Hot and cold
New psychological research has identified the different parts of the brain involved in resisting temptation.
The research’s lead author Professor Walter Mischel, the psychologist who developed the "marshmallow test", has shown in that to resist temptation, we have to switch activity from what he calls the "hot" parts of the brain to the "cool" parts.
"The mind brain has two systems: one is cool, slow and deliberate, and allows for self-control, goal-setting and willpower – the ‘no’ system, if you like. The other is hot, emotional and instinctual, and present from birth – the ‘go’ system," says Janet Metcalfe, professor of psychology at Columbia University and co-author of a paper on willpower with Mischel.
The next time you see your favorite food, the "hot" part of your brain will react to its delicious taste. Instead of reaching for the food, you must "activate the cool part of your brain" and think long-term: think how great you’d look in your skinny jeans.
Perception is also important according to the researchers. When you have desirable food in plain view, it activates the hot part of your brain. The solution is something we already know instinctively, that is we eat less when we put food out of sight.
"The problem with diets is they are also full of pictures of delicious diet food, and all of this is just priming the hot system," Metcalfe says.
Stress is another "hot" button activator that causes us to overeat.
Daryl O’Connor, a psychologist at Leeds University, has conducted experiments which showed people under stress going for high-fat, energy-dense food.
"The first thing to do is to be aware of how stress changes your behavior. Then develop an action plan to deal with it. This might involve taking healthy snacks to work or finding ways to cope better with your time and emotions."
Brain scans have shown that memory plays an important role in overeating. If you routinely eat chocolate, you will remember the "high" as Dr. Leigh Gibson at Roe Hampton University calls it, every time you see it. Gibson has found that if you give something up, they will actually decrease your cravings, instead of otherwise.
This proves that cravings do result from "habitually giving in to temptation."
The research conclusion boils down to this: to lose weight, you must take control of your mind.