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Celebrate National Procrastination Week by Postponing Sweets

March 3rd through 9th marks National Procrastination Week, and while generally we don’t encourage putting off till later what can be accomplished in the now, the principle might actually work when it comes to weight management. That’s right folks: Saying “later” to your cravings makes the need to feed fade, so that you’re less likely to binge if you bump the impulse back a bit.

Such were the findings of Nicole Mead, Ph.D., of Erasmus University, and colleagues from the University of Houston — findings so fresh that they’re pending publication (or are those journals procrastinating?). Nearly 100 under-graduate student study volunteers were invited to watch film previews. Students were divided into three groups — each had a bowl of candy-covered chocolates in front of them — but Group One was told to “postpone,” Group Two was encouraged to “snack in moderation” and Group Three were invited to have at it! Results? Those who “postponed” ate 70% less than the “indulge” group, and, most interestingly, 58% less than the “restraint” group. Not only that, in the week following, the procrastinators consumed less chocolate than indulgers and restrainers. The researchers’ conclusion: Simply “putting it off” might be a more effective diet strategy than trying to exercise self-control in the moment.

While self-control is a muscle — that can be built up, like any other, due to frequent exercise — there are certain helpful “tricks.” One is switching to your non-dominant hand — which not only helps you eat less, it helps with moderating aggressive impulses. You might try clenching that hand — or other muscle — as tensing muscles was found to increase willpower by 140%. Another “gee whiz” tip: using a larger fork (smaller forks make you eat faster), or employing chopsticks. While thwarting weight gain might seem like a motivation more for adults, try turning these into games with your kids, particularly when it comes to sweets, as disturbing research associates early daily candy indulgence with higher incidence of violent behavior later in life.

Published March 1, 2013

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