The conventional approach to mindful eating is developing the willpower to focus on low calorie, low fat foods. But a new study suggests that a fixation on healthy foods may be counterproductive to losing weight. Researchers have found that paying more attention to the unhealthy foods you eat could bring better results.
Mindful eating in reverse
Cutting calories with a healthy diet that requires concentrating on nutritious foods that are low in calories and fat can seem like an overwhelming amount of work. The occasional indulgence in junk food and desserts can trigger distressing bouts of self-loathing. However, new research suggests that straying from the weight loss path on occasion can actually be a good thing. It’s all in how you look at it.
In a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, Joseph P. Redden of the University of Minnesota and Kelly L. Haws of Texas A&M University wanted to learn reasons why some dieters exercise strong self-control and others can’t seem to resist high fat, high calorie foods.
A trick for self-control
In a series of psychological experiments, Redden and Haws found that successful dieters eat fewer unhealthy foods because they are satisfied more easily. They also discovered a trick to help dieters lacking self control feel more satisfied: concentrating more on the unhealthy foods they ate made them feel fuller sooner.
For example, in one experiment researchers identified participants as either having self-control when dieting, or lacking it. They were given a snack and some of the participants were asked to count how many times they swallowed as they ate. Those who counted their swallows were satisfied more quickly, even if it had been determined that they lack self-control.
By simply thinking about how much they ate, bite-by-bite, the dieters seemed to discover their inner self-control. This led Redden and Haws to conclude that dieters could be better off with a tighter focus when they eat unhealthy foods, while relaxing when they eat healthy foods to enjoy them more.
Secret to dieting success?
In a statement, they said, “Although self-control is typically viewed as a battle between willpower and desire, consumers can’t rely entirely on willpower to control their eating. They also need to create situations that will make them lose interest in food. One way is to keep better track of the quantity of unhealthy foods they eat.”
Could simply knowing when to pay more attention to what you’re eating be the secret to dieting success? It’s a mindful eating experiment you can easily conduct on yourself with your next dessert.