Can Imaginary Eating Stop Food Cravings?

Imaginary eating may be able to stop food cravings, according to a 2010 Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh study. Participants who imagined themselves chewing and swallowing either chocolate candies or pieces of cheese were less likely to report wanting to actually consume the foods afterwards. Researchers believe this may be due to habituation, a psychological process in which the brain becomes less interested in a behavior after repeated exposure. For example, the last bite of a food is typically not as pleasurable as the first. Therefore, imagining one’s self chewing and swallowing a food may give the brain the exposure it needs to become used to the food and thus, not as interested in eating it.

More about food cravings:

  • Women are more likely than men to have food cravings. Surveys estimate that nearly 100% of women reported cravings, versus 70% of men.

  • Cravings are generally for foods that contain both carbohydrates and fat, such as chocolate or potato chips, because the combination has been found to signal pleasure in the brain.

  • A 2013 University of California, Berkeley study found that lack of sleep increases the risk factor for obesity because sleep deprived people were more likely to given in to food cravings.

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