Could you resist your favorite junk food after staring at it and sniffing it?
A professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at University of California, San Diego’s School of Medicine is teaching overweight kids to develop willpower over French fries and Cheetos by doing just that.
Kerri Boutelle has conducted a pair of studies of children between the ages of 8 and 12 in which the kids rate their cravings for a specific food, sniff it, take a small bite, and stare at it for five minutes, the Wall Street Journal reports. After they rate their craving a second time, they throw the item away.
Boutelle’s approach runs counter to the more common “out of sight, out of mind” approach. In part, that’s because kids may overeat when they are exposed to their favorite foods through advertising or elsewhere when they’re not actually hungry. The idea is to develop the willpower to overcome the desire to eat.
“We are teaching kids to tolerate their cravings and not eat when they’re not physically hungry,” she told the Wall Street Journal.
“Cue exposure,” as she calls it, seems to work in the laboratory and for about six months afterward, Boutelle found after tracking the participants in her eight-week 2011 study for a year. Her current experiment hasn’t been published yet, but she’s already signing kids up for another study that would try to achieve longer-lasting results by varying the treatment time.