Most of us assume there's no harm in thinking about stacks of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies or a towering coconut cake, as long as we're not eating them. As long as it stays a fantasy, imagining your dream meal should mean no harm, no foul for your waistline, right?
Wrong, according to a recent study from Yale University. The data revealed that the more vividly we imagine food, the more we crave it—and the more likely we are to act on that craving. In other words, visualizing those cookies—those warm, slightly melted chips, that lightly browned, gooey middle—makes it more likely you'll jump in the car and stock up on Chips Ahoy. And the principle holds true across the board, from sandwiches to shakes. The more we imagine food, the more weight we gain.
Previous research had shown that people with higher BMIs (body mass indexes) tended to crave foods more often than thinner people. The study's authors hypothesized that cravings might be part of the reason why these people were overweight—and the data proved them right.
This association between cravings and weight gain was especially strong in individuals who could precisely imagine the smell of food, the study said.
So you might want to try not to dwell on the rich, chocolately scent of those ooey-gooey brownies, or the way a perfectly fried salty strip of bacon crunches in your mouth.
This study could also open the door to new weight loss methods and treatments for obesity. With two out of three adults tipping the scales as overweight, and more than one in three obese, an innovative new treatment could go a long way.
You've probably heard of the most common treatment for obesity— a balanced diet and plenty of exercise. For many people struggling with their weight, though, shedding a few pounds isn't that simple. That's where more risky options like diet pills and weight loss surgery come in. If behavioral therapies could curb our cravings, they could potentially also help us lose weight.
And in the fight against the obesity epidemic, we'll take all the help we can get.