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Food for Thought: Imagining Food May Help With Weight Loss

With all those unhealthy treats around this time of year, temptation seems to be everywhere — from grandma’s cookies to your aunt’s egg nog to that tasty finger-food at your neighbor’s annual holiday party. But what if the secret to not overindulging wasn’t based on will power or self control, but rather a simple trick of the mind? It may seem like this type of Jedi-like behavior is right out of the Star Wars series, but research says that your brain can be a powerful ally in losing weight — if you use it the right way.

For many people who are trying to lose weight, visualizing yourself eating a not-so-healthy treat seems more like torture than a weight-loss strategy, but according to new research, scientists have found that imagining yourself eating a certain food may actually help you reduce your consumption of that food by decreasing your appetite for it. Talk about fascinating!

It seems counter intuitive, but according to the study published in Science, perception and mental imagery can actually affect your brain and emotions almost the same as if you actually ate the food. So, by imagining eating pizza, your brain thinks that you have, and the craving goes away. The trick is that you can’t just simply imagine the food and how it smells and looks — you have to go through the whole mental exercise of tasting and savoring every delicious bite.

This research also further supports the idea that we always want what we can’t have. In fact, the scientists acknowledge in the study that suppressing your thoughts of a food you’re craving like M&Ms (which were actually used in the study) is a fundamentally flawed weight loss strategy. Researchers hope that the new findings on thoughts and food will help develop future interventions to reduce cravings for a number of different things, including unhealthy food, drugs and cigarettes.

Talk about food for thought! Have you tried this? Will you?

December 10th, 2010

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