While "thinking before eating" might seem like a good weight loss strategy, a new study suggests it could actually backfire because humans are really good at rationalizing things.
Researchers from Utrecht University found that taking the time to think before eating actually gives us time to rationalize why we should be able to eat that thing we're trying to avoid.
"They can justify having the cake on account that it has been a hard day, or that they will exercise tomorrow, that it is a special occasion, or that it is impolite to refuse," study researcher Jessie De Witt Huberts said in a statement. "This is when justification processes become a slippery slope -- as the reasons are often applied ad hoc, they no longer form strict rules that regulate when you stick to your diet and when you can cut yourself some slack."
The findings are based on a review of 50 published studies; the new review is published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review.
"With justification we refer to making excuses for one's discrepant behavior, so that when experiencing a self-regulation dilemma between immediate impulses and long-term intentions, people resolve the conflict by developing and employing justifications that allow violations of the goal they endorse," the researchers explained in the study. "Accordingly, rather than inhibiting motivations from the impulsive system, the reflective system can also facilitate them, leading to self-regulation failure."
Need some help tamping down on your excuse-making? HuffPost blogger Lisa Earle McLeod breaks down the four most common patterns of excuse-making -- and how to avoid getting caught in them.