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The Imagination Diet
December 13, 2010 3:07 PM   Subscribe


 
All right, now I'm hungry.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:11 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have this theory that some company will come up with virtual food soon--a way to mimic the eating experience through external sensory stimulation. I wish I knew which company because I'd buy stock now and retire a bazillionaire.
posted by Go Banana at 3:15 PM on December 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


This article just makes me think about Rufio from Hook. Clearly he was on to something.
posted by Zophi at 3:16 PM on December 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yeah, there is no part of "imagine yourself eating bite after bite of a chocolate sundae" that doesn't end in me wanting to eat a chocolate sundae.
posted by phunniemee at 3:16 PM on December 13, 2010 [9 favorites]


To Kill Less, Imagine Killing More.

Someone get the ESRB on the phone!
posted by CynicalKnight at 3:19 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think it's best to have the intended fare in front of you before you begin imagining.
posted by morganannie at 3:19 PM on December 13, 2010


It definitely works for me. If I just start eating dessert without thinking, I will eat A LOT. If I consider first how I might feel afterward, I eat less or pass it up completely. Interesting study.

Shrug.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:26 PM on December 13, 2010


Sounds like one of those things that might work for some and not others. Adjust accordingly.
posted by nomadicink at 3:32 PM on December 13, 2010


Still waiting for the gum-until they work out all the kinks. Violet! You're turning violet, violet!
posted by raztaj at 3:32 PM on December 13, 2010


i'm dubious of the test subjects... when told they could eat their fill of m+m's, one control group ate three, and the other ate five. are they serious??!!

what about the folks that ate thirty or fify or the whole bowl? at least a giant handful. these are m+m's in front of undergrads, right?
posted by rude.boy at 3:43 PM on December 13, 2010 [10 favorites]


I had a friend that used to do something like that.

She had an eating disorder.
posted by jenlovesponies at 3:45 PM on December 13, 2010 [12 favorites]


Is the corollary true? If I think about sex less - will I get more in real life? Cause that would be awesomeness. Problem is, there is no man on this planet who is not constantly thinking about sex. And I mean, constantly. That's why I'm not getting any - right?
posted by helmutdog at 3:50 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm on a new diet that's going viral. Influenza. It works. Really, really well.
posted by Humanzee at 3:53 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've tried this: "This bowl of lettuce is actually FOOD! Lots and lots of FOOD! Look how high the lettuceFOOD is piled! So high!"
posted by DU at 4:06 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have this theory that some company will come up with virtual food soon--a way to mimic the eating experience through external sensory stimulation. I wish I knew which company because I'd buy stock now and retire a bazillionaire.

Been done*. It's called the Food Network. Its owner, Scripps Network International (SNI), is traded on the NYSE.

---------------
* Maybe soon appearing in 3D in your den. Smellovision seems ridicullus, but at least plausible. Tastovision is probably a pipedream (short of neural implants -- or even WiFi neural implants -- you're stuck with some sensory receptors that require inputs that are much more visceral than smell (a bunch of teeny-tiny molecules of various chemicals wafting into your nose) and light (beams of visible ELM radiation bouncing into your eyes) or sound (see light)).
posted by notyou at 4:30 PM on December 13, 2010


I really appreciate this theory. When the wife and I first saw it on a "news program" on TV, we burst out laughing. Now whenever it's time for dinner I say something like, "Imagine me making salmon en papillote with scalloped potatoes and a fine frisee salad. Now imagine it 30 times."

And she says,"So what are you making?"

And I'm like, "Fried bread."

And we laugh and laugh and laugh.

The tears moisten the fried bread, it's tasty. Really.
posted by Splunge at 4:38 PM on December 13, 2010 [20 favorites]


Fried bread sounds good right now.
posted by me & my monkey at 4:57 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, good. I do just love to see LiveJournal-style, pro-ana thinspo validated and promoted for a wider audience.

I've done this: you chew some sugar-free gum and think about a pizza. I'd venture that a significant number of anorexics do this on a regular basis; I certainly did, and, on bad days, I sometimes still do.

The mechanism by which this "works" or does not "work" is, I suppose, interesting and worthy of study (similar to the way I might somewhat-grudgingly acknowledge that understanding the mechanism by which some people turn out gay—even knowing that some will use that information to investigate "treatments" for the "condition"—is, in and of itself, interesting and worthy of study). It may even be of use for otherwise mentally- and physically-healthy individuals with a propensity for "overeating," but casually promoting it as a potentially-legitimate approach to weight loss (when weight loss itself is so frequently billed as nearly the be-all and end-all of "healthy living") sends a pretty damaging message to a small but incredibly vulnerable segment of the population, and I find it troubling.

