If you’re like most guys, you’re always looking for new strategies to use in the battle against a bulging waistline. (Trust us, we’ve seen some pretty crazy ones). And while taking up marathon training might help, most guys prefer slightly more realistic weight-loss methods that help them stay on track without making huge changes to their routine.
Fortunately, researchers have hit on a new way to stick to your finely tuned nutrition plan without any extra thought: A mirror.
Look, we know mirrors can be the bane of a guy’s existence. There’s nothing more frustrating than lifting up your sweat-soaked shirt after a tough workout and seeing, well, not much progress. So take a different tack: Move your mirror to your kitchen.
The theory goes like this: Lots of guys sabotage their diet efforts by stacking unhealthy food on top of otherwise healthy meals. And they often reach for that junk because they think it tastes better than, say, the kale smoothie they just tried to stomach. Guys know that the junk is junk—but it tastes better, so they eat it anyway.
So researchers, led by University of Central Florida marketing professor Ata Jami, Ph.D., tried to subvert that psychology with a simple test. They asked 185 undergraduates to choose between a fruit salad (the healthy option) and a slice of chocolate cake (unhealthy). Some of the students made the choice in a room with a mirror, while the rest were in a non-mirrored room. The result: Students who chose the cake in the mirrored room didn’t think the dessert tasted as good as the students in the non-mirrored room did, according to the study, which was published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research.
Jami argues that mirrors make us more conscious of social standards—and that includes our nutrition plans. We can rationalize sneaking a slice of cake, but it gets more difficult when we see ourselves do it.
That’s exactly the point, Jami says: If you’ve sworn a solemn vow to lose 15 pounds in two months, the junk food just doesn’t seem to taste as good when you’re self-conscious about eating it.
“A glance in the mirror tells people more than just about their physical appearance,” he said in a press release. “[The mirror] enables them to view themselves objectively and helps them to judge themselves and their behaviors in a same way that they judge others.”
There’s a catch, though: The mirror will only “work” if you select the food for yourself. So even if Aunt Midge lives in a hall of mirrors—which seems impractical, if not terrifying—eating her legendary deep-fried bacon lasagna will not produce any pangs of guilt (though it may create stomach pangs of a different kind).
So if you’ve resolved to lose weight and eat healthier as part of your personal improvement project, start with a home improvement first: Put a mirror in the kitchen. Suddenly that leftover deep-fried bacon lasagna doesn’t seem so tempting.