It's that time of year again for some of the best cookies on earth. How can you resist buying a box (or five) from your favorite schoolgirl? Let's face it. Those little cookies are hard to eat mindfully. Even the most conscientious eaters will admit to going a little overboard with a box of Do-Si-Dos or a sleeve of Thin Mints every now and then. Have no fear. Try these 10 psychological tricks to help you savor your stash of Girl Scout cookies mindfully.
1) Place your favorite cookie on a red plate. A study in the 2012 journal Appetite found that people ate less snack food when it was put on a red plate vs. a white or blue plate. Whether it is a traffic light or a plate, our brains think "stop" when we see red.
2) Take a bite of cookie with your non-dominate hand. Nibbling on snacks with your non-dominate hand can reduce how much you consume by approximately 30 percent. Using your "other" hand is inconvenient and disrupts the automatic stream of hand to mouth flow according to a study reported in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
3) Save the best for last. Afraid you are going to be unable to put on the brakes when you are eating these delicious treats? Pick a two or three. Then, eat your favorite cookie last. According to a 2011 study in the British Journal of Nutrition, eating the most enjoyable cookie last instead of first keeps the experience fresh in your mind. Thus, you may be less tempted to consume more because your mind hasn't filed away the experience. You think, "Oh yes, I had some really great Trefoils."
4) Don't fight it. If you want the Thank U Berry Munch cookie, it's better to think it through carefully than to try to ward off the craving. Suppressing your desire for treats actually makes it worse according to a study by researchers at St. George's University of London. In their study, subjects that actively tried not to think about chocolate ate more than those who intentionally thought about chocolate.
5) Eat them anywhere -- except in front of the TV. A study out of the Department of Psychology in Glasgow, Scotland found that you are likely to eat 14 percent more when you eat snack foods, like cookies, in front of the TV.
6) Eat a cookie by yourself. We tend to eat more when we are with other people. In fact, you consume 18 percent more according to a study published in Physiology and Behavior. In part, this may be due to distraction. However, mainly overeating with a buddy is related to social norming -- "If she has four Thin Mints, I can have four."
7) Put them far, far away. Placing a box of Dulce De Leche in the back of the cupboard or in the basement makes them much less accessible and cuts out mindlessly picking out of the box. A study in the journal of Psychological Health 2011 indicates that making food inconvenient helps to reduce the likelihood of overeating snacks.
8) Enhance your "cookie memory." Focus on your sensations. Tune into the crispy crunch of a Thin Mint. Pay attention to the gooey joy of a Samoa. A study in the journal of Appetite found that tuning into your senses when you eat something good will increase the probability that you will remember having eaten it. Keeping it fresh in your mind makes it more likely that you will eat less later.
9) Turn over the box. Did you know that two Samoas are roughly equivalent to eating five Savannah Smiles? Knowing the portion size is key. A study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (2011) found that college students who read labels tend to be much healthier eaters. Before savoring your favorite cookie, pause for just a moment and peruse the box label.
10) Take a Brisk Walk. Do Tagalongs and other chocolate flavored cookies call to you more than the lemon or shortbread cookies? If so, a 2012 study in the journal of Appetite, indicated that a brisk walk reduces chocolate intake for those who love chocolate.
Use these tips to help you prevent you from overeat Girl Scout Cookies. Remember you can savor and enjoy Girl Scout cookies as long as you do so mindfully!
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If you'd like to interview Dr. Albers (a former Girl Scout cookie seller herself!) call Linda (PR), at 330-465-0981 or email DrAlbers@eatingmindfully.com. www.eatingmindfully.com Interview her about how to eat Girl Scout Cookies mindfully or learn about Dr. Albers' new book, But I Deserve This Chocolate!
Dr. Susan Albers is a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic. She is the author of several books including 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, Eating Mindfully, But-Deserve-This-Chocolate, and Eat, Drink & Be Mindful.
Susan Albers PsyD @2012