Lose weight by sitting on your couch and playing a video game?
It sounds too good to be true, but a couple of UK psychologists claim they have come up with a video game that will train your brain to avoid fatty, unhealthy foods that result in people packing on the pounds.
But before you celebrate by ordering a large McDonald’s fries, the professors at the University of Exeter and Cardiff University said the weight loss in their controlled test was about 1½ pounds a week — and that those taking part in the test kept a log of what they ate.
Keeping food diaries has long been shown to be a good method of limiting calories on one’s own.
Plus, the video game is not yet available.
In the game, players are repeatedly warned to avoid pressing on pictures of bad foods, like cookies, while responding to images of good foods, like fruits and veggies.
Playing the game therefore trains people to associate calorie-dense foods with “stopping,” according to Dr. Natalia Lawrence of Exeter, the lead researcher in the study.
Those in the study ate 220 fewer calories a day.
Lawrence’s team previously showed that this training reduces how much food people eat in laboratory tests.
“These findings are among the first to suggest that a brief, simple computerised tool can change people’s everyday eating behaviour,” she said.
“It is exciting to see the effects of our lab studies translate to the real world.”
The professor warned that the research is still in its infancy and the effects are modest.
In the latest study, sponsored by the Wellcome Trust and published in the journal Appetite, the psychologists found that 41 adults who completed four 10-minute sessions of the training online lost a small but significant amount of weight and ate fewer calories (estimated from food diaries).
The reduction in weight and unhealthy snacking was maintained six months after the study, according to participants’ self-reports.
These effects were observed relative to a control group of 42 adults who completed the same “stop versus go” training, the researchers said in a statement.