The Instagram Diet

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Who’s ready to lose some weight?

The food porn that currently occupies a good portion of your Instagram feed could be turning you off from the types of foods you’re observing, according to a recent study out of BYU that was published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

Research suggests that seeing photos of certain foods, as opposed to eating them, still gives you a feeling of satiation, which makes those foods less appealing when it actually comes time to chow down.

Here’s how the test was conducted: BYU professors Ryan Elder and Jeff Larson recruited 232 people to rate pictures of food. Half of the participants looked at (and rated) pictures of salty foods while the other half rated pictures of sweets. At the end of the rating period, all the participants were fed peanuts.

People who observed salty food the whole time weren’t so excited by the peanuts, even though peanuts never appeared in any of their salty food photos. Apparently, just seeing salty foods made those participants all salted out, satiated on the experience of saltiness without orally consuming any salt.

Luckily for foodies on Instagram, it takes more than a few pictures of a certain food to be satiated on it.

“You do have to look at a decent number of pictures to get these effects,” Elder said. “It’s not like if you look at something two or three times you’ll get that satiated effect.”

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So what do we do with this information?

Well, the way I see it, this is good news. If you think of humans in the context of all animals, with us simply residing at the top of the food chain, our relationship with food is pretty weird. Wild animals eat to survive, and if something tastes good, it’s simply an indication that their body can safely digest that food.

Meanwhile, we’re putting all kinds of crazy chemicals into processed foods that have now made the United States an embarrassingly overweight country. We gorge ourselves on delicious meals like it’s the last time we’ll ever see food, without the slightest consideration that we’ll eat again in a matter of hours.

If anything, our obsession with photographing food is just one more bit of proof that we should adjust our relationship with food. But perhaps this is evolution at play. The more we photograph food, and then stare at it, the less we want it, and eventually Instagram’s #foodporn hashtag will go down in medical journals as the beginning of a new obesity cure (but I doubt it).