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We’ve all heard of freedom fries, but what about pride fries, success sundaes or “I’m awesome” chocolate cake? If you’re watching what you eat, you might want to steer clear of your favorite treats after you’ve accomplished an amazing feat. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, being proud of a recent achievement can make people indulge in unhealthy choices. The reason why seems pretty obvious: When we’re pleased with an accomplishment, we want to reward ourselves with something special. And unfortunately for our cholesterol levels, something special -- at least in the circles we frequent -- is not often equated with a beet or spinach salad.
The researchers found that not all pride affects us equally. Some forms, like those associated with achievement, make us reach for the French fries, but other types, like intrinsic self-worth, actually make us practice greater control.
For the study, researchers first asked volunteers to write about a proud moment. After the exercise, each participant was offered a choice of two gift certificates -- one that could be used for school supplies or one that could be used towards entertainment. Those who wrote about an accomplishment were much more likely to choose the fun reward over the practical one. Subsequent similar studies showed that people who wrote about personal achievements were also more likely to choose French fries over a salad.
That’s why, this Thanksgiving, I’m going to avoid doing anything that might foster a sense of pride. No sweating over an oven to feed 20 of my closest relatives, and definitely no running a marathon before I sit down to eat. Instead, I’m going to dine next to my brother, a former competitive bodybuilder who still exercises extreme care in what he forks into his mouth. Why? Because according to a study published earlier this year in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, self-control (or lack thereof) is contagious. And since I cannot resist a single morsel once it’s put in front of me, I’m hoping my brother’s healthful ways will rub off on me just the tiniest smidge. My goal is not to be saintly. I simply want to be able to leave the dining room table without going straight for the antacid. I just hope that if I’m successful in this endeavor, I don’t take so much pride in it that I make myself sick on dessert.
How do you avoid overindulging during the holidays? Chime in below!