How Does Stuffing Yourself in Your Imagination Prevent Weight Gain?

The holiday season has begun and along with it the anticipation of a traditional festive diet. But if you want to protect yourself against the pounds, pushing thoughts of apple and pumpkin pies out of your mind might be counterproductive: indulging thoughts of eating a particular food may help us to eat less of the real thing.

Reconsider your weight management and drug treatment programs, because these usually emphasize avoidance of thoughts of the desired item, rather than encouragement them. Research has shown the imagination can decrease the attraction of any initially attractive stimulus.

When you quit smoking you constantly get those urges, you’re trying to suppress the thoughts. Sometimes you have to do the opposite and imagine doing it, drag by drag. This is the theory of lessening of our response to a stimulus when it is repeated. Likewise, the prospect of a 10th bite of chocolate arouses less desire than the first chunk did. Feedback from our digestion is too slow to cause such a rapid adjustment.

Cash and chocolate

In one first experiment volunteers were asked to imagine inserting 33 coins into a laundry machine – an action that the researchers thought was similar to eating M&M’s. A second group imagined inserting 30 coins and eating three M&M’s; a third imagined inserting three coins and eating 30 M&M’s.

After their imaginative efforts, all the participants were allowed to eat freely from a bowl of real M&M’s. Those who imagined eating 30 M&M’s consumed significantly fewer of the real thing than people in the other two groups, suggesting that mentally experiencing the action of eating can cause the body to react as if it has consumed the real food.

This effect only appeared when participants thought about eating the food; repeatedly imagining the food alone did not reduce consumption. So with my clients I educate and in hypnosis we together reinforce focusing on your food, giving it all your attention. We focus on every mouthful that is eaten; so I have found that people then eat less. Do you wonder how this works? Schedule a meeting with me and we can accomplish this together.

Do you wonder how this works? Schedule a meeting with me and we can accomplish this together. 

Our imaginations can act as a pretty good substitute for the real thing. So you can go ahead and embrace thoughts of those holiday treats – guilt-free.