Want to keep your Cheetos cravings in check? Your go-to strategy might be wrong: Eating just a little of your favorite snack doesn’t help reduce your cravings at all, a new study in the journal Obesity suggests.
Researchers had 367 people who were trying to lose weight keep food logs to see if their cravings changed depending on what they ate.
They discovered that cravings for foods decreased when people consumed them less frequently—but there was no change at all in their cravings if they simply ate what they craved in smaller amounts.
That means if you want to stop craving a certain food—say, you can’t resist a bag of hot salty fries, or you need a couple scoops of ice cream to top off your day—you’re better off eating it less often than simply reducing your portion of it, the researchers say.
It likely comes down to your conditioning response: Your cravings exist in combination with internal stimuli, like stress, or external stimuli, like time or day or behavior. So if you consume the cravings during the stimuli previously, whenever that comes up again, you’ll feel the urge to chow down.
Reducing that positive reinforcement by cutting your consumption can keep your cravings in check, the researchers write.
Still, the research is preliminary, the researchers warn: Further studies on certain groups of people—say, restrained eaters, or those who avoid certain food groups—must be done to make sure restricting foods they’re craving don’t actually lead to overconsumption.
In the meantime, if you want to wipe out your cravings, just pick up your phone: Playing Tetris for just three minutes can help cut the intensity of cravings for food and drink, a 2015 study in Addictive Behaviors found.