Controlling Your Cravings without Self-Control

Dieters who have trouble controlling those dessert cravings may find that paying careful attention to every decadent forkful (or spoonful) may help, suggests a new study published online in the Journal of Consumer Research.

The study included a series of tests that focused on how our self-control influences what we eat. Here’s the abstract.

In one test, the researchers found that people who have more self-control eat less sugary foods because they get satisfied on the sweet foods faster. Based on a questionnaire, participants were categorized into having high or low self-control.

For this study, almost 200 participants chose from either peanuts or raisins – the healthy snacks – or M&Ms or Skittles. They rated how much they liked their first bite and then ate as much as they wanted while watching a video. At the end, they again rated how much they liked what they were eating.

The candy eaters with a lot of self-control reported they were less likely to want to eat more of the sweets the next day. And while they liked the candy after that first bite, their enjoyment faded relatively fast after eating them for a while, whereas the healthy snackers liked their raisins and peanuts about the same.

For the participants with low self-control, how much they enjoyed the snack was about the same whether they were eating the healthy or unhealthy foods.

In another test, the authors tested their hypothesis that paying more attention to eating foods will increase a person’s satisfaction with the food.

The authors asked 465 participants to chose either cereal/granola bars or candy for a snack. Some people were asked to count how many times they swallowed every 90 seconds while they ate (and listened to nature sounds). After rating how much they liked the snack both before and after the test, the candy eaters who counted the number of times they swallowed reported they were satisfied more quickly whether they had low or high self-control.

Monitoring how much you eat was also one of the seven habits followed by a group of people who lost weight and maintained that weight loss.

Don’t have much self-control? What are some habits you’ve found to help you eat healthier?


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