imagined inserting 30 quarters into a laundry machine and then imagined eating three M&M’S, while a third group imagined inserting three quarters into a laundry machine and then imagined eating 30 M&M’S. Follow?
Then, all participants ate freely from a bowl filled with M&M’S. Those who imagined eating 30 M&M’S ended up eating far fewer candies than those in the other groups did. This result was backed up by another experiment using different numbers, but came to the same conclusion: those who imagined eating 30 candies ate fewer than others.
The last three experiments showed that reducing one’s consumption after imagining it was due to a lower motivation to eat it.
Definitely some food for thought, wouldn’t you say?
Dr. Victor Marchione received his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1973 and his Medical Degree from the University of Messina in 1981. He has been licensed and practicing medicine in New York and New Jersey for over 20 years.
Dr. Marchione is a respected leader in the field of smoking cessation and pulmonary medicine. He has been featured on ABC News and World Report, CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and the NBC Today Show and is an editor at the popular Doctor's Health Press website.
Dr. Marchione has also served as Principal Investigator in at least a dozen clinical research projects relating to serious ailments such as bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
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