PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Losing weight is a tough challenge for many of us and that’s why a study done at Carnegie Mellon University is attracting a lot of attention.

Researchers believe they’ve found a way to help you eat less and it’s kind of surprising. It has to do with the power of the mind.

Typically, the more you think about a certain food, like pizza or maybe a steak, the more you’ll want to eat it. But CMU researchers found that if you think about food in a certain way, you’ll actually crave it less.

It’s difficult to resist your favorite foods, you’re tempted by the smell, in love with the taste; but whether it’s chocolate, ice cream or steak, what if we told you one way to avoid overindulging is to imagine that you’re already eating those foods, one bite at time.

Carey Morewedge, from CMU, was the lead researcher in a study that asked participants to imagine eating either cheese cubes or M&Ms, one a time.

One group was asked to imagine eating just three, the other group to imagine 30; and then they were given the opportunity to eat those foods.

“People who imagined eating 30 units of the food one at a time ate about between 40 and 50 percent less than people who imagined eating three units of the food,” said Morewedge.

Some researchers have theorized that just by imagining eating something bite by bite, your brain is releasing a chemical called dopamine, which can affect how hungry or satisfied you feel.

With the help of some of the staffers at KDKA, reporter David Highfield tried an unscientific version of the same study to get people’s reactions. Some of the group which imagined eating thirty M&Ms did seem to want less when they actually had a chance to eat them.

“I didn’t want to be a glut because I felt like I ate 30 before,” said KDKA-TV assignment editor Olga George. “So it didn’t make any sense for me eat all of this again.”

But the idea didn’t work for everyone.

“No, I actually wanted M&Ms,” said KDKA-TV graphic artist Jen Pasquarelli. “I wanted to eat more because I actually didn’t have any. I was just thinking about it.”

It worked in Morewedge’s study though. He says there are other better-known psychological tricks that are supposed to help you eat less.

First off, they say never eat in front of the television, whether it’s a snack or its dinner.

“People who watch television, or who are distracted while eating, tend to eat a lot more,” said Morewedge.

He says trading in a larger plate for a smaller one will help feel fuller. When it comes to liquids, drinking from a tall thin glass will make you feel like you’ve had more than a short wider glass.

But with so many people trying to lose weight, Morewedge’s study has attracted a lot of attention.

So will a “Think Your Way Thin” diet soon join all the other diet books out there? Morewedge says it is too soon for that, but he does believe what he’s discovered could help people.

“We think so, but we really need to more testing to find out how we can adapt it for the field and for people’s dieting needs,” said Morewedge.

The participants in the study didn’t know what this was really all about so it’s not clear if the effect will still work when people are aware of it.

He also says it doesn’t work if you switch foods. So, you can’t imagine eating M&Ms and think you’ll eat less cheese.

Carnegie Mellon University
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