Is Food Porn Derailing Your Healthy Eating Efforts?

Last week, I made a very colorful, delicious salad then took a picture of it and posted it on Facebook.  And then, because I liked the picture so much, I made it the wallpaper on my computer.  Over the next few days, I noticed that the more I saw the picture, which by the way looks awesome on a 15-inch screen, the more I focused on eating healthy.  The fresh garden tomatoes, the chunks of red pepper and avocado all felt appetizing and almost made me feel as if I was doing something good for myself.   In a way, I was, because I ate more salad last week than I had all summer!

Yesterday, I knew I was on to something when I picked up the September issue of Women’s Health Magazine and found an article entitled, The Food Porn Problem.    The article explains how the growing obsession with looking at images of sinfully seductive dishes not only make us hungrier, they can cause us to overeat, even hours later.

A study in the journal Neuroscience found that viewing images of delicious food lit up the reward centers of the brain and caused overeating and a study in the journal Obesity found that seeing food caused an increase in the levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, even if someone had just eaten.   And a study in the journal Appetite found that dieters were more susceptible to overeating in response to seeing food on TV  than non-dieters.   Yet another reason why diets don’t work!

I know I never pass up the opportunity to eyeball a gooey fudge brownie sundae or a crispy, creamy forkful of something comforting.  And I’m not alone because food pictures are surpassing clothing and style re-pins by 50% on Pinterest and some food blogs have eliminated recipes altogether in favor of decadent close-ups.

If you suspect that even the sight of food is having an impact on your eating habits, here are some ways to weaken your brain’s response to food:

1.  Shift your focus – rather than focus on food, get in the habit of viewing images of beauty – like your favorite places to visit, style, interior design, etc.

2.  Exercise – regular physical activity is believed to dampen the brain’s reward center so that you’ll have less of a desire to look for food.

3.  Get plenty of sleep – when you’re sleep deprived, you’re more susceptible to the temptations brought on by the images of food.

4.  Cook more – getting into the habit of cooking will provide a multi-sensory experience around food that can result in smaller portions and fewer calories eaten.

And if you must look at images of food, the next time you make a pretty salad, take a picture and pin it up somewhere, like your computer screen, to encourage you to eat healthy… : )

Source:  Women’s Health Magazine, September 2012