How good are you at resisting foods that you shouldn’t eat?

WASHINGTON — If you are trying to lose weight yet find yourself reaching for a cookie at work when you’ve just finished a big lunch, you might need to train your brain to resist major food temptations.

So-called restrained eaters are able to do it almost automatically. But the rest of us may need to learn this skill.

Sally Squires, who writes the Lean Plate Club™ blog, explained that researchers using a functional MRI to monitor brain responses found restrained eaters were just as tempted as others, but had more control over their responses to certain foods — and they didn’t eat them.

Squires said it’s called Attention Control Training. She said some of us seem to be born with it; some may learn it, but many others struggle with saying no to food cues. The good news is that many of us, with the help of a health professional or dietitian, may be able to train ourselves appropriately.

“This is giving us a new tool to help people who are trying to lose weight, and despite their best efforts, never seem to succeed,” she said.

A study published in the journal Appetite found that dieters were more susceptible to food cues than others. Researchers also learned that the more susceptible people are, the higher their body mass index is. The study concluded that people who received Food Attention Control Training reduced their susceptibility to food cues, sidestepped temptation and adhered better to their diets, all of which led to weight loss.

Squires said you can start by keeping a log of what you eat, when you eat it and how you feel at the time. “As an example, if you are feeling stressed, are you more susceptible to reach for that extra cookie or for that bag of chips? Plus, you can start thinking what were my other options — such as chewing gum or a cup of coffee.”

She said Attention Control Training is essentially a matter of teaching your brain to pay more attention to eating, and taking control of it. Squires said it fits in with the process of becoming more mindful not only of what we’re eating, but also where we eat, such as at a table or in the car. These can be contributing factors to consuming more calories than intended.

Squires said Attention Control Training has also been proven successful in competitive sports, helping athletes perform better by determining how they respond in certain situations.

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