Turns out, the carrot really is key to eating less and losing weight. Not that carrot; the metaphorical one. Science once again confirmed we’re far more motivated by rewards than punishments.
This is illustrated by the humble Happy Meal, researchers found. Though people have complained about McDonald’s contribution to obesity, it turns out they might be onto something slimming.
More than three-quarters of sixth-graders chose to pass up a full-size sandwich in favor of a half-sandwich and a pair of earbuds in one experiment in a series conducted by researchers from the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management and University of Southern California. And a non-food reward got adults to cut calories too.
University students and staff members also proved significantly more likely to choose a modest meal when there was a “prize” involved. In fact, this worked even when there was only a chance of winning a $100 gift card or 10,000 frequent-flier miles.
The key to losing weight, then, could be offers of incentives rather than focusing on the health effects of poor choices. Lead researcher Martin Reimann commented, "If non-food rewards, even small and uncertain ones, can be engaging at a neurochemical level, then restaurants can potentially motivate healthier choices.”
Easy weight loss and potential prizes? That's something we can all get behind.