Study: Tetris reduces food cravings. But does it work with Candy Crush?

by Denis Faye - The Nutrition Nerd | July 30, 2014

Delicious_Tetris_Food_5Next time you’re hankering for a hunk of cheese, reach for your joystick instead. A recent study in the journal Appetite instructed people to play a game of Tetris every time they had a craving. The study was set up so that participants either got to play or were forced to stare at a load up screen that, in a Kafkaesque twist unbeknownst to them, would never actually load. After three minutes, the folks who got to play the game experienced a significant reduction in cravings.

The obvious reason for this, in my (not) humble (enough) opinion, is that playing the game served as a distraction while staring at a blank screen served as a frustration–which can be very triggering from a comfort eating perspective. However, the lab coats have a fancier explanation. They pin it on Elaborated Intrusion Theory. They claim that imagery plays a central role in cravings, so being visually distracted will reduce cravings.

“The findings support EI theory, showing that a visuospatial working memory load reduces naturally occurring cravings, and that Tetris might be a useful task for tackling cravings outside the laboratory,” says the study.

Either way, the big take away is that next time you have a craving for junk food, try distracting yourself with a visual task, like a video game, a jigsaw puzzle, or plucking stray ear, eyebrow, and nose hairs. (Middle age blows, man. Don’t get me started on back hair.)

If you want to take the Tetris theory for a test spin, you’re welcome to come over to my place and use my Gameboy Color. (I also have Pokemon Pinball and Super Mario Brothers.) But if you don’t live in the Los Angeles area, you can play Tetris online here for free. (This site actually downloads, I promise.)

Alternatively, you can play BurgerTime or Pacman or Candy Crush. (See? I can make current pop culture reference too!)  But for some reason I think they’d do more harm than good.


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