Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness

Why Trash Talking Sugary Food Makes You Want It Even More


February 2, 2016   By Rozalynn S. Frazier

When you were a kid and your mom told you not to touch something, what was the first thing you wanted to do? Touch it, right? Now apply that theory to your eating habits. If someone tells you to steer clear of the cookie jar because those little morsels of goodness are chock-full of calories, aren’t you even more tempted to grab one (or three)? Rest assured, you’re not the only one.

In a series of three studies, researchers at Arizona State University found that when dieters were exposed to negative messages about food (think: “Sugary snacks are bad for you”), they craved unhealthy food more. (Yep, you read that right.)

In the first study, folks who read a negative message about dessert had more positive thoughts about these bad-for-you foods than folks who were exposed to a positive or neutral message. In the next study, dieters read either a positive or negative message about sugar-laden snacks; then watched a video while noshing on cookies. The result: The negative-message group ate 39% more cookies than those who read a positive message. And in the final study, dieters who viewed a message that listed both the pros and cons of their snacks choose fewer unhealthy ones than dieters who read a strictly negative message.


“We think dieters increase their interest in and consume more unhealthy foods after seeing one-sided negative messages because they feel like their freedom to control their food choices is threatened,” explains Nguyen Pham, one of the study’s researchers. This is why Pham recommends using a mix of positive and negative messaging—such as “Dessert tastes good, but is bad for my health”—to help keep your consumption in check.

“Dieters do not see double-sided messages about unhealthy foods as a threat to their freedom,” she says. “Instead, they view these messages as providing even more freedom of choice. As a result, they are more likely to comply with the messages and choose less unhealthy foods.”

So the next time you are about to police your (or a friend’s ) food choices, try this mental trick instead. It may just provide you with the resolve you need to walk away.

5 thoughts on “Why Trash Talking Sugary Food Makes You Want It Even More

  1. Ugh, I struggle with this so bad!! It’s true, the more I try to stay away from sugar, the stronger my cravings are. This post struck a chord with me because today, for Lent, I am giving up sugar. Natural forms like honey, fruit, etc I will still be eating, but anything processed like ice cream, cookies, cakes, etc are off limits to me until Easter. I am hoping by then my body will detox, my cravings will stop and I will be officially UN-addicted to sugar.

  2. I tried to give up added sugars this year, just for an experiment. For the 4 days that I kept it up all I wanted to eat was pudding and ice cream. And the crazy thing is, I don’t usually eat that much sugar anyway.

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