Need to Stick to Your Diet? Try Playing Tetris

By Mike Pomranz |
FWX TETRIS TO CONTROL YOUR DIET

Courtesy of Electronic Arts Inc.

The newest diet fad might be a former video game fad. New research claims that playing Tetris for as few as three minutes can weaken food cravings—as well as cravings for other things like cigarettes, coffee, alcohol, drugs and sex. Wow, no wonder Tetris was so addictive back in the ‘90s!

In a recently published paper in the journal Addictive Behaviors, researchers from the UK’s Plymouth University and Australia’s Queensland University of Technology had 31 undergraduate students report on different cravings they were having throughout the day. When desire hit, 15 members of the group were required to play the classic block-dropping game Tetris on an iPod and then report their craving levels afterwards.

According to the researchers’ findings, Tetris was able to reduce these students’ cravings by one-fifth, and the ability of the game to curb cravings lasted for the entire duration of the experiment. Tetris was even effective on higher cravings experienced under the influence of alcohol. That’s right: Tetris can even cut down your sloppy, late night drunk eating!

“Playing Tetris decreased craving strength for drugs, food, and activities from 70% to 56%,” said study co-author Jackie Andrade. “The impact of Tetris on craving was consistent across the week and on all craving types,” added co-author Jon May. “People played the game 40 times on average but the effect did not seem to wear off. This finding is potentially important because an intervention that worked solely because it was novel and unusual would have diminishing benefits over time as participants became familiar with it.”

So what makes Tetris so effective? “We think the Tetris effect happens because craving involves imagining the experience of consuming a particular substance or indulging in a particular activity,” said Andrade. “Playing a visually interesting game like Tetris occupies the mental processes that support that imagery; it is hard to imagine something vividly and play Tetris at the same time.” She later added, “As a support tool, Tetris could help people manage their cravings in their daily lives and over extended time periods.”

So there you have it. Don’t waste money paying for the latest diet fad. Instead, just rummage through your attic until you find your Game Boy.

Related: The U.S. Dietary Committee Approves of Your Coffee Habit 
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