Craving M&Ms? Tap Your Forehead


Thinking how many pounds that 12-oz bag of M&Ms is going to pad onto you may cause you to  reconsider.

That's what new research is saying, according to  Turns out the idea that the brain can control eating behavior, and considering the long-term consequences of your food choices may help control food cravings. Two research studies have showed the way you think about food can have an impact on appetite, and many others on the relationship between the brain and eating behavior.

Scientists at Brown University used functional MRI scans to watch participants' brains as they reviewed pictures of enticing foods, like pizza, French fries and ice cream. Through the scans researchers were able to evaluate different strategies to reduce the desire to eat. They found that thinking about the long-term negative impact of eating these foods may be an effective way to reduce appetite.

"We found that simply thinking in a different way affects how the brain responds to tempting food cues in individuals with obesity," newswise quotes study author Kathryn Demos, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the Miriam Hospital at Brown. "Through the MRI scans we identified that thinking about the long-term negative impact of eating unhealthy foods increased activity in a region of the brain involved in inhibitory control and self-regulation. Our results show the promising possibility that focusing on the long-term consequences of consuming unhealthy foods could help diminish cravings and, as a result, potentially enhance weight-loss efforts."

The strategy works off a similar and successful smoking-cessation treatment method, which researchers remodeled for obesity treatment.

 "We know that behavioral therapy is effective in helping people lose weight, but this study shows us a potentially promising new strategy to employ when working with patients," said Chris Ochner, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and incoming co-chair of TOS Public Affairs Committee. "There's a lot we can learn from studying the brain and human behavior, especially eating behavior, and we hope to see more research in this area so we can provide better treatment to people with obesity and overweight."

A second study shows that obese and overweight people can stop cravings by distracting themselves (taking a bath with a transistor radio, anyone?).  Here's what the study used: tapping one's own forehead and ear with an index finger, tapping one's toe on the floor, or a control task of staring at a blank wall.  Yeah, right.  But these techniques apparently all worked significantly to reduce the cravings.  (But it's the forehead tapping that does the trick.)

"We showed that even with a high BMI, distraction techniques, and even the control technique, helped reduce the intensity of participants' food cravings and the vividness of the image of their favorite foods," says study author Richard Weil, M.Ed. CDE, of Director of the Weight Loss Program at Mt Sinai St. Luke's Hospital in New York City.  "This reinforces the idea that it's possible to distract ourselves from craving even our favorite foods no matter how much we weigh, and this could be used as a weight-loss strategy."

I don't know about you but I think I'll use my old technique.  Walking away from the candy drawer when that desperation for M&Ms comes over me.  


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