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M&M Tasting on Dr. Oz: Can mindful eating help habituation?

By Michelle May, M.D.

By Michelle May, M.D.

Mindful Eating Satisfies the Body and the Mind

Dr.OzDr.May031811-2 Can eating imaginary M&Ms® lead to eating fewer real M&Ms®? Yes, according to a study published in the December 2010 issue of Science called “Thought for Food: Imagined Consumption Reduces Actual Consumption.”

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.

Can You Think Yourself Skinny?

Dr. Oz, Dr. Michelle May (author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat) and Gary Wenk Ph.D. discussed the possible applications of this research in a segment called “Can You Think Yourself Skinny?” on the Dr. Oz Show on Monday, March 28, 2011. (Watch the videos: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3.)

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.

In the study, people who visualized themselves eating 30 M&Ms® or 30 cubes of cheese ate less of that food. We know that mind-body connection is very powerful; this study suggests that visualization facilitates the process of habituation to food.

Eating mindlessly decreases habituation

Brain scans show that certain areas of the brain “light up” with the first bite of chocolate. By the 20th bite, the response is markedly decreased. When you eat while you’re distracted, you’re not fully aware of the appearance, aromas, flavors, and textures of the food. Therefore, you may not habituate to it as you eat it or you may not notice that both your body and your brain have lost interest in the food. 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.

Eating mindfully may increase habituation

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 sooner.

The secret to eating what you love is to love what you eat!

So, what color is the “m” on an M&M®?


About the author

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yo-yo dieter and the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs and Training. She is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle , winner of seven publishing awards. She is also the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating, and Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Bariatric Surgery. Michelle shares her compelling message and constructive keynotes with audiences around the country, offers workplace wellness programs, and has trained and licensed hundreds of health professionals to facilitate Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs worldwide. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, the Discovery Health Channel, and Oprah Radio, and quoted in Diabetic Living, Fitness, Health, Huffington Post, Parents, Self, USA Weekend, US News & World Report, WebMD and many others. Her personal success story was published in Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul. Michelle cherishes her relationships with her husband, Owen and grown children, Tyler and Elyse. She regularly enjoys practicing yoga and hiking near her home in Phoenix, Arizona. She and Owen, a professional chef, share a passion for gourmet and healthful cooking, wine tasting, photography, and traveling.

One Comment

  1. Saw you on Dr. Oz this morning! Wonderful segment!

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