Weight Loss

Brain Hacks That Let You Eat What You Want and Still Lose Weight

Banish temptations without depriving yourself.

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Wouldn’t it be so great to enjoy your favorite comfort foods without gaining an ounce? You can! With these proven tricks, you’ll never feel deprived.

Imagine eating more.

Folks who imagined tasting M&M’s for a few seconds before they started eating them ended up consuming about half the number as those who didn’t — without even realizing it! Carnegie Mellon University researchers say imagining a food before eating it hijacks neural pathways and tricks the brain into thinking you’ve already indulged! The secret: Don’t just call up an image of a treat; instead think about actually eating it, bite-for-bite, for at least five seconds before you enjoy the real thing.

Talk to yourself like this.

The next time you’re tempted to break your healthy-eating resolve, try this: Say your first name followed by the phrase “What do you want to eat?” People who tried this psychological trick — called “distanced self-talk”— made healthier food choices every time, say University of Michigan researchers. “Referring to yourself in the third person, like you’re talking to a friend, zooms you out of your immediate desires and lets you see the bigger picture,” says Tasha Holland-Kornegay, Ph.D., L.P.C., founder of WellnessIRL.com. That instantly breaks the spell of temptations, banishing cravings.

Fiddle with your phone.

Tempted by a treat? Call up Words with Friends on your phone. Recent British research found that those who played 3 minutes of a virtual game turned off cravings. Dr. Holland-Kornegay explains that games direct attention away from the region of the brain where cravings are registered, so we automatically forget all about the food. Bonus: Micro-moves made playing games boost calorie burn by 38 percent.

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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