Green spaces, like gardens, parks or allotments, can help people overcome food cravings, new research finds.
People who experience natural spaces have reduced cravings for unhealthy foods.
Previous studies have also shown that exercising in nature reduces cravings of all different types.
The intense desire to eat certain foods can make weight loss very difficult.
Food cravings may account for up to 10 percent of eating behaviour, which is more than genetics can explain.
Ms Leanne Martin, the study’s first author, said:
“It has been known for some time that being outdoors in nature is linked to a person’s wellbeing.
But for there to be a similar association with cravings from simply being able to see green spaces adds a new dimension to previous research.
This is the first study to explore this idea, and it could have a range of implications for both public health and environmental protection programmes in the future.”
The conclusions come from a survey of 149 people who were asked about cravings they experienced, their feelings and exposure to nature.
The results showed that people regularly exposed to natural scenes experienced fewer food cravings and of a lower intensity.
Gardens, allotments, parks and green views in general were all associated with lower levels of cravings.
Dr Sabine Pahl, study co-author, said:
“Craving contributes to a variety of health-damaging behaviours such as smoking, excessive drinking and unhealthy eating.
In turn, these can contribute to some of the greatest global health challenges of our time, including cancer, obesity and diabetes.
Showing that lower craving is linked to more exposure to green spaces is a promising first step.
Future research should investigate if and how green spaces can be used to help people withstand problematic cravings, enabling them to better manage cessation attempts in the future.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Health & Place (Martin et al., 2019).