But not all video games will leave you soft around the middle. A game recently developed and tested by psychologists in the UK actually aids weight loss by training the brain not to crave junk food. To win, players must avoid tapping images of calorie-dense foods like cookies and press on images of fruit, clothing and other objects floating around the screen instead. The researchers believe that taking these actions conditions the brain to steer clear of unhealthy snacks both in the game and in “real life.”
To test their theory, researchers recruited 83 adults with BMIs that ranged from healthy to overweight, weighed them and asked them to fill out a questionnaire about the quality of their diet and the ability to controlling their snack cravings. Half of the participants were then asked to complete four 10-minute sessions of the newly developed game while the control group was given a different game to play. A week later, researchers weighed all of the participants again and had them fill out another copy of the diet and food preference questionnaire. The participants who played the anti-snacked game reported “liking” the calorie-dense foods that were used within the game less than they did at the beginning of the study. They also lost an average of about 1.5 pounds and consumed 220 fewer calories per day.
More significantly, the participants’ food preference and weight loss held steady—even six-months after the gaming sessions. These positive health outcomes were not observed within the control group. Until the researchers further develop the technology and release their video game to the general public, you’ll have to rely on the tried-and-true methods we all know and these daily habits that prevent cravings.