VIRTUAL EATING — A Mind Game for Dieters & Neuroscientists

The following may seem seriously bizarre to the reader.

It would not be the first or even the last suggestions of mine that might fit into that category. But at the very least it will offer some insight into how the brain works.

I recall being fascinated by how contemporary brain scanning using MRIs and SPECT scans can depict certain neural activity during active processes. Most specifically, the fMRI of someone eating an apple can be visualized as engaging specific areas of the brain related to smell, taste, vision, memory, etc. The details are available on websites devoted to such studies.

What fascinated me even more was what occurred when we dont' actually eat another apple, merely think about it—the scans are identical ! In other words on some basic neurological level, our brains cannot distinguish reality from fantasy. Of course the pornography industry has capitalized on this truth for millennia.

So here's where virtual eating comes in.

Think about one of your favorite foods and fantasize that you are eating it right now. Try to see, smell, taste each bite full. Isn't it good? Aren't you surprised that you can actually enjoy the flavor? I know I can.

Can you satisfy your appetite in some manner by virtual eatingversus real eating? Can this be a dieter's tool to weight loss?

Crazy you say. It only makes you want to eat that particular food more, you say.

I'm not so sure. I can actually feel satisfied, to some extent by this thought experiment. Granted this will not allow any of us to not eat at all…..duh!

What I suggest is that we attempt to apply virtual eating to the world of snacking, noshing, grabbing at food because we are bored, stressed, it looks tempting, it is present before us.

Give it a try.  You have nothing to lose but a few pound and perhaps much to gain–some insight into how how brains actually work.

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