Physical distance can actually improve your self-control, says research paper

It sounds straightforward: if your weakness is ice cream, it’s probably not a good idea to keep tubs of it in the fridge, right?

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but what if the opposite rings true for cravings? A new study suggests that purely distance can improve your self-control and er, duh?

A paper in the June 2021 issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin explored whether creating space between us would help ease our temptations for unhealthy food.

In one study, participants were asked to rate the strength of their goal to eat healthy food, then researchers asked them to respond to scenarios about their preferred proximity to certain items.

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For example, they were shown an image of a conference table with a plate of doughnuts and snacks at one end and had to mark their preferred seat at the table, then rate their strength of the temptation.

Those who ranked more strongly on the desire to get healthy positioned such snacks further away from them and the study found that the distance led to a reduced strength of temptation, as well as a reduced chance of giving in.

In another study, participants were asked to track their eating for a week and rate it on how healthy their meals were.

Halfway through the week, participants were instructed to read about health eating, while the other half were taught the importance of health eating and that unhealthy food should be kept at a distance.

Those who were taught the distance strategy were found to have eaten more healthy by the end of the week than those who weren’t.

It makes sense, right? Humans are creatures that have evolved to demand convenience, particularly in a world where we can get pretty much anything delivered to us at the push of a button.

The harder we make unhealthy food to access, by means of hiding it away or just not buying it at all, the less inclined we are to overindulge.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a treat every now and then, either.

“There is nothing bad or shameful about nourishing your body, whatever the food might be, and yes, chocolate does provide nourishment,” dietitian and certified intuitive eating counsellor, Nina Mills previously told Body+Soul.