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One Easy Trick to Resist Temptation

Procrastination has a plus side: It helps you keep your hands out of the holiday cookie jar.

December 2nd, 2011

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One Easy Trick to Resist Temptation

You spent all day watching Jersey Shore? That’s great! Facebook sucked up three hours you’ll never get back? Fantastic!

This holiday season, procrastination is the neat little bow on your have-a-happy-holiday package. It can help you survive the holidays without overspending, overeating or otherwise overindulging every last stressed-out impulse.

Perhaps you’re a little confused: Procrastination is good now?

QUIZ: Feeling Stressed?

In certain cases, yes. A new study found that when we’re faced with a choice about whether or not to indulge a pleasure-seeking impulse (“I need that sparkly dress”), postponement—putting the activity off until later—allows the impulse to fade and encourages self-control.

Typically, temptation is a give in or give up situation. We either deprive ourselves of the indulgence entirely or succumb to the impulse immediately. Neither is very helpful. We're more likely to regret an impulsive choice, and resisting temptation strains our willpower, leaving us more likely to overindulge later. (Been there, done that, right?)

“When people deprive themselves [of food, for example], the craving and desire to eat is still there,” says the study’s co-author, Nicole Mead, Ph.D. “In contrast, when we have [study] participants postpone eating dessert in our experiments, the desire and craving to eat goes away.” The same applies to impulse buys, like that expensive purse you're eyeing or the latest techie gadget.

WATCH VIDEO:

COLUMN: Control Your Shopping Urges

When faced with your aunt’s irresistible holiday cookies (or a Gilt sale you can't pass up), Mead suggests saying to yourself, “I’ll have that later,” and stresses that it’s important not to set a specific time. “If you say, 'I'll have it tomorrow,' then you'll eat it tomorrow," says Mead. "The future date of consumption needs to be nonspecific.” 

If holiday treats are already blowing your diet, this is the trick for you. “The postponement method may be particularly good for chronic dieters,” says Mead, since they typically have a hard time stopping themselves once they start eating.

For everyone, the holidays are an especially good time to start procrastinating. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people gain an average of one pound during the holidays, and most haven’t lost the weight almost a full year later. Extra helpings during the six-week holiday season may be responsible for as much as 51 percent of annual weight gain, according to another study.

We know you’ve got those procrastination skills down pat when it comes to doing laundry or working out, so put those skills to good use when the cookie jar calls you this Christmas. You’ll have time to reach into it later. 

QUIZ: What's Your Eating Style?

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