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control unhealthy eating – with gratitude ?

control unhealthy eating – with gratitude ?

7th January 2020

Much has been written about the benefits of developing an ‘attitude of gratitude’.  Many people regularly keep a “gratitude journal”, writing down, every night before sleep,  3 things that they are grateful for that day.  Numerous studies have shown that even the simplest of gratitude practices can lead to a significant increase in happiness.

But a new study has shown that gratitude may help us to eat more healthily.  The study by the University of California, suggests that feeling grateful can help control behaviours such as unhealthy eating by fostering the ability to resist immediate pleasure or reward. [1] 

We live in a society of “instant gratification”.  If we feel cold we switch on the heating, if we see something on-line we have to have it, if we are bored we scroll our social media pages, and all too often, if we are bored we reach for a snack. 

In this study, 3 groups of volunteers were asked to write about something that made them feel grateful, happy or neutral.  They were then asked to choose between receiving a reward of $54 straight away or $80 in 30 days.   The neutral and happy groups chose the immediate reward, whereas the grateful group were much more likely to hold out for the bigger payment.  They also found that how much patience volunteers showed was directly related to how much gratitude they felt.

Assistant Professor Ye Li said “Showing that emotion can foster self-control, and discovering a way to reduce impatience with a simple gratitude exercise, opens up tremendous possibilities for reducing a wide range of societal ills from impulse buying and insufficient saving, to obesity and smoking”[2]

So before you reach for that snack, take a few moments to delay that gratification by jotting down or even mentally listing 3 things that you’re grateful for.  It can put you in a very different frame of mind and you may even forget that you were thinking of a snack.  Also before you tuck into your meals, take a moment to silently give thanks for the food in front you. 

Just hitting that pause button for a few seconds switches you from unconscious eating to mindful eating. 

[1] https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/can-gratitude-reduce-costly-impatience.html

[2] https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/can-gratitude-reduce-costly-impatience.html

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