Researchers at Drexel University have developed a computer game and smartphone app to help people control unhealthy eating habits and ultimately lose weight.
The game is designed to improve a person's 'inhibitory control', the part of the brain that stops you from giving into unhealthy cravings—even when the smell of French fries is practically begging you to step inside a fast food restaurant.
The mobile app intelligently detects patterns in a person's eating habits. When users are likely to slip from their dietary plans, the app provides tailored strategies to put them back on track.
"Millions of people are trying to lose weight, and they are going about it in a reasonable way—by trying to reduce calories. But you're going to slip from your diet plan. That pretty much happens to everyone," said Evan Forman, Professor of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences.
"You could say the secret of helping people actually lose weight is preventing these lapses, so we concentrated on how to best do that," Forman noted.
In a study, published in the journal Appetite, Forman and a team of researchers tested the theory that that if you do certain tasks that involve inhibitory control over and over again, it actually gets stronger.
Habitual snack food eaters were assigned to one of four short, training exercises designed to increase their mindful decision-making and strengthen their inhibitory control.
The study concluded that both types of training were successful in reducing snack food eating.
The researchers are now seeking participants for two studies to test whether playing the computer game and the mobile app can strengthen inhibitory control of the participants and help them stick to their diet plan, a university statement said.