I'm generally leery of labeling things "triggering," but there really are people out there who are going to take this to a seriously bad place, and that makes me quite sad. I don't know what there is to do about it, if anything.
posted by wreckingball at 5:16 PM on December 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


to eat nothing, imagine eating everything.
posted by boo_radley at 5:27 PM on December 13, 2010


(Oh, and I just want to clarify that I don't mean to "call out" the FPP, the study, or even the linked-to article—I'm responding more to the way I've seen this story enthusiastically disseminated on various social platforms today).
posted by wreckingball at 5:28 PM on December 13, 2010


To eat less, eat less.
posted by killdevil at 5:47 PM on December 13, 2010


I did a variation on this in high school where I thought about sex constantly and never got any
posted by Greg Nog at 5:56 PM on December 13, 2010 [16 favorites]


Greg Nog, I have seen this done before, but until now I really never understood it. To wit: If I could favorite that last comment a thousand times, I would. I bow to you.
posted by Splunge at 6:08 PM on December 13, 2010


Reappraisal almost always works better than suppression. There are pretty profound individual differences, however, in whether thinking more about eating leads to impulsive eating behavior.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 6:10 PM on December 13, 2010


I had a friend that used to do something like that.

She had an eating disorder.


Since we basically live in a zoo of our own creation, where we're fed not based on our fitness and capacity, but rather in an exchange for meaningless pieces of green paper, we more or less all have eating disorders.

Eating the proper amount is a purely abstract exercise that requires willpower and discipline. We're a weird species that way.

Don't poop all over techniques that might help people who struggle with that reality.
posted by silentpundit at 6:57 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would not "poop" all over a reasonable technique. But I have common sense. As do all of us. According to the rules, one must think about eating a food in small bites, 30 times. And then, some of the people find that their cravings are somewhat reduced.

How about a real life example outside of the clinical setting? How about more research? How about larger sample and longer studies?

How about not jumping on the first magick bandwagon that tells you that your eating disorder can be fixed with an new and improved eating disorder?

Meanwhile I'll snark with the best of them. Crap is still crap. Even if it's imagined crap after an imagined meal.
posted by Splunge at 7:11 PM on December 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


As someone who's conquered an eating disorder, and done it with methods easily as silly if not sillier than the one suggested by the study, I think the two idioms that apply best here are: 'habits are only replaced by other habits,' and, 'whatever works, works.'

Obviously there's no magical cure for compulsive behaviors, but they are a lot easier to cure than most people think. Feeling powerless to change is chiefly the only barrier standing in anyone's way. And if even one person was given the confidence to make the effort by reading this article, I have no idea how that could possibly be a bad thing.
posted by silentpundit at 8:02 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I thought about this post as I ate a chocolate truffle.
posted by jasperella at 8:05 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


As someone who lived with a person that had (or thought she had) an eating disorder, I will counter your anecdata with mine. Her issue was being short and chubby. She was neither obese nor on her way to obesity. She was what I would consider a lovely woman. A lovely, short, chubby goddess. But she thought that she needed a way of losing weight. So she went to Weight Watchers. And she even went to a 12 step program that was supposed to make her slim and trim. And I went with her. I ate what she ate. At one point we were eating a completely Vegan macrobiotic diet.

I got thinner. At one point I was six feet tall and 190 pounds, which for me was damn skinny.

She never lost more than a couple of pounds. We would go to meeting with quinoa and a a couple of baked potatoes for lunch. And we listened to people talk abiut food like it was a heroin addiction.

Food and food intake are serious business. For some people.

Most don't have a problem with it. The ones that do are ripe for plucking by people that want to sell books and systems. When I see it i call bullshit. Prove me wrong.
posted by Splunge at 8:56 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I tried this with cigarettes but it turns out I'm not that stupid.
posted by fshgrl at 9:11 PM on December 13, 2010


Most don't have a problem with it. The ones that do are ripe for plucking by people that want to sell books and systems. When I see it i call bullshit. Prove me wrong.

Well, for one thing, this article was free.

For another thing, ...wait, I don't need another thing.

This article was free.
posted by silentpundit at 9:32 PM on December 13, 2010


I'm with rude.boy - very sceptical. Who the hell eats 3 (or 5) M&Ms? The difference between the subject and control group (2 M&Ms) is nothing compared to the difference between both groups and a standard packet of M&Ms (20-30?) I suspect the real effect here is the subjects know they're being observed and their M&Ms are being counted, so they're not taking that many. Maybe the ones visualizing M&Ms are more self-aware of the observation and eat less. But whatever is causing them to eat less than a handful is the significant effect here, not the visualization.
posted by zanni at 1:26 AM on December 14, 2010


Go Banana: "I have this theory that some company will come up with virtual food soon--a way to mimic the eating experience through external sensory stimulation."

They had that in The Matrix, only Cypher was too stupid to use a food sim program to get him by between eating bowls of goop while aboard the Nebuchadnezzar; instead he eats a steak and smokes a big cigar inside the Matrix knowing that it's just code and longs to not know they aren't real.

Whiner.
posted by bwg at 2:32 AM on December 14, 2010


Er ... Cypher was the whiner, not you, Go Banana.
posted by bwg at 2:33 AM on December 14, 2010


My office has an annual xmas charity bake sale going on all month.
This will not end well. be delicious!
posted by Theta States at 7:58 AM on December 14, 2010


...everyone was allowed to eat their fill from a bowl of M&Ms. Those who'd envisioned eating more candy ate about three M&Ms on average ... whereas the others ate about five M&Ms...

