Imagine Your Cravings Away!

By , SparkPeople Blogger
How would you like to cut back your calories with the power of imagery?  Simply imagining the food and the sensations can help, according to a New York Times article.

"In one test 51 people were divided into three groups. One group imagined eating 30 M&M’s; another, three M&M’s; the third, none. When a bowl of M&M’s was then presented to the group, those who had imagined eating the most ate the fewest.

"The researchers chalked up the results to habituation: the manner in which the brain gets used to repeated experiences. In the same way that imagining a coral snake wrapping itself around your ankle might make you sweat, imagining eating food might have physiological effects: it may be releasing dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and satiety."    

Research has proven time and time again that imagery and visualization are strong tools for many purposes.  Athletes, seriously ill patients, and those who have other personal goals have used these methods successfully. 

One thing experts usually say is to go deeply into your visualization until you can see, feel, touch, smell, hear, and fully experience the mental experience.  This is what will help make the experience real for you.  It also assists you in recalling an experience and its success.

An example of this visualization would be taking bites of cake from an empty fork and imagining its flavor.  Rolling it around your mouth a few times and really imagining the smell and flavor.  Then swallow.  Aromatherapy may help.  If your weakness is cookies, pie, or chocolate, there are candles with those scents that might help you set up your visualization.

Do you think nothing but the real thing can help?  What about one real bite followed by two pretend bites?  It will at least slow you down and give you chance to experience the food fully.  Use all of your senses.

One of my secrets for avoiding popcorn at theaters is to breathe in deeply when I go in.  I take in all the popcorn smell I can get until I am used to it.  Then it loses its power over me. 

What is some of your favorite imagery or a visualization you use to help you?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


🤣🤣🤣🤣 Hilarious! And now I want cake. Report
ELRIDDICK 5/22/2020
Thanks for sharing Report
KOALA_BEAR 3/23/2020
No I don't do visualization & thinking of food makes me crave it more.
MAREE1953 11/8/2019
I imagine the aftertaste I will experience after eating a particular food and then make choices. Truth is, whole foods don't produce that icky aftertaste. They satiate, and thus satisfy hunger cravings. Processed foods are DESIGNED to make you want more and more without satisfying hunger. Like eating a whole bag of potato chips vs a steak. A steak will satisfy hunger, whereas snacks don't. Report
ERIN_POSCH 11/1/2019
thanks for sharing Report
GRALAN 8/12/2019
I imagined getting lots of points for reading this article, and when I finally finished it I only got 5 points. It works!
I am a graduate of Pacific Institute circa 1974. Visualize to actualize. What the mind can conceive and believe the mind can achieve. Every day in every way I'm getting better and better. And guess what I got after visualizing all that success. Well, I had less appetite for visualizing for success.

