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The terrible economy may be making you fat

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By Kristen Domonell, Men's Health
While the nation's debt is growing, so is your waistline. You tend to seek out high-calorie foods when you hear bad news about the economy, according to new research in the journal Psychological Science. (For five-star healthy snacks you can make in your own kitchen, sign up for the all-new Men's Health Guy Gourmet newsletter!)
In a series of studies, researchers told college students they were conducting taste tests for a new type of M&M. For some of the taste tests, the researchers positioned posters with words associated with environmental harshness (survival, withstand, persistence, shortfall, struggle, and adversity) in the participants' view. Both the group exposed to the harsh words and those exposed to posters with neutral words were then told the new M&Ms were either high or low in calories. Of those told their M&Ms were higher in calories, the ones who were exposed to the harsh words ate 35 percent more. (For more smart power food suggestions, stock up on these 125 Best Foods for Men.)

You can chalk this up to your primal survival instincts. Resources are scarcer in harsh environments, so hearing bad news about the economy, for example, could subconsciously lead you to believe food is scarce and that you need to be fed for a longer period of time, says study author Anthony Salerno, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Miami.

"People attempt to compensate or address this sense of resource scarcity by selecting foods with a high caloric density, as this is the type of food that will keep people fed longer," he says. (Fill that belly with better fuel, like the recipes found in the Cook This, Not That Kitchen Survival Guide.)

One interesting wrinkle to the research is that people might not always select a high-calorie food out of indulgence or a momentary lapse of self-control, but rather for strategic or functional reasons, Salerno says.

While we can't quite fix a fumbling economy, we can offer advice on resisting temptation. Try this tip for boosting your self-control in a 24-hour news cycle: Schedule morning sweat sessions. Researchers at Brigham Young University found that 45 minutes of exercise in the morning can curb cravings by lowering your brain's response to food cues. Plus, getting moving in the morning makes you more physically active throughout the day, the researchers found. (In addition, load up on these 3 Surprising Heart-Healthy Foods.)

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