Wednesday, May 20, 2009

How to Fight a Food Temptation

When it comes to dieting successfully, temptation may be a good thing.When we try to lose weight, the first thing we usually do is banish all those tempting, high-calorie foods we know will sabotage our diet. We make sure we have no ice cream, cookies, potato chips or doughnuts in the house to derail our weight loss. Now a study from Lessius Hogeschool in Antwerpen, Belgium concludes that keeping some sweet treats and savory snacks in the house could be a good way to build willpower, reports Reuters Health.

How? By challenging yourself to resist the temptation to eat the ice cream you know is in your freezer, you'll develop greater willpower to resist this and other temptations than if you ban all sweets and snack foods from your house. "The main message is that banishing food temptations may not be the best way to limit the amount eaten. Tempting foods can actually increase willpower," lead author Kelly Geyskens told Reuters Health.

She admits this is counterintuitive. After all, you can't eat the ice cream if you never brought it home and put it in your freezer. Instead, she insists we can learn to make the tempting food a trigger for self-control strategies. "When a new temptation situation subsequently arises, these activated strategies will be activated again and will be strengthened," Geyskens told Reuters Health.

The study: Female college students were recruited for three experiments in which they were tempted with forbidden food. In each study, the women were told that a candy manufacturer was doing consumer research. They were shown photos of candy--the food temptation--but obviously they couldn't eat it since it was only a photograph. In addition, some of the women were presented with a bowl of the candy pictured in the photo, but were specifically instructed not to eat it. Soon after that, they were given a bowl of M&Ms.

The results: The women who had been presented with the forbidden bowl of candy were more likely than those who'd merely seen pictures of that candy to exercise self-restraint around the M&Ms, reports Reuters Health.

The takeaway: Removing all tempting foods from your daily life may not be the most effective weight-loss solution. Otherwise, when food temptations arise, you may not have the willpower to resist because you will not have learned self-control.

The study findings were published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
--From the Editors at Netscape

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