Overweight? This could be why...

Oh no: Bad news for anyone who loves food! You know the feeling that you get when you see something delicious on the television? Whether it’s an ad for chocolate, an incredible sizzling fish dish on MasterChef or gourmet treats on My Kitchen Rules, it gets your mouth watering just a little, it makes you hungry and you start to question whether you can already taste that food.

There’s been myths around food cravings for years however this one was just proven true – people who have higher vivid imagery in their thoughts are more likely to have a higher BMI.

It’s not clear exactly why this effect occurs, but it could be that vivid thoughts increase our cravings for food, and subsequently our consumption of them.

And how vividly we conjure up the smell of these foods in our minds could influence how much we weigh, according to a new study.

Over two separate trials, researchers found that the stronger a person’s mental imagery of food odours, the higher their body mass index (BMI).

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“Mental imagery is an important factor in eliciting and maintaining craving,” said the researchers, from Yale University School of Medicine.

“Since food cravings occur more often in obese than normal weight individuals, we reasoned that ability to image might promote cravings and therefore be associated with BMI. Supporting this possibility, we found that in two independent samples, participants with higher BMI reported greater perceived ability to image”.

Experts believe vivid thoughts increase our cravings for food, and subsequently our consumption of them.

“As predicted, correlation analyses revealed positive associations between BMI and perceived ability to image odours and foods, but not visual objects,” the researchers said.

They then carried out a further study, with another 57 participants, which achieved the same results.

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They then said, “These results raise the possibility that imagery ability may play a role in the heightened food cue reactivity observed in obese individuals”.

So going forward, the way we actually think about food is likely to play a much larger role in our fight with our waistlines. But how can we at least avoid temptation when we have such strong cravings?

You can try eating something that is known to reduce the craving – but that isn’t overloaded with sugar, salt or unhealthy fats. Think of it as a craving substitute!

  • Sweet drinks – squeeze some fresh citrus (lemon, lime or orange) into a glass of water and add a couple of slices. get the sweet taste without the nasty sugars. If it’s bubbles you’re craving, have soda water or sparkling mineral water instead.
  • Sweet snacks – try a handful of nuts with a little fruit. Strawberries are great for fixing a sweet tooth and so (surprisingly) are apples.
  • Salty chips – if you’re hungry for chips try swapping a bag for two rice crackers with a little avocado and tomato on top. You get more flavour and you’ll feel much fuller.
  • Ice-cream – if you’re an ice cream lover, swap it for some natural greek yoghurt and sweeten it with a teaspoon of honey and crumbled nuts or fruit on top.

So tell us, do you get cravings? How do you manage them? Do you have any tips and tricks to share with the community?