You pass the bakery as you walk to your office. The smell of freshly baked croissants is tempting. As you look in the window, those croissants are lined up in a row, oozing with chocolate and inviting you to buy. But that isn’t part of your eating plan as you are trying to lose those 5 pounds you gained over the holidays.
You have to force the image out of your head. But should you?
Would it be better to think about that chocolate croissant, the smell, the slightly crunchy crust with a soft inside that melts in your mouth? You can see it, feel it, smell it and taste it going into your mouth!
Most dieters would say, STOP! Don’t do this to yourself. You will just make the craving worse.
But new research says maybe not. A study conducted at Carnegie Mellow University looked at what happens when you imagine eating food. The results confirm a very different approach than the conventional, “Don’t think about that food.”
Instead, researchers noted that when participants imagined consuming a desired food like that freshly baked croissant, allowed themselves to imagine eating and enjoying it, their cravings actually decreased and they ate less.
Yes, imagining the consumption of the food actually decreased appetite for it. Suppressing your desire for the food works against you. Imaging and experiencing may not be that much different.
The thinking behind this has to do with habituation. The more you imagine eating the food, the less motivation you actually have to eat it.
So next time you want that freshly baked croissant, try to imagine eating it and enjoying the experience. Your imagination just might lead you to eat less or not at all.