Imagine That

Anybody still clinging to their weight loss New Year’s resolution?

If you’re trying not to think about food in order to keep from eating it, give it up. In fact, whatever your weakness – be it salty or sweet – go ahead and visualize yourself polishing off every last bite. You’re probably better off.

Here’s why.

A study by Carnegie Mellon researchers – published in Science – shows that when you imagine eating a certain food, it reduces your actual consumption of that food.

The researchers ran a series of experiments, asking three groups of people to imagine different repetitive actions.
  • A control group imagined inserting 33 quarters into a laundry machine (an action similar to eating M&M’S).
  • A second group imagined inserting 30 quarters into a laundry machine and then imagined eating 3 M&M’S.
  • A third group imagined inserting three quarters into a laundry machine and then imagined eating 30 M&M’S.
Next, all participants ate freely from a bowl filled with M&M’S.

It turns out, participants who imagined eating 30 M&Ms actually ate significantly fewer than the other two groups.

To ensure other factors weren’t influencing the results, the researchers conducted additional tests. Each time, the participants who imagined eating the most, ended up eating the least.

Additionally, the study showed it wasn’t enough to merely think about the food – or to think of another food. It was important to imagine the act of eating the very food in question.

CMU’s research team included Young Eun Huh, Tepper School of Business Ph.D. candidate, and Joachim Vosgerau, assistant professor of marketing.

To find out more about the study, read the press release or visit cmu.edu.

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