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To Eat Less, Imagine Eating More

Counter-intuitive study says thinking about overeating prevents the real thing
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 10, 2010 4:33 PM CST
To Eat Less, Imagine Eating More
Imagine eating all this, and you probably won't actually do it.   (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

(Newser) – Imagining eating lots of food could help you hold back from actually doing it, a new study suggests. It seems weird, but previous studies have found that trying to suppress thoughts of eating—or indulging in anything—makes you more likely to partake, and makes the sensation of indulgence even sweeter. A group of Carnegie Mellon researchers figured they'd explore the opposite approach, reports the Los Angeles Times.

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They had subjects visualize eating M&Ms again and again—along, of course, with control groups that visualized eating few or none. Afterward, when all were offered bowls of real M&Ms, those who had gorged virtually ate about half as many as their counterparts. "Thought suppression tends to sensitize people to craving," says one researcher. "A better way to deal with cravings might be to imagine indulging them." (Read more healthy habits stories.)

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