If you frantically memorize the calorie counts of every food and attempt to cancel cravings for cookies with carrots, you may be making yourself, well, stupid, say Harvard researchers in a new study reported September 26 in the Medical Daily.
The Harvard University researchers analyzed the impact of cravings and psychological stress caused by limiting food intake on cognitive skills. They hope that the results can help weight loss experts as well as offer guidance to those seeking solutions for global poverty and famine.
One of the leaders of the study, economist Sendhil Mullainathan of Harvard University, crafted what the researchers call the “bandwidth” theory.
“Imagine that you are attending a late-afternoon meeting,” wrote Mullainathan. “Someone brings in a plate of cookies and places them on the other side of the conference table. Ten minutes later you realize you’ve processed only half of what has been said.”
Why that happens: Researchers say that because resisting the tempting platter of treats requires intelligence, dieters' mentalities go on overload. Unable to both concentrate on the meeting while drawn to the cookies and at the same time trying to discipline themselves to resist, dieters experience a psychological crisis akin to an emotional traffic jam.
In other words, going on a diet makes it difficult to cope with life both personally and professionally. But the researchers offered up a solution to the bandwith overload problem: Come up with a weight loss plan that requires minimal thinking.
Going on an intense calorie-counting diet requires too much of a commitment to constant thinking about food and stress, say the researchers. They point to the popular Atkins diet as a method that bans certain food groups initially for fast weight loss. Another example: Paleo dieting. (Memo to Kim Kardashian, who has cut all carbs in an attempt to lose weight: You may be on the right weight loss track at last.)