So that aspect of the study is something I can vouch for. if you try to fulfill yourself with imagination, you'll have little appetite for the real thing. Report
BTINCHER2001 7/29/2019
Having read the New York Times article, it was far less than a scientific study. Interesting concept. If it works, great. But I am sceptical. Report
Great ideas! Report
Sounds doubtful. Report
Interesting Report
Sucking in popcorn smell - who would've thunk?! Report
Interesting article Report
Thanks for your suggestions. I will try a couple of them. Just finished a Chronic Pain class and we were taught a distraction method. This will work for me. God Bless. Report
This kind of thing might help, but not OFTEN enough! Whomever comes up with this stuff is just needing to find something to write about for pay. Plus, when you don't eat something and pat yourself on the back about not eating it, a small part of you still wishes you would have eaten it, and, at some point, maybe even months later, you will make up for lost time....human nature! Report
I remember back at my old job - somebody would bring in fast food & a few times I would grab their bag, almost stick my face in it... & INHALE.... DEEPLY.... then hold my breath for a few seconds. It sounds crazy, but it was actually quite satisfying. Report
That chocolate aroma would only increase my cravings. I think what helps is to visualize that I control my cravings, and that I can be satisfied with a small portion of cake, or a small piece of chocolate.
Your mileage may vary, but this is what works for me. Report
Honestly, I dont think this would help me especially having those type of candles that smell like cookies, pies and cakes. Report
I'm willing to give it a try! At first I was thinking "no way" because when I see an ad on TV for something I like (like cookies) I start thinking that I want it. But I realized that I've burned "sugar cookie" candles in my house and just breathing in the scent has helped. I can enjoy the scent AND imagine eating a sugar cookie. Report
What a great idea! I think that could work for me. I can imagine my feeling fuller than when I do eat chocolate because I could take the time to enjoy my (imaginary) food.
I don't believe aromatherapy would help, though - that might make me hungry on the other hand. Report
I have found that just smelling something works well, too. At work when there is a big box of doughnuts hanging around I'll just pop the top and take in a deep whiff! It helps. Which is what I need! Report
This really works. If you do it right you won't be tempted to eat what you are visualizing. Report
have not heard of kelly howell's visualization cd's but am going to google them; also, i will be trying the lemon meringe gum.... Report
I am gonna try this...Thanks Report
My weakness is potato chips ... my mother taught me the opposite approach ..... that is to focus on how greasy and clingy they really are!- (the only time I believe in being negative) .. Report
Really interesting theory! I'm going to try it.
It contrasts with what Gary Taubes thinks in his book 'Why we get fat' as he thinks that the mere thought of food and eating is enough to provoke an insulin response. In which case the body will become better at storing fat.
Different strokes for different folks - I believe that what works for one might not work for another and think we just need to experiment until we find what works for us individually. Thanks for the interesting article! Report
Cuando yo dejé de fumar, me acercaba a los que fumaban y con solo oler el humo me saciaba. Esta técnica es real. Report
I have found that mint choclate chip gum and lemon merinque gum(flavors) help me Report
I use two vizualisation techniques which work for me. For example, if I'm craving chocolate: one technique is to imagine that I've just eaten four bars of chocolate. I imagine how it tasted nice, but how full I am now and to eat more would make me feel sick. Then I visualize how I've felt sick in the past after over-indulging. The other technique is to imagine that the chocolate bar is very stale or mouldy, or that there are ants crawling on it. I also remind myself how very few minutes of pleasure that chocolate bar would give me, and how upset with myself I would be to get on the scale the next day and see my weight had gone up. I also remind myself that the craving will pass in a few minutes - which it does! :-) Report
the relationship i'm trying to develop with food is to put it in a sensible, healthy place. imagining eating M&Ms would not accomplish this, and would almost certainly backfire. i want to associate movie popcorn with a brief pleasure, coupled with the sure knowledge that too much will make me feel sick. i don't want to wallow in it. i want to understand, appreciate and normalize it. i don't think this method would be a good one for me at all.
suz Report
In the past I've had candles that smell like a sweet food - carrot cake, sugar cookies, etc. I found that when those candles were around and especially burning I was at the fridge ALL THE TIME. I was craving what I was smelling! I got rid of those candles and burn more minty and spice candles and don't have the cravings to eat. Candles are not a good suggestion for my $.02.
I'll have to try the imagining thing and see if it works. We'll see.....
Interesting concept. Report
Visualization is very good but I have a different way to think about the really good foods that are bad for me. I assign a negative feeling or an experience to the food. For instance, there have been a couple of times when I drink pop (soda), I noticed that my teeth hurt, so the next time that I think I want pop I think of my teeth hurting and therefore am turned off by the idea of drinking pop. For popcorn I think of all the salt (that irritates my lips) and greasy butter (that makes me feel kind of sick). When I think of eating cake I think of stale cake and trick my mind into thinking that it will taste bad because its old. Of course I do have my bad days but for the most part it works for me. If I smell food and visualize eating food (in a good way), I will eat it so I have to think negative about the food to avoid it. Report
I'm pretty sure this wouldn't work for me. I think it would just make me want it more. But I'll give it a try. If it works, it will be a great tool! Report
Usually the smell of popcorn does want me to plunge right into it, but I will try the visualization method the next time I have a craving or when I just want to pick. Thanks for the article. Report
This is funny, because I was just at a football game this weekend. The funnel cake smelled SO GOOD! My husband and I got one to share, but I ended up only taking a few bites, because I realized that I enjoyed the smell of it more than I enjoyed the taste. I definitely think the visualization helps, especially if you embrace all of the other senses. Report
While the imagery might work, I don't think the aromatherapy part would work for me. I do like food scents (Angel perfume, with notes of chocolate; plug ins with vanilla and "kitchen spice" scents), sometimes they just make me crave food more. Report
Not sure visualizing food will work but I do know that visualizing how you will look and feel when you've reached your goal(s) is a great motivator.
I've been doing this on my own but instead of imagining myself enjoying the food, I imagine only that last bite: scraping the bottom of the bowl for that last bit of ice cream or licking my fingers for those last few crumbs of brownie. Feeling the disappointment at finishing the treat helps me to avoid starting it for real! Report
I have heard several people describe similar visualization processes to control impulse eating. I will try this -- thanks! Report
I understand what they are talking about in this article, but it makes me laugh to think what others would think if I took imaginary bites during lunch! :) Report
I tend to try to avoid looking at the foods I want because the desire to want it tends to become stronger. But, I think I will try this.

