When faced with a picnic table filled with your favorite junk foods, how long does it take you to down the bowl of chips or bag of candy? For the lucky few, resisting unhealthy foods is easy. For those with less willpower, though, all-you-can-eat parties are just unwanted calories waiting to be worked off.
But new research from the University of Minnesota says that self-control is about more than just willpower, meaning you might be able to develop the restraint that others are born with. In the study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers found that people who paid better attention while they ate became satisfied more quickly, even when chowing down on chocolate and cookies.
And to help them build this awareness? Researchers simply asked volunteers to count the number of times they swallowed. For people with low self-control in the study, the change was dramatic enough to put them up there with the strong-willed resisters. (They even ended up eating less junk food in one of the experiments.)
Similar studies have found that eating mindfully is a great way to eat less and feel full faster. The flipside, though, is that distractions that mess with your attention can increase the time it takes for you to be satisfied. So turn off the television, put down the bag of chips, and if you can’t simply step away from the junk food—be conscious of each and every bite.