By Bob Greene for TheBestLife.com
In the study, researchers at the University of Southern California showed 13 obese women images of different foods–both healthy (fruits and veggies) and not-so-healthy (hamburgers, cookies and cakes)–as well as non-food photos. They then asked the women to rate their hunger level and desire for sweet and savory foods. During the experiment, researchers did an MRI scan of participants’ brains. The researchers found that the brains’ reward and appetite control centers lit up when the women looked at the images of fatty foods.
Eating or drinking while being exposed to these types of images—it’s just like nibbling while you’re watching TV or browsing Pinterest, for instance—seems to worsen the effects. In the study, researchers gave the women a sugary drink of glucose (similar to a can of soda) or fructose (another sweetener), to sip while looking at the various images. After slurping down both drinks, women felt hungrier and had a stronger desire for sweet and savory foods. Fructose seemed to do this even more so than glucose.
Fatty food images are basically everywhere you turn—on TV, the web, billboards, newspapers and magazines. How can you protect yourself? Turn to another channel, DVR your favorite shows so you can speed through commercials, or do a quickie exercise during the commercial break (try some push ups or sit ups). I asked Janis Jibrin, our Best Life lead nutritionist, for her best tip, and she shared, “I adjust the image on my monitor to hide the food ad when I’m watching TV at the gym on the treadmill,” she says. “That’s the last place I want get hit with a junk craving.”
Flip by ad pages quickly in magazines or newspapers, or peruse periodicals online to avoid those big, colorful photos. If you’re logging onto Pinterest or other websites, try to stick to the healthier recipe and food sites (like The Best Life’s page on Pinterest) and don’t forget to enable your computer’s pop-up blocker. Buffer against billboards with larger-than-life bites by concentrating on the road (a must if you’re the driver), the music, or your fellow passengers.
While you aim to limit your exposure to food images, you can also work on training your tastes to appreciate healthier foods—then those ads won’t seem as appealing. Here’s how:
Forego fried food. You’ll instantly drop some pounds this way (and maybe even those antacids!).
Use healthier cooking methods. Grill, broil, bake or poach meat, poultry and chicken. Add flavor with spice rubs, salsa and olive oil-based marinades.
Rethink dessert. Start eating high-quality, in-season fruit for dessert and snacks—those 1,000-calorie ice cream explosion ads will start looking kind of sickening!