What you need to know:
- When it comes to foods that can quickly dissolve your willpower and make a stack up your calories, one irresistible treat rules them all: chocolate.
I hail from a country that eats, on average, 11kg of chocolate a year (one of the highest rates in the world) and even though I know that this particular combination of fat and sugar isn’t good for me, most dieters that I see face the same difficult task of curbing their cravings. But is there really an easy way to do this?
I say easy way, because we’ve all tried the opposite: quit cold turkey in a bid to help our weight-loss efforts – but to no avail.
So I found the work of Boston University Professor, Carey Morewedge, very interesting indeed. His research appeared to show that repeatedly imagining indulging in a particular treat actually reduces your desire for it. This is the exact opposite of most dieters try to do: to try and stop thinking about their forbidden foods.
Of the many studies that have been carried out to test this hypothesis, one involved 200 chocolate-loving Brits, who were split into two groups. The first one was asked to imagine eating 30 chocolates, one at a time. They weren’t allowed to mentally stuff the chocolate into their mouths, but had to think about eating each one slowly. As you can imagine, this took quite some time. The second group faced the same task, but rather than imagining eating 30 chocolates, they just had to eat just three.
After they were done, all 200 of them were asked to fill out a questionnaire, in order to fool them into thinking that this was the purpose of the experiment. However, it was the chocolate these groups ate afterwards that the researchers were interested in. Turns out that the group that thought about the 30 chocolates actually ate 37 percent less chocolate than the group that imagined just three.
What’s more, when the experiment was continued on the subjects at home (without them knowing they were being monitored), many of the 30-chocolate group found that they had fewer cravings than the other group.
While this clearly has implications for other cravings and possibly even addictions, for chocolate at least, it seems like a good place for dieters to start. Every time you have a craving, you just think about having that treat 30 times. It’s what Prof Morewedge call habituation. The more you think about (tasting, chewing, swallowing), the less appealing it becomes.
Something I’ll definitely be trying the next time I have a craving.
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