Dr. May on Dr. Oz – Exploring the Power of the Mind

By Michelle May, M.D.

Mindful Eating Satisfies the Body and the Mind

Can eating imaginary M&Ms® lead to eating fewer real M&Ms®?

Dr_OzDr_May031811-2Yes, according to a study published in the December 2010 issue of Science. (Dr. Oz, Dr. Michelle May, and Gary Wenk Ph.D. discuss the possible applications of this research on the Dr. Oz Show.) The study hypothesized that visualization allowed subjects to habituate to (lose interest in) eating the candy, and therefore eat less when they ate the real ones.

Thought for Food

We’re bombarded with information from both the environment and our internal state. Habituation allows us to tune out unimportant stimuli when the novelty wears off so we’re not constantly overwhelmed. For example, you may notice the sound of a fan when you initially walk into a room, but soon it becomes nonexistent.

When you eat while you’re distracted, you may not habituate to the food as you eat it. Instead, your hand may continue to move to your mouth automatically and unconsciously. At the end of eating, you’ll feel stuffed but strangely unsatisfied. In the study, people who visualized themselves eating 30 M&Ms® or 30 cubes of cheese ate less of that food.

Even if you’re not willing to eat 30 imaginary M&Ms® first, by eating each of the real ones mindfully – with attention to the appearance, the aromas, the textures, the flavors, even the movement of your hand – your brain can take in the information and feel satiated.

We call that eating what you love, and loving what you eat!

Photo credit: Dr. Oz show/Sony Pictures Television