Friday, December 10, 2010

Food Visualization Can Aid Weight Loss Efforts

(Article first published as Mind Imagery May Lead to Weight Loss Success on Technorati.)
It’s important not to discount the power that our mind has over our conscious efforts to lose weight, as well as our subconscious desire to control the foods we eat. Our brain exerts a powerful influence over our actions and research indicates that thinking about eating a favorite food can actually help us to consume less of that food and save the calories as a bonus.

We are truly creatures of habit, and tend to eat the same foods in similar quantities on a regular basis. For most people this means we over consume calories without much conscious thought, and are unable to lose weight despite our short lived efforts at dieting. Sooner or later we slide back into the same dietary model and caloric consumption, slowly gaining extra pounds as our metabolism slows with age. It may be possible to harness the power of conscious thought toward a slimmer waistline.

Using Your Brain to Lose Weight
A common assumption is that thinking about our favorite food increases our craving for it and ultimately leads to consumption. The results of a study conducted at Carnegie Mellon University and published in the journal Science shows that when we imagine eating a food, our appetite for that food actually decreases. This study demonstrated that mind imagery has a much greater influence over our desire to eat than our physiological cue to eat.

Study participants were asked to imagine eating a large handful of M&M candy entirely in their mind, while a control group was asked to think about a different task, such as inserting quarters into a laundry machine. Both groups were then allowed to eat freely from a large bowl of M&M’s. The group members that envisioned eating the candy ate significantly less than the control subjects who had been asked to think about a non-food task.

Study Demonstrates Importance Beyond Weight Loss
The results of this research indicate that we may be able to control our desire for our favorite unhealthy food choices by mind imaging. It may be possible to change our habitual nature and lower the desire to eat foods in excess that perpetuate our weight. The study authors believe that there may also be implications for other habitual acts and conclude “we think these findings will help develop future interventions to reduce cravings for things such as unhealthy food, drugs and cigarettes, and hope they will help us learn how to help people make healthier food choices."

Using Mind Imaging to Avoid Unhealthy Food
You can use mind imaging to help avoid foods that you know will contribute to weight gain. Start by choosing one food item that you know you will be eating either at your next meal or commonly as a between meal snack. Create a vivid mental image of the food item. Next picture yourself consuming a large portion and imagine the taste sensation you normally experience as you enjoy every last morsel. Repeat this imagery in your mind several times. You should find a decreased desire to eat that food, or possibly you will be able to pass on the item entirely in the future.

Harnessing the power of the mind when trying to lose weight may be a great benefit to those who have tried other methods and failed. Mental imagery can be a powerful tool that can break the cycle of food habituation. Include food visualization as part of your total program to achieve successful weight loss.

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