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How Tetris Could Help You Stick to Your Diet

Image:A man plays a game of Tetris on his phone.
A man plays a game of Tetris on his phone. Oli Scarff / Getty Images file

Craving dessert? According to a new study, the best way to stick to your diet might be picking up your smartphone and playing a game of Tetris.

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Craving food, cigarettes or anything usually involves visualizing it, so giving someone a visual task is often the best way to curb it, Jackie Andrade, a psychology professor at Plymouth University in the U.K., told NBC News. Tasks which focused on speaking or listening were less effective, she said.

“It doesn’t have to be Tetris, it could be anything visual,” she said. “It also doesn’t have to be mentally demanding, but if it is, it has a better chance to block the craving.”

Tetris is the perfect blend of visual stimulation and challenge, Andrade and the rest of her research team decided. It’s also fun, which is important in making people actually adopt a behavior outside of the lab.

During the study, published in the journal Appetite, researchers asked subjects whether they were craving anything and how bad the craving was. Then they sat the test subjects in front of a computer — either with a load-screen promising Tetris, or with a Tetris game ready to go.

In the end, the people who didn't have to wait to play the game reported 24 percent weaker cravings than those staring at a screen. The next step?

“We want to test this in the real world,” she said. “We want it to be something as simple as possible, so that people can stop their cravings and then go on living their lives.”