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Can Guided Imagery Interrupt Food Cravings?

09 Sep

Researchers from Plymouth University in the UK investigated whether guided imagery could interrupt food cravings.
 
Elaborated Intrusion Theory proposes that cravings occur when involuntary thoughts about food are elaborated and expanded upon in the mind.  A key part of this elaboration is affectively-charged imagery.  It is already understood that craving can be weakened by working memory tasks that block the imagery.
 
EI Theory predicts that cravings could also be reduced by preventing involuntary thoughts being elaborated in the first place. Imagery techniques such as body scanning and guided imagery should be able to reduce the occurrence of food thoughts.

This study tested the prediction that these techniques also reduce craving.  Participants were asked to abstain from food overnight, and then to carry out 10 min 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.
 
While craving rose during the task for the mind-wandering group, neither the guided imagery nor the body scanning group showed an increase. These effects were not detected by the CEQ, suggesting that they are only present during the competing task.
 
Investigators conclude that as these techniques require no devices nor materials and are unobtrusive, brief guided imagery strategies might form useful components of weight loss programs that attempt to address cravings.

Citation:  Hamilton J, Fawson S, May J, Andrade J, Kavanagh D. Brief guided imagery and body scanning interventions reduce food cravings. Appetite. 2013 Aug 17. pii: S0195-6663(13)00361-9. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2013.08.005. [Epub ahead of print]

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award