Focus on Unhealthy Foods Might Help Dieting, Study Suggests

It's a tough battle overcoming the bulge -- especially when you can't quite overcome the binge.

A new study published yesterday by the Journal of Consumer Research suggests that individuals trying to diet should pay attention to the unhealthy foods they eat, not the healthy stuff.

The idea: Humans can't solely rely on willpower to control their diet. "They also need to create situations that will make them lose interest in [unhealthy] food," study authors Joseph P. Redden and Kelly L. Haws write.

Studies showed that consumers who showed poor self-control when eating were satisfied sooner when they were asked to pay attention to what they were eating and how much.

That means if you drove to your nearest fast-food joint, picked up a double burger, large fries, and a soda and actually paid attention to how much of the meal you ate (instead of eating mindlessly in front of the computer or TV set), you'd stop eating sooner. That's not to say you'd had your fill, but rather that you know it's an unhealthy choice, so you choose to eat less of it.

In one of the studies, consumers chose between a healthy snack and an unhealthy snack. Of those who chose the unhealthy snack, some were asked to count the number of times they swallowed. The consumers who kept track of that number were satisfied sooner and therefore stopped eating.

The authors determined that "dieters should focus on the quantity of unhealthy foods but not the quantity of healthy foods. Monitoring healthy foods could actually be counterproductive to the goal of eating a healthier diet. So the secret to success is knowing when to monitor your eating."

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