I have a slight obsession with photographing my food, and now that habit — which so many friends and family members have told me is annoying — is being backed up by science!
New research published in the Journal of Consumer Marketing proves that photographing your food before digging in can actually boost your enjoyment of your food — at least when it comes to indulgent junk food. And this research claims to be the first of its kind in exploring the effects of consumer-generated images on the experience of consuming your food.
The researchers conducted a series of experiments. First, they gave participants slices of red velvet cake and some green salad, instructing some to photograph their food before eating it and allowing others to simply dig in. It turns out that when it came to the cake, photographing the decadent treat actually caused participants to rate it as more delicious when they actually ate it. However, their enjoyment of the healthy salad remained the same, regardless of whether or not they photographed it first.
Taking time to photograph your food causes "a momentary active delay in consumption, which increases the savoring associated with consumption of pleasurable (i.e., indulgent) foods," according to the study authors. Rather than just wolfing it down, you take time to appreciate your meal first.
So, if you're going to indulge in a decadent treat, take a picture. You'll enjoy it more.
The researchers' second study revealed that when it comes to our diets, the feeling that we're being a little bad ups our pleasure. It turns out that when researchers told participants that their cake was full of rich, less-healthy ingredients, such as cream cheese frosting, this actually boosted their perception of how pleasurable the eating experience was. Participants who were told their cake was made with healthy ingredients, like applesauce and egg whites, enjoyed it less.
But that doesn't mean the whole Instagram craze of photographing healthy foods like smoothie bowls, chia pudding and overnight oats is for nothing. It turns out that combing through others' photos of healthy foods, whether or not they were part of the recent paleo, pegan or clean living crazes, made study participants excited about eating healthy themselves. So the girl Instagramming her super greens smoothie may not be engaged in an entirely vain and self-centered activity after all — she could be inspiring others to get healthy as well.
The takeaway? Next time anyone calls me out for photographing my food (ahem, like my little brother did just yesterday when I photographed a delicious sandwich), I just hope they realize that I'm enjoying it more than them.
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