To Lose Weight, Play Tetris?

The game reduces cravings by an average 20%, a study finds
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 14, 2015 9:55 AM CDT
To Lose Weight, Play Tetris?
Any excuse to play Tetris is A-OK with us.   (AP Photo/THQ)

Are food cravings growing your waistline? Don't fret: just play Tetris. In what might just be the best news you read all day, a new study published in Addictive Behaviors finds playing Tetris for just 3 minutes reduces cravings by an average 20%. And that doesn't just apply to cravings for chocolate. Researchers say it works on hankerings for sex, sleep, cigarettes, and more. Over one week, psychologists prompted 31 participants, ages 18 to 27, to report cravings for food and drink, drugs (think coffee, alcohol, and cigarettes), and activities, including how strong those cravings were, seven times a day via text message. Of those, 15 participants were told to play 3 minutes of Tetris in between and report back. The result: "Playing Tetris decreased craving strength ... from 70% to 56%," researcher Jackie Andrade says in a press release.

What sort of power might Tetris hold? A relatively simple one, it turns out. "Craving involves imagining the experience of consuming a particular substance or indulging in a particular activity," says Andrade. It's "hard to imagine something vividly and play Tetris at the same time." And the effect didn't wear off: Those who played averaged 40 sessions during the week, but the impact remained consistent. Researchers were so impressed that they hope to test the theory on people with drug addictions. Just as significantly, "this is the first demonstration that cognitive interference can be used outside the lab to reduce cravings for substances and activities other than eating," the researchers write. As far as undergrads' cravings, they reported wanting something about 30% of the time: about two-thirds of cravings were for food and non-alcoholic drinks; 21% were for cigarettes, beer, etc.; and 16% were for activities, including sleep, video games, socializing, and sex. (A recent study explains why we crave comfort food to begin with.)

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