11/20/2012 10:39 am ET Updated Jan 20, 2013

TV and the Power of Suggestion

Have you ever noticed that you'll be going on your merry way, doing great on your new program, and BAM! Suddenly you're overcome with a food craving. Or you're starving an hour after eating?

It really irks me to be at the mercy of some undefined process occurring in my body -- which is exactly what a craving is. Have you also noticed that you seem to especially crave snacks when you're hanging out watching TV? I find it even more annoying when the process is started by something as unexpected as my television!

There are people who make a ton of money figuring out which ad campaigns will be effective -- discerning what chord a topic, image or sound will strike in you, the consumer. They evaluate how to present something without alienating a potential buyer, and how to do it so it leaves you feeling tantalized. Visual cues that look delicious or evoke warm and fuzzy memories are especially effective.

I'd never thought much about effective advertising and how it could compel me to do something until I went through a phase of watching more TV. I noticed that on the nights my television was on I tended to eat more, particularly later at night, and ate foods that were not consistent with how I wanted to eat.

So I began paying attention to what I was watching and what was happening during the advertisements. For the most part, the ads fell into one of three categories: pharmaceuticals, service, and, yes, you guessed it... food! And not fruits and vegetables either, but rich, fatty, sweet and salty, carb-laden, processed, fast foods.

These ads also caused me to be much more aware of the foods I don't normally eat, and often don't even have in the house. Because for me, out of sight really is out of mind, and until I am reminded of something, I don't think too much about it. However, if there are "teaser foods" like chocolate, cake, bread, or pretzels on the counter (or if I see pictures of them on TV), suddenly I can't live without something that I haven't had in ages! Sound familiar?

The power of suggestion is indeed powerful. And, in my opinion, it's rarely to our benefit. Think about it -- when you have a craving, is it for something healthy like apples or spinach, chicken or salmon? Not for me. I crave comfort foods... You know, the ones that often make us fatter.

This realization spurred a lot of thoughts about making lifestyle changes and the need to be conscious -- or even vigilant -- to be successful. The images we're bombarded with on a day-to-day basis can make it very difficult to remain faithful to our lifestyle plans.

Stay tuned, we will explore this in depth. In many interactions with my patients, I stress that ignorance is bliss but knowledge is power. Knowing where you fall on the spectrum involving your own growth and development can go a long way toward giving you control over your urges and be of enormous support in your quest to make positive lifestyle changes.

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