The Visual Weight Loss System - VEEP

Using Visualization to Beat Food Cravings

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In this article, we look at how to use mental imagery to abate food cravings.

First, some background.

Over the last 2 years there have been several studies with respect to cravings being the product of mental imagery. The studies have focused on how vividly imagined sights, sounds and smells seem to drive cravings. These studies began with cigarette smoking and have recently applied the same rational and methodology to food cravings.

With respect to food cravings, the latest research gives weight to the notion cravings seem to have a very strong visual and olfactory component. In other words, you crave chocolate because you picture chocolate in your mind and recall the smell of it. This seems to be the strongest component driving cravings according to research.

Before we go any farther, it’s important to distinguish cravings from hunger.  Hunger is a physiological response driven and controlled by hormones such as Ghrelin and Leptin. Cravings are a stimulus/reward transaction. In the research, the approach used is identical to that of drug use, in fact, it adopts a drug use model with the reward being food instead of drugs (I’m not calling anyone a drug user if they love pizza. I’m simply explaining the mechanism researchers use to distinguish hunger from cravings)

The very latest research on cravings and imagery is out of Adelaide University in Australia.

In a series of experiments with 90 women or normal weight aged 18 to 35, experimenters looked at the use of mental imagery techniques to lessen cravings for things like chocolate (In fact, research indicates chocolate is the single most craved food)

The experiments essentially focused on using distraction. The subjects were asked to create very vivid mental pictures of things such as favorite place, and vividly recall scents and sights.

The results showed a strong decrease in cravings with the use of these techniques.

A weakness of the study that the authors point out is that the cravings were induced in a lab setting. These cravings may not be the same as what we experience in the real world where cravings often have a strong stress component.

The basic idea with using mental imagery to abate cravings is to take the mental bandwidth you are using to imagine whatever you crave and use it for something else that equally vivid in terms of sight and smell.

Drawing from the research, here are 3 practical steps you can utilize to lessen cravings.

-Create a strong mental image of a place or an experience.

-Vividly identify specific sights and scents from this mental picture.

-At the onset of cravings, take at least one minute to draw upon this mental image and viscerally experience the sights and scents in the picture.

That’s basically it.

Let’s keep in mind that we are taking something that works in a lab and trying to apply it to real world situations. I think there is value in keeping track of how well this works so we will begin a forum on this topic and you can rate your experience if this technique is helpful or not. The real world user feedback will be of good value in seeing how well this translates from lab to life.