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Get a grip
Clenching muscles when faced with a difficult dilemma – such as resisting a cream cake or second helpings – can boost willpower, report researchers in Singapore and the USA.
They asked volunteers to tighten their muscles, for example by clenching their fists, while faced with a number of situations that required sacrificing short-term gain for long-term gain. These included drinking a healthy but nasty-tasting mixture, and making choices at a lunch counter. They found that compared to volunteers who didn’t tense their muscles, the fist-clenchers demonstrated more self-control.
Water for starters
Drinking two small glasses of water before each meal helped slimmers on a lower-calorie diet lose more weight, according to research presented to the American Chemical Society earlier this year.
Researchers recruited 48 men and women aged 55-75 years and split them into two groups. One group was asked to drink two glasses of water three times day before meals, while following a low-calorie diet. The other group just followed the diet. After 12 weeks, the slimmers who had drunk water had lost about 5lbs more on average than those who hadn’t changed their liquid intake.
Lead researcher Dr Brenda Davy said that the slimmers who drank water consumed between fewer 75-90 calories at their next meal, probably because the water made them feel a little fuller.
Take cash out shopping
A study of shopping habits in the USA, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, has found that paying with a plastic card is linked to buying more unhealthy foods and more on impulse than paying with cash.
A team led by Manoj Thomas at Cornell University analysed purchases of 1,000 shoppers, about half of whom had paid in cash and half with a card. They found more impulse purchases were made by shoppers who had used plastic, which was significant because unhealthy foods are more often bought on impulse.
Follow-up studies suggested that shoppers find paying by cash more ‘painful’ than paying with a card, so handing over real money curbs their tendency to make impulse buys.
Chewing gum before meals may mean taking in fewer calories through the day, according to a study carried out at the University of Rhode Island, USA. A group of 35 healthy, normal-weight volunteers was asked to spend two separate mornings at a lab. On one occasion they chewed sugar-free gum for three 20-minute sessions – one session before breakfast, and two before lunch. On this occasion, the volunteers ate 67 fewer calories at lunch on average and reported that they did not eat more than usual later in the day. The study was funded by the Wrigley Science Institute and reported to the US Obesity Society last year.