Two Magic Words That Break Temptation

By Liz Vaccariello Apr 19, 2012

When it comes to losing weight and starting a healthier lifestyle, I’m a firm believer in little changes that make a big difference. It’s hard—perhaps impossible—to overhaul eating and exercise habits overnight (and have them stick weeks or months later) but making small tweaks one at a time seems more manageable.

That’s why I loved this neat little study recently published in the Journal of Consumer Research. The authors found that a tiny swap of words and thinking helps resist temptation better. You simply say “I don’t” instead of “I can’t.” Then “I can’t eat ice cream for dessert,” which implies deprivation, turns into “I don’t eat ice cream for dessert,” which helps you feel more in control of your decisions. Research shows diets and eating plans that are all about deprivation ultimately backfire, so next time temptation strikes, choosing a more empowered mindset may help.

1. Turn your fork upside down

Do you stab or scoop with your fork? Americans tend to scoop up food, which can promote mindless eating; British people, on the other hand, keep their forks turned down and stab food to pick it up.

2. Pace yourself

Are you always the first one done eating? Consider it a sign you’re chowing too quickly. Use your fellow diners to help set a pace—observe who is eating fastest and slowest, and aim to eat on par or slower than the slowest eater at the table.

3. Crunch an apple

One study found that eating an apple before lunch can cut how much you ultimately eat by 15 percent, thanks to its filling fiber preventing you from overeating. Another fiber-rich fruit, like pears or berries, should work as well.

4. Get smart about leftovers

One of the worst times for mindless eating is right after dinner—because it becomes part of the clean-up ritual. (You tell yourself, “If I take one more bite of this garlic bread, I don’t have to put it in container or throw it away.”) Downsize your cooking so you’re less tempted to pick at leftovers, or commit to packing up leftovers right away.

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