Think “Fun” When Exercising to Eat Less Later

by Sandy Todd Webster on Sep 04, 2014

Mindful Eating

If clients could meaningfully impact ingrained eating behavior by subtly fine- tuning their thinking patterns about exercise, would you try to help them do that? Consider these new findings from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab as an opportunity to move people in the right direction.

Research published recently in Marketing Letters showed that if participants thought of exercise as “fun” or a “well-deserved break,” versus a “workout,” it significantly changed the way they approached postactivity food consumption. Those with fun top of mind ate less than those who viewed exercise as a workout.

In the first study, adults were led on a 2-kilometer walk around a small lake; some understood they were taking an exercise walk, while others were told it was a scenic walk. Fifty-six adults completed their walk and were then given lunch. Those who believed they had been on an exercise walk served and ate 35% more chocolate pudding for dessert than those who believed they had been on a scenic walk.

In the second study, 46 adults were given midafternoon snacks after their walk. Those thinking they had taken an exercise walk ate over twice as many M&Ms (124% more, or 206 more calories’ worth) compared with those who had been told they were on a scenic walk. "Viewing their walk as exercise led them to be less happy and more fatigued," says lead author Carolina Werle, PhD, professor at Grenoble Ecole de Management in France.

Together, these studies point to one reason why people in exercise programs often find themselves gaining weight. According to Werle, the notion is that some exercisers have a tendency to reward themselves by overeating after a workout.

For beginning or veteran exercisers, the bottom line is this: "Do whatever you can to make your workout fun. Play music, watch a video, or simply be grateful that you're working out instead of working in the office," said Brian Wansink, PhD, coauthor and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. "Anything that brings a smile is likely to get you to eat less," he added.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Vicki & Chuck Rogers

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About the Author

Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster IDEA Author/Presenter

Sandy Todd Webster is Editor in Chief of IDEA's publications, including the award-winning IDEA FITNESS JOURNAL and IDEA FOOD & NUTRITION TIPS, the industry's leading resources for fitness, wellness and nutrition professionals worldwide. Sandy joined IDEA in 2001 as executive editor of IDEA PERSONAL TRAINER and IDEA FITNESS MANAGER magazines and was promoted to lead the editorial team in 2003. More than 20 years in magazine publishing, marketing communications and creative services have shaped her straightforward approach to multi-channel communication. Early experience in Los Angeles as a sports writer/reporter, and then enriching years as a managing editor in allied health care publishing have pulled her across a spectrum of stimulating subject matter. Fitness, health and nutrition reside at the perfect center of this content continuum, she feels. A Chicago native, Sandy grew up fully engaged in various competitive sports. Her drive and dedication as an athlete translate to a disciplined work ethic and unwavering approach to challenge in her career. Shortly after graduating journalism school from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, she was recruited to L.A. for her first post in magazine publishing. After two decades of working on magazines--and now in the throes of applying the unbelieveable multi-media content delivery options available in the magazine 2.0 world--she is still "completely in love" with the creative process it takes to deliver meaningful, inspirational content to end users. She is an accomplished home cook and gardner who would love to combine those skills and passions with her health and fitness background to continue educating readers about a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle.