Guided Imagery Reduces Food Cravings that Sabotage Weight Loss
Researchers from Plymouth University in the UK investigated whether brief guided imagery and body scanning exercises could reduce food cravings.
Elaborated Intrusion (EI) Theory proposes that cravings occur when involuntary thoughts about food are elaborated with affectively-charged imagery. It has been found that craving can be weakened or interrupted by working memory tasks that block the imagery or prevent the involuntary thoughts from being elaborated in the first place.
Research has found that imagery techniques such as body scanning and guided imagery can reduce the occurrence of food thoughts.
This study tested the prediction that body scanning and guided imagery can also reduce craving.
Investigators asked participants to abstain from food overnight, and then to carry out 10 minutes of body scanning, guided imagery, or a control mind-wandering task.
They rated their craving at 10 points during the task on a single item measure, and before and after the task, using the Craving Experience Questionnaire.
Findings showed that while craving rose during the task for the mind wandering group, neither the guided imagery nor body scanning group showed an increase.
These effects were not detected by the CEQ, suggesting that they are only present during the competing task.
As they require no devices or materials and are unobtrusive, brief guided imagery strategies might form useful components of a weight loss program that attempts to address cravings.
Citation: Hamilton J, Fawson S, May J, Andrade J, Kavanagh DJ. Brief guided imagery and body scanning interventions reduce food cravings. Appetite. 2013 Dec; 71: pages 158-62. doi: 10.1016 / j.appet. 2013.08.005. Epub 2013 Aug 17.