Washington: If a mouth-watering hamburger or a pizza is tempting you to break your diet, tell yourself that you will have it later, but don`t specify the time -- it may help you resist your temptation, scientists say.
Researchers at the Catolica-Lisbon School of Business and Economics in Portugal found that people who postpone a snack they crave actually desire it less and are able to delay
"It really keeps the temptation at arm`s length," study researcher Nicole Mead was quoted as saying by LiveScience. In their research, presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in San Diego, Mead and her colleagues found that this postponement strategy neither encourages guilt-ridden indulgence in an unhealthy treat nor does it encourage painful abstinence (which all too often leads to later bingeing).
In one experiment, the researchers provided volunteers, who were completing various tasks in the lab, with bowls of M&M candies. While some students were told to eat them if they wanted, some were told to avoid eating them, and a third group was told that they could eat the sweets later, if they felt like it.
At the end of the experiment, after the students could assume the researchers were no longer interested in them, the psychologists brought back the bowls. The students who had already snacked on the treats to their satisfaction ate 5.19 grams of the candies, while those who were deprived of them earlier went wild, eating 9.81 grams. In comparison, the postponement group ate 5.08 grams, the least of all three groups.
"Participants in the `don`t eat` condition ate practically double the amount of M&Ms" as those in the "wait until later" condition, Mead said. According to the researchers, their experiments had real-world implications. Participants who had been forbidden from eating chocolate at first in the experiment ate chocolate on average 4.48 times in the week following the experiment, and participants who had been able to eat M&Ms at will ate
chocolate 3.18 times on average in the next week.
But participants in the "wait until later" condition ate chocolate only 1.15 times, on average, over the next week. "What this means is that postponement has real
implications for everyday consumption," Mead said. "It encourages self-control."
Roy Baumeister, a psychologist at the Florida State University who was not involved in the study, said that most likely, postponing a treat until an unspecified later time
helps get people over the hump of strong temptation.
"You need the resistance at the moment of peak desire, then the peak desire moment passes," Baumeister said. However, it`s not clear whether using the postponement
strategy would work as a weight-loss method, Mead said, as focusing on the dieting aspect of postponement might, ironically, keep the temptation in your mind, where you have to fight it.