Why You Have to Watch Calories During “Tough Times”

By , Category : Food and Nutrition

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Choosing to stay the course during “tough times” is important.A new health breakthrough finds that bad news or negative situations make people seek higher-calorie foods. For people seeking to lose or manage weight, it’s important to stay the course during “tough times.”

When there is a perception of tough times—such as a poor economy—people tend to seek higher-calorie foods that will keep them satisfied longer. When faced with negative messages, people tend to have an impulse that could be described as “live for today.”

PLUS: “How Your Behavior Is Affecting Your Weight”

This impulse causes people to eat about 40% more food than those who don’t face such perceived tough times. (This, in the study, would be a control group primed with neutral words.)

It’s important in today’s society—filled with bad news about the economy, presidential attack ads, gun violence, and distant wars—that we don’t give in to these impulses. Still, one could imagine this same impulse to strike when your favorite team loses a key football game, for instance.

What’s more about the people facing “tough times” messages is that they consumed 25% less low-calorie foods than before. So, not only are they eating more, they are eating way more calories. Whether seeking comfort food or not, this will kill diet goals.

One study used a bowl of “M&M” candies, a “taste test” for a new flavor. Half of the study’s participants were told the secret ingredient was a new, high-calorie chocolate. The others were told the new chocolate was low-calorie. (There was no difference, though.) The researchers were secretly measuring how much people ate after being exposed to posters containing either neutral sentences or sentences related to struggle and adversity.

Those who were subconsciously primed to think about struggle and adversity ate close to 70% more of the “higher-calorie” candy compared to the “lower-calorie” option; those who were primed with neutral words did not significantly differ in the amount of M&Ms consumed.

Keep watch for external factors that could cause you to eat poorly, in ways you might never have seen coming.

Sources for Today’s Articles:
Why You Have to Watch Calories During “Tough Times”
Laran, J. and Salerno, A., “Life-History Strategy, Food Choice, and Caloric Consumption,” Psychological Science, published online January 2013.

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