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Mental Health

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

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 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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