Two Words to Avoid Temptation?

If you say “I don’t” instead of “I can’t” when refusing a tempting treat like a piece of pie, you will be more likely to stick to your diet. This idea that two little words can make a big difference is the interesting finding of a new study by researchers at the University of Houston and Boston College.

30 study subjects were assigned to one of three groups and followed for ten days. The members of each group were given a single strategy for turning down foods: “I can’t,” “I don’t,” or “Just say no.”

The researchers found that the strategy of saying “I don’t” boosted the participants’ feelings of control, self-awareness and autonomy, while also creating a long-term, positive change in their behavior, such as renewing their dedication to losing weight. On the other hand, saying “I can’t” to something that is tempting “inherently signals deprivation and the loss from giving up something desirable.”

The authors of the study say these findings suggest a simple strategy that is easy to implement and works by helping to keep people’s diets on track.