Stay Thin by Imagining Yourself Eating Stuff

You know how when you're on a diet, you're not supposed to think about food? A new study indicates that imagining yourself eating a specific food means you'll eat less of that food in real life. So start imagining.

The study, conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, had people imagine themselves eating M&Ms and putting coins into a washing machine in different proportions (one group was told to imagine eating 30 M&Ms and placing three coins in a washing machine; another was told to imagine putting 30 coins in a washing machine and eating three M&Ms). The group that imagined themselves eating the most candy ate way fewer actual M&Ms when presented with a bowl and encouraged to chow down.

The deal is, according to the scientists, that your brain does significant work at "habituating" you to certain foods or experiences and making them less appetizing. Like, you always want the first slice of pizza way more than you want the fifth or sixth, you know? This is because you've been "habituated" to it. But since your digestive system isn't particularly quick to let you know that you don't actually want the fifth slice, okay, maybe you do, but the sixth slice, buddy, no way, your brain does some of the habituating work for you. And since your brain is pretty easy to fool, just imagining yourself eating the first four slices of pizza can do the habituating work without actually have to consume it.

But here's the thing: You have to imagine yourself actually eating the food, rather than just sort of meditating on a slice of pizza. The same would theoretically go for pizza's closest cousin, heroin: Imagining one's self doing heroin would lead to less actual heroin being done. It's like a Jedi mind trick, on yourself! And, look, I didn't want to say anything, but you might want to start imagining yourself eating peppermint bark, you know? I'm not judging! But, you could use a little bit of habituation.

[New Scientist]