4 Resist Temptation by Saying "Don't" Instead of "Can't"
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One reason why successful dieting is borderline impossible is because there is a complicated psychology behind cravings that science barely understands. For example, one study found that, bizarrely, you can screw up somebody's diet just by telling them obesity is a disease.
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"And you, my friend, are my Ebola virus."
So for example, when you have a friend who's dieting, you can usually judge how successful they'll be based on a single word. When shown a doughnut or a deep-fried stick of butter, do they say, "I can't eat that?"
If so, they're probably screwed. What they should have said was "I don't eat that."
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"WELL LA-DEE-DA, MR. PICKY!"
Two letters, but all the difference in the world.
Why It Works:
Researchers did a study where participants were asked to respond with either statement when asked to consider whether they would like an unhealthy snack. They then reported how empowered they felt after and, in the true test, were offered a chocolate bar or a granola bar on the way out the door. Sure enough, 64 percent of the I-don'ts went with the granola bar, while only 39 percent of the I-can'ts took it.
"Good choice ... yup ... no regrets."
It makes sense -- "don't" suggests that the desired item being spoken of is simply never part of the speaker's life; it's something they have actively eliminated themselves, a decision they arrived at personally. "I can't" means there's some external reason barring the speaker from what they truly want, and if this condition (i.e., a temporary diet) didn't exist, they'd be neck deep in chocolate-coated fried chicken. In other words, one phrase is empowering, while the other "inherently signifies deprivation."
These results were repeated in experiments dealing with exercise, too -- it's just easier to resist impulses when you frame it in your mind as "I'm choosing to do this" versus "My Nazi of a doctor is making me." Unless said doctor has a gun to your head, you're eventually going to rebel and do what you "really" want.
And if he does have a gun to your head, you're hallucinating and need to see a real (non-Nazi) doctor.
And somehow, that's only the second-weirdest food entry on this list ...
3 Performing a Ritual Before Eating Makes Food Taste Better
A human being is a creature of ritual and habit, even and especially when it comes to food. When it's your birthday, the cake tends to come to the tune of a discordant, unenthusiastic "Happy Birthday." If you're the religious type, chances are you precede your meals with a little prayer you give to your deity of choice before chowing down. Sure, there are all sorts of cultural reasons for that stuff, but there's a very neat magic trick these chants are able to pull off: They make whatever you're about to ingest taste better.
If you're not into saying grace before mealtime and/or the very first bars of "Happy Birthday" send you into a murderous frenzy, pretty much any quirky ritual will do. Mutter "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers" three times under your breath while grinning widely and eyeballing the couple at the next table. Stand on your head and loudly scream, "I dedicate this meal to A'grasokh, god of turmoil and madness." It doesn't seem to matter, as long as you do it.
While animal sacrifices at McDonald's aren't explicitly forbidden, you can tell they don't like it.
Why It Works:
You already kind of knew this on some level, based on your experience at restaurants. The steak served to you by a waiter in a tuxedo who offers it on a polished silver platter under soft violin music might be no different from the hunk of meat served in a plastic basket at Billy's Beef Bonanza down the street (hell, they probably use the same supplier), but there is a ritual to the former that makes that food seem more ... important, somehow. Kind of like if you see a scruffy guy pull up in a limousine with five bodyguards, you assume he must be a rock star or something. "They wouldn't go through all that hassle for some random asshole!"
So the food we perceive as important tends to taste better, and the easiest, cheapest way to make it important is to give it a little "Abracadabra" just before eating it. Several different experiments involving food ranging from carrots to chocolate have verified that this is a very real thing, and it changed the taste of the food so much that the test subjects not only enjoyed the food more and savored it longer, but were actually willing to pay more for it.
"The three-hour one man show really brings out the flavor."
In the case of the carrots, the ritual (completely non-religious in nature, by the way) was even able to increase the subjects' anticipation of eating the next carrot, despite knowing full well that it would clearly be just another carrot. Yes, they managed to make fucking carrots desirable. If that's not magic, we don't know what is.