I would rather be fat that be a person who, when told to eat their fill of M&Ms, takes but 3. That's just not right.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 8:01 AM on December 14, 2010


Eating one or two M&Ms gives you a bit of chocolatey taste, so that's nice. But what I REALLY like is eating a single gigantic handful all in one bite. Just filling my damn mouth with them, then chomping down. Witness! the shells shatter under your teeth with the pleasing texture of a crab exploding! the chocolate aroma suddenly fills each tiny crevice of the mouth! After a few seconds, the sugar and chocolate begin to melt together into a sweet gooey saliva-covered bolus, rolling around over the tongue, inside the cheeks, slowly disintegrating. And then one gulps it down, and one thinks, "Well! That was an adventure!" and one is so overwhelmed by that sensory experience that one desires no more M&Ms. That's my favorite way to eat M&Ms, no foolin'.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:19 AM on December 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


I suspect the real effect here is the subjects know they're being observed and their M&Ms are being counted, so they're not taking that many. Maybe the ones visualizing M&Ms are more self-aware of the observation and eat less. But whatever is causing them to eat less than a handful is the significant effect here, not the visualization.

Of course the fact that they know they are being observed affects what the groups will do. But that knowledge affects both groups equally. Your "maybe the ones visualizing M&Ms are more self-aware of the observation" statement seems unfounded.

whatever is causing them to eat less than a handful is the significant effect here

No, the (very) significant effect is the difference between the two groups.

Is the corollary true? If I think about sex less - will I get more in real life?

I think the corollary would be that if you don't think about sex much, you will masturbate more. Dunno.

Since we basically live in a zoo of our own creation, where we're fed not based on our fitness and capacity, but rather in an exchange for meaningless pieces of green paper, we more or less all have eating disorders.

I think I (basically) agree. There's no real line between "eating order" and "eating disorder" -- like sexuality, we're all along a scale. And most of us are somewhere in between. A lot of us have "eating disorders" some of the time, and I think one of the most common is overeating. It's in our nature.

I found comfort and tactical advice in this research. And I specifically tried it last night. My wife bought a canister of See's Toffee-ettes for a kids' fundraiser at work last week. Unfortunately, she isn't eating any! So I often find myself eating a few after dinner each night. If I'm not paying attention to what I'm doing, I might have 4 or 5 ... or 7 or 8.

These things are delicious, yes, but they are also 90 calories a pop, most of which comes from fat and sugar. 720 calories of toffee isn't good for me or my belly (or my spleen or my liver).

So last night, after dinner, I was stuck cleaning up the kitchen and making my daughter's lunch for today, and once again presented with a (quarter full) canister of Toffee-ettes. I took one out, looked at it for a few good seconds and imagined what it would feel like to eat 8 of them. Then I ate the one.

I won't lie. When I was finished I wanted another. But there was also a different feeling, something that triggered the visualization I had practiced before eating the candy. So I visualized again what it would feel like to eat 8 of them. And then I didn't.

I think there's two things at play in this behavior:

1) The vicarious thrill of imagination
2) The visualization of excess.

I suspect the effect might be most effective if one visualizes eating to excess, not just to satiety, so that you get the positive reward (from imagining pleasure) and the negative feedback ("oh, my stomach would hurt if I hate all that") as well.

It's fascinating to me and a good piece of self knowledge. Thanks for the post.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:30 AM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


But what I REALLY like is eating a single gigantic handful all in one bite.

That would be my approach with jelly beans. 10-12 at once is ideal.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:53 AM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


"There's a lot to be said for the pleasures of the imagination; the brain is wider than the sky. But the central notion here is to imagine the stimulation of eating something you crave and thus, essentially, becoming bored with it before you take an actual bite. If it can be codified into an effective technique, more power to the people who use it well. But I can't get past the idea that what you're actually doing is curbing your desire without any of the pleasure of satisfaction.

Despite the fact that my doctor actually called me the other day to say that my cholesterol made him sad, I detest our culture of dieting. For every grapefruit miracle in the world there are 50 million stressed-out, disappointed yo-yo dieters, and I can't help thinking that's because our fundamental diet framework is about denying ourselves, trying to live virtuously without pleasure. What if we turned it around and decided to really indulge in our pleasure? To not gorge ourselves whenever we want something, but to eat smartly, in physical moderation, but to also really give our brains over to the senses and the experience of eating? You wouldn't need a ton of food if you chewed slowly, considering and truly savoring each bite. You might even find yourself habituating ... the real way."


The next diet fad: Imagine yourself pigging out - Salon
posted by mrgrimm at 10:06 AM on December 15, 2010


I can't get past the idea that what you're actually doing is curbing your desire without any of the pleasure of satisfaction.

I would question that "desire."
posted by mrgrimm at 9:46 AM on December 16, 2010


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