‘Tis the season when many of us go on a seafood diet: we see food and we eat it. But if you want to avoid packing on the pounds, a new study suggests that you should spend more time thinking about food. Because the more of a thing you imagine eating, the less you’ll actually eat.
Common sense suggests that daydream eating is not the best idea. Once you picture a piece of pecan pie, chances are you’ll go out and get some. But what if you did more than give the pie or cookie or candy a passing thought? What if you mentally ate your fill?
To find out, scientists had people imagine eating M&Ms. Thirty-three of them. One after another. They asked a second group to imagine an activity that was equally repetitive, but less filling: pumping 33 quarters into a clothes dryer. Then they put out a bowl of M&Ms.
Sure enough, people who’d already maxed out on M&Ms in their mind ate fewer than the folks who’d been doing their mental laundry. The results appear in the journal Science. [Carey Morewedge, Young Eun Huh and Joachim Vosgerau,"Thought for Food: Imagined Consumption Reduces Actual Consumption"]
So when visions of Haagen-Daz dance through your head, don’t think twice. Just pull up an imaginary spoon. And don’t skimp on the fantasy hot fudge.
[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]