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Mental Imagery a New Weight-Loss Tool?
Date:12/9/2010

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Dec. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers report that they may have hit on a new trick for weight loss: To eat less of a certain food, they suggest you envision yourself gobbling it up beforehand.

Repeatedly imagining the consumption of a food reduces one's appetite for it at that moment, said lead researcher Carey Morewedge, an assistant professor of social and decision sciences at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

"Most people think that imagining a food increases their desire for it and whets their appetite. Our findings show that it is not so simple," she said.

Thinking of a food -- how it tastes, smells or looks -- does increase our appetite. But performing the mental imagery of actually eating that food decreases our desire for it, Morewedge added.

For the study, published in the Dec. 10 issue of Science, Morewedge's team conducted five experiments. In one, 51 individuals were asked to imagine doing 33 repetitive actions, one at a time. A control group imagined putting 33 coins into a washing machine. Another group imagined putting 30 quarters into the washer and eating three M&Ms. A third group imagined feeding three quarters into the washer and eating 30 M&Ms.

The individuals were then invited to eat freely from a bowl of M&Ms. Those who had imagined eating 30 candies actually ate fewer candies than the others, the researchers found.

To be sure the results were related to imagination, the researchers then mixed up the experiment by changing the number of coins and M&Ms. Again, those who imagined eating the most candies ate the fewest.

In three additional experiments, Morewedge's group confirmed that imagining the eating reduced actual consumption through a process known as habituation. Simply thinking about the food repeatedly or imagining eating a different food did not significantly influence consumption
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