19/02/2016 9:41 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

The Unwanted Side Effects Of Viewing 'Food Porn'

I was surprised when I came across some research recently which suggested that 'food porn', as it is known by foodies, may contribute to weight gain.

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fresh salmon fillet with fresh healthy herbs,vegetables, oil and spices on rustic wooden background, top view

Since joining the world of blogging and social media, I too have joined the legions of others who take a photograph of my meals before tucking in. For my non-foodie friends, I know that the custom seems a little strange, but for those of you who can lose an hour flicking through hundreds of photographs of cup cakes on Instagram, I know that you understand exactly what I mean.

I have to admit that it didn't come naturally, but like any addiction, my passion for finding the perfectly photographed ancient grain salad has grown.

So I was surprised when I came across some research recently which suggested that 'food porn', as it is known by foodies, may contribute to weight gain.

When I started investigating the theory, I found that there's actually been a significant amount of research on the topic. There seems to be two key factors that we need to be aware of:

Viewing porn changes your expectations of reality

We all know that women don't wake up in the morning looking like the pictures that we see in magazines (porn or otherwise!), but the more frequently we look at those pictures, the more our belief about what's 'normal' changes.

There's also strong research to show that we are likely to look more and more like our best friends: if you're spending time with girls wearing 'active wear' and drinking green smoothies, you're likely to adopt the same lifestyle. Conversely, if your friends are more into trackies and potato chips, you'll likely be walking down the street in trackies and moccasins in no time.

Similarly, the research suggests that looking at gorgeous pictures of restaurant-quality gnocchi or lamb noisette will only make us start to believe that if our meals don't look Insta-worthy then they're not good enough. Does this perpetuate our belief that throwing together some meat and three veg, as our mother's did after a long day at work, is no longer enough?

According to the latest research, it seems that this is the case. And, it doesn't just stop with Instagram. Other forms of gastroporn such as cookbooks and cooking shows are also to blame. Sadly, one survey of women which was published last year found a clear correlation between watching cooking shows and having a higher BMI.

Porn makes you want what isn't yours

Advertisers have known for decades that watching someone bite into a succulent burger makes viewers more likely to order a burger at their next opportunity. So, what do you think gazing at images of waffles dripping with chocolate fudge and sprinkled with castor sugar does for you? Are we really going to be satisfied by an apple after looking at that?

Food porn can be used for good

However, I was relieved to find (and I'm sure that you will be, too), that it's not all bad news. Just as food porn can change your expectations of reality and make you want what isn't yours, pictures of healthy foods can do that too.

Now this doesn't mean photos of chocolate-dipped strawberries or Masterchef-worthy beetroot squid, but good ol' basic foods that you can realistically prepare yourself.

I'm going to make a concerted effort to take more photos of my Thursday-night stir fry, and fewer of my Friday-night chef-prepared treat.