Can You Trick Your Brain into Eating Less with Japan’s “Diet Goggles”?

  • Japan is a very communal country and as such, one of the things Japanese people avoid is sticking out. There is a strong pursuit to be “just like everyone else.” This kind of thinking can be seen even in the way they take care of their bodies. Asians are usually on the slimmer side, especially women, so there is often a societal pressure in Japan to maintain a certain weight. Still, every person’s body is different. Sometimes, people become heavier than the “usual” weight. In this case, they often turn to dieting.

    Being one of the leading countries when it comes to technology, Japan took dieting to a whole new level. They found a way to incorporate technology with dieting. Thus, the “diet goggles” were born.



    The desire to have a great body is something that is universal. This is one of the reasons why a lot of diet methods and fitness routines keep popping up all over the world. There are a lot of fad diets that come and go as well. For example, there is what we call the “one-food-type diet” wherein you only eat one kind of food during your diet. There was also a time when the “cabbage-only diet” and the “ramen-only diet” were popular. Crazier diets include the “water-only diet” and the “air-only diet” wherein you literally do not consume anything but air.

    While the abovementioned methods certainly help you lose weight fast, they are oftentimes not healthy because you cannot get the complete nutrition you need from eating just one type of food. There is also a higher risk of what we call the “yo-yo effect” in these types of diet. If you are not aware, yo-yo effect is a term coined by Kelly D. Brownell, an American expert on obesity. What it means is that even though a person is successful in losing weight in a short period of time, he or she will not be able to maintain that weight loss and will eventually gain it back. The yo-yo effect is particularly scary because in most cases, you do not only gain back the weight you lost, but you also tend to weigh even more than before you started the diet. Needless to say, such kinds of diets are not effective and they defeat the purpose of why you are dieting in the first place.

    One of the healthier options that nutritionists actually recommend is eating your usual meals but in smaller portions. However, just like with any diet, this method can be difficult, especially when you are just starting out. Luckily, Japan is a land of innovations. True to its name, it has invented a way to trick your brain into thinking you are eating more than you actually are. This invention is called the “diet goggles.”

    Diet Goggles


    Virtual reality headgears are getting popular these days. A team of Japanese scientists took it one step further and invented a VR system to hack your way into dieting. The team, headed by Michitaka Hirose (廣瀬通孝), a professor at the University of Tokyo, calls this VR system “Augmented Satiety.” It is commonly known, however, by the term “diet goggles.” Ultimately, what it does is it enables the wearer to see the food item larger than its actual size. This is all achieved through interactive computer graphic techniques.

    When you put it like that, the concept seems simple and you start to wonder why nobody ever thought of doing that before. However, it’s actually not that simple. The brain is a complex thing and for a machine to trick it, calculations should be perfect. For example, if the food item is too large in relation to the actual bite, the human brain will pick up on it. Also, any imbalance in the surrounding objects in relation to the food item will be noticed by your brain. Your brain has to believe that it’s real. Otherwise, it won’t work.

    To address these issues, the team made sure that the disparity between the enlarged food item and its actual size will not be too great. Also, the Augmented Satiety alters the angle of things in relation to the food item. This means that if you are holding the food item in your hand, the angle will be altered by the goggles so that even if the food item itself is enlarged, your hand still looks normal and does not look like a bloated balloon. Details like these are what make the VR system more complicated than just a glorified magnifier.

    Initial experiments using the diet goggles seem to be a success. In one particular experiment, they asked participants to eat Oreos while using the goggles. The participants were then instructed to eat until they felt like their stomachs were full. There were two parts to this experiment. The first part was when they made the Oreos look 50% bigger than it actually was. The second part was when they made the Oreos look two-thirds smaller. In the first part, participants ate 10% less, as opposed to the second part wherein the participants ate 15% more.

    There are, of course, some issues left to resolve for the VR system. As we have already established, the mind is a complex thing. Even though the experiments show that the brain can be tricked, there is no guarantee that you can continuously trick it for a long period of time enough for the diet to have any effects. Also, there is an issue about the person feeling full the moment he or she uses the diet goggles, but getting hungrier quicker because of the smaller portion.

    However, even with these questions and challenges, the idea of the diet goggles is something that we can actually see working as a great diet option as it is a lot healthier than a lot of existing fad diets. I have a firm belief that given more research and more experiments, the Augmented Satiety can be improved and can help a lot of people with their dieting concerns, especially those with more serious health issues such as obesity. Hopefully, the team does improve the diet goggles so that we can look forward to a healthier era.

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