The Telegraph today carries an article promising that you can “Think yourself thinner with the fantasy diet“.
To the article’s credit, at least it’s not just someone flogging a diet (this time). This report is about a study, recently published in Science, which showed that people who imagined eating M&Ms repetitively ate fewer M&Ms at the end of the study than people who imagined simply moving the M&Ms or putting coins in a washing machine.
So far, so interesting. But is it a diet?
When people were asked to imagine eating M&Ms but were given pieces of cheese, thinking about food didn’t have any statistically significant effect on their appetite. You need to be thinking very hard, and very specifically, about the food that you’re about to eat. Even when it did have an effect, we’re talking about handfuls of M&Ms. As Dr Carey Morewedge, study leader, says:
I do not want to blow out of proportion the efficacy of the imagery induction, as [the 50% drop] meant that participants tended to eat 2-6 grams of candy when they imagined eating the food or cheese rather than 4-12 grams of candy or cheese.
I’m not sure how much weight you’d loose by cutting your M&M consumption by 2 to 6 grams per day, but I don’t think it would be very much.