Reading this reminded me of this past Friday. I was in the mall and went to the food court and couldn't resist this chicken/bowl type meal I wanted badly. So I got it. I dived right in thinking it's going to be the best tasting meal. Wrong! It was not good at all! I threw half of it away. So not like me. It's the second time in recent months I went bonkers over some type of food from the mall food court and it turned out to be horrible. I'm not talking the common McDonalds, BK, Subway. I referring to off named places that have the grilled chicken, etc in the showcase. I'm so done with those places. I now view places like that as cheaply prepared food and a waste of money and calories. Yuck! Report
Will have to try this..... Report
This reminds me of an old 'Odd Couple' show from the 70s in which Felix (Tony Randall) and Oscar (Jack Klugman) go to a 'Fat Camp' to lose weight and get healthy. Their first meal consists of empty plates and forks and they are instructed to visualize their meal. Oscar's response is to break out of the camp to raid the local deli. I can still smell the salami he dumps from his bag of eats onto his dorm room bed. That's visualization! Report
I know this works. I always experience vivid dreams in color and if I have a dream that I'm eating a lot of food, I feel extremely stuffed upon waking up for hours after. Thanks to Kelly Howell's CD's my power of visualization is getting much better and even seeing people eat food in a movie fills me up. Report
I don't see that working for me, but I'll give it a try. I think it will only make me want the forbidden food more. On the other hand, I can see how getting used to the popcorn smell can make it lose its power over me. I think that will be more useful, but I'll give the visualization a chance. Report
Ok, this might work for some, but not for me. I have to think of something besides the food that I want, or I want it - and sometimes crave it. On the other hand, I do try to visualize what it will be like when I reach my goals (more fit, skinnier, healthier) and that seems to motivate me to keep working towards them. Report
Look into Guided Imagery on the internet and try one of those CDs. They are a big help for many things if you really work with it. Report
I know I often disagree with some of the articles I read here, but this time I agree. In the mid-1990's I was on the OptiFast plan, a 20-week, medically supervised and monitored liquid diet. I did get a lot of pleasure by smelling and imagining eating the foods that were at bbq's, family gatherings, etc. People would ask "Isn't this hard for you? Doesn't that make you crave it?".. The answer was "No, I know what it tastes like". The smells were wonderful and gave me a lot of pleasure. The first few days of the diet were hell, but after that I got used to it and even enjoyed knowing that the hunger I was feeling was making a big difference in my life. I lost over 70 lbs in those 5 months. Too bad I moved away from a hospital that has that program (and it was expensive) since I put it back on over 5 or 6 years.. This time around I am doing it the Spark way. It's proved to be more sensible, practical, free, do-able and permanent! Imagery has value and I'm glad I saw this article today as a very powerful and positive reminder. Thank you, SPARK. Report
I don't see how this could possibly work. Imagining the food will make you want it more, right? Report
I'll have to try this one when the chocolate craving hits! Report
I imagine myself thinner, and more toned. Report