Using Cognitive Training to Boost Self-Control

It was Oscar Wilde who observed that the best way to get rid of temptation is to give into it. With apologies to Mr. Wilde, we’re more into beating it, even if that means living with it every day, and a new study suggests that this may be possible by using cognitive training.

The study, published in Appetite, has found that people who employ cognitive training methods are better able to diet. 113 participants took place in a four-week, online experiment, where they learned different cognitive training methods. One group used go/no-go training, which involved them pressing a button when they saw an image of healthy food but not responding to an image of unhealthy food. Another group employed implementation intentions training, which asked participants to rehearse mental rules for healthy eating (e.g., “I will not snack in the evening, I will not snack in the evening.”)

Both methods worked better than the control group who employed no cognitive training—in fact, both groups lost an average of a kilo more. Interestingly, the go/no-go method worked better with higher BMI, and the implementation intentions training worked best on people already committed to weight loss.

So, thinking about training your body? Maybe first try and train your mind.

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