Wait a Second, Pick a Snack: The Simple Pause That Helps You Lose Weight

When it comes to weight loss, we often hear that slow and steady is the way to go, and new research supports this idea. According to a study by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, when you choose foods for a snack, the first factor your brain takes into account is taste. But just milliseconds later, it starts to consider the healthiness of the food. If you can pause, even just momentarily, before reaching for donuts, cookies, or chips, you have a better chance of opting for a healthier snack.

How Our Brain Processes Food Choices

Nicolette Sullivan, one of the researchers working on the study, explains that when it comes to our food choices, we generally have to weigh factors such as taste and healthiness. The goal of the study was to find out the exact point in the decision-making process when taste starts to factor in and when health aspects come into play.

Sullivan points out that the taste qualities associated with different foods have specific innate characteristics that can be easily called to mind. But determining how healthy a food is involves a more abstract thought process, which explains why it takes our brain longer to process health factors relative to taste.

Weighing Taste and Health Concerns: An Inside Look

The study investigated how quickly taste considerations factored into the food choices individuals made and how health considerations followed. It turns out that, for the average person, taste factors into the decision-making process around 200 milliseconds before health concerns. Interestingly, about a third of the study participants never even considered the healthiness of the foods they chose – only taste.

Based on the results, Sullivan proposes that hesitating before making a food choice can be a key factor in making healthier decisions. She says, “Since we know that taste appears before health, we know that it has an advantage in the ultimate decision. However, once health comes online, if you wait – allowing the health information to accumulate for longer – that might give health a chance to catch up and influence the choice.”

Putting a Pause on Impulse

So, if you’re looking to make healthier food choices, putting a little more thought into your decisions could make a significant difference.

Here are some practical tips for pausing before making impulsive – and less healthy – food selections:

  1. Take a deep breath: Before grabbing a snack, take a slow, deep breath. It only takes a few seconds, but it helps transition your mindset to one that is more mindful and intentional.

  2. Visualize the benefits: Imagine yourself looking and feeling great as a result of choosing healthier foods. Using positive visualization can be a powerful motivator and help reinforce good decisions.

  3. Distance yourself: Physically separating yourself from unhealthy food choices can help you make wiser selections. If you’re at a party or a buffet, step away from the table. Give yourself time to evaluate your options and choose something that aligns with your goals.

  4. Create a pause point: One sneaky way to delay food choices is to use your phone as an obstacle. Try placing it near your pantry or at least somewhere that forces you to interact with it before making food selections, this will provide an opportunity to pause and consider your options. You can also store your favorite health-focused app or article on your home screen so you’re instantly reminded of your goals.

  5. Seek support: Share your experiences with friends, family members, or even online communities who can offer support and hold you accountable to your health goals. By being open about your desires to make healthier choices in your relationship with food, you create a social pause that can remind you to slow down and choose wisely.

Remember, small decisions can add up to significant changes over time. By simply taking a moment to pause and consider the health factors of the foods you’re about to consume, you’ll be better equipped to make choices that better align with your weight loss and overall health goals.