Less food for thought. Impact of attentional instructions on intrusive thoughts about snack foods.
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Intrusive thoughts about food may play a role in unhealthy eating behaviours. Food-related thoughts that capture attention can lead to craving and further intrusive thoughts (Kavanagh, Andrade, & May, 2005). We tested whether diverting attention to mental images or bodily sensations would reduce the incidence of intrusive thoughts about snack foods. In two experiments, participants reported their thoughts in response to probes during three 10min periods. In the Baseline and Post-task period, participants were asked to let their mind wander. In the middle, Experimental, period, participants followed mind wandering (Control), thought diversion, or Thought Suppression instructions. Self-directed or Guided Imagery, Mindfulness-based Body Scanning, and Thought Suppression all reduced the proportion of thoughts about food, compared to Baseline. Following Body Scanning and Thought Suppression, food thoughts returned to Baseline frequencies Post-task, rather than rebounding. There were no effects of the interventions upon craving, although overall, craving and thought frequency were correlated. Thought control tasks may help people to ignore thoughts about food and thereby reduce their temptation to snack.
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