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To Eat Less, Imagine Eating More

ice cream cone

This is an interesting one, couldn’t pass it up. A new study published in Science in December has found that if you think about eating a lot of a food, just think about it, the next time you have the opportunity to eat it you will eat less than you would otherwise.

Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Here’s the deal. When we think about eating something we love, our mouth tends to water and we think about it for a moment but then drop it and start thinking about something else. This apparently grows (or does not change) our desire for the food. If, instead of just thinking about it for a moment, we visualize eating a lot of it, our “appetitive or motivational responses (wanting)” will lessen (comparatively). Our “motivation to obtain that food decreases.”

Interestingly, our “hedonic responses (liking and palatability)” do not change. So, it’s not as if we are turning ourself off to that food altogether, we are just consciously decreasing our desire for it.

I guess this is a good tip for anyone looking to eat less as a New Year’s resolution.

However, the point is that this works for the specific food you think about, not for other foods. So, it is especially useful if your are targeting specific foods you are trying to cut back on, or at least control your desire for.

The foods used in the study were M&Ms and cubes of cheddar cheese. And, basically, the general finding was the mind’s proven “ability toΒ habituate to a stimulus that is only imagined,” a finding that could probably be relevant to other behaviors and desires.

For more on the study and its findings, check out the story on our sister site, Planetsave:Β Want to Eat Less? Just Imagine Eating More

Photo Credit: Pedro Moura Pinheiro

4 comments
  1. Christine Farrell

    There was a study done a couple of years ago re activity – thinking as opposed to doing.
    It “discovered” that the calorie-burn from brain responses in certain cases can almost equal the calorie-burn from doing those exercises. So if you sit and seriously think you’re way through a set of exercises – seriously, so that you are imagining the activity in each muscle/limb, then you will burn some of the calories!
    This sounds a bit similar – thinking yourself into the situation, so then your mind will let you think, at the other end, that you don’t need as much of that food (if any) because you’ve just had a mental helping of it.

    1. Zachary Shahan

      yes, they seem very related (i didn’t know about that study). basically, both seem to be showing that an imagined situation can influence the body significantly. shows us the power of our mind a little bit. the body responds to the mind, including in very subtle but significant ways

  2. SES

    One’s imagination can take on so many things including thinking that one has eaten more than what was actually eaten. This is not only one of healthy eating resources to bear in mind but also something that is good for the mind and soul.Gratitude for the share!

  3. Mrs. Life

    Hey! I’ve experienced this many, many times! It’s actually frustrating sometimes because I buy a lot of that food I was fantasizing about, thinking that I’ll have that capacity to gobble it up in one sitting but I’ll end up eating just 1/4 of the bunch. But this one is interesting. Mind over matter, in a different sense.

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