Imagine Eating to Curb Craving

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Research has found that imagining yourself eat a specific food item could actually decrease your craving for that food. You must visualise yourself smelling, tasting, chewing and swallowing the food, however, the whole hog. Carey Morewedge, PhD, of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and her colleagues report in Science that patients who imagined themselves eating M&Ms ate a fewer number than those who didn’t.

This is counterintuitive. Also, psychological research suggests that thinking about something actually increases the craving for that object. The researchers pushed this idea further, asking what would happen if people followed through with imagining they were actually ingesting the food. They ran five experiments to confirm their findings. In the first, 51 subjects were asked to imagine one of three scenarios: inserting three quarters into a laundry machine and eating 30 M&Ms, flipping the situation to insert 30 quarters and eat only three M&Ms, or just putting 33 quarters in the machine. They were then asked to eat from a bowl of M&Ms, told that they were preparing for a taste test. Those who imagined eating 30 M&Ms ate significantly less than those who pretended to eat just three of the candies or put quarters in the laundry machine.