Tetris has been around since 1984, when Alexey Pajitnov, a Russian artificial intelligence researcher, invented it. Long popular among video game enthusiasts, Tetris is now being studied by researchers as a tool for reducing addictive behaviors. Who would have thought that playing Tetris could help you break the craving cycle and possibly lose weight?
A recent study from researchers at Plymouth University and Queensland University of Technology in Australia, was published in the journal Addictive Behaviors. The researchers discovered that playing this slightly addictive game on a smartphone for short amounts of time throughout the day lessened cravings in the participants.
Let’s take a look at why this might be, what the research showed, and whether you should add Tetris to your weight loss toolbox.
The researchers set out to study whether playing Tetris would impact participant’s cravings. One thing that sets this study apart is the researchers didn’t just put people in a laboratory and ask them to play the game. Instead, they studied them in real life and in different situations.
Turns out that playing the game for just 3 minutes each session reduced the participant’s cravings for food, some activities, and drugs by about 20 percent according to the researchers. One important factor to consider is cravings were only reported about 30 percent of the time.
Why did it work?
When I first heard about the study, my initial question was “I wonder why playing the game reduced cravings? The researchers theorized that because Tetris is a visually interesting game that fully occupies your mental processes, you forget about your cravings while playing the game. And that forgetfulness extends for a time even after you finish playing.
It makes perfect sense.
Even before the popularity of video games, weight loss experts have recommended staying mentally occupied as a way to combat food cravings. The technique certainly worked for me. I learned to knit, created scrapbooks, and played board games with the family in an attempt to take my mind off food and not give in to cravings.
Those distractions were highly effective in helping me focus on something other than food. And when my mind was occupied, I wasn’t eating junk.
Does it have to be Tetris?
The researchers did not specify whether it was only Tetris that would work for cravings. Because of my own experience, I suspect that any stimulating video game would work as well.
Make Tetris work for you.
- Obviously the first thing you need to do is get the game. It is available on the iTunes and Google Play stores for less than a dollar. You can also play the game on your computer if you do not have a smartphone.
- Set a series of alarms on your phone to remind yourself to play several times a day. Pick times when you find yourself reaching for food, such as mid-morning, right after lunch, before dinner, and late in the evening.
- Commit to playing for a short burst of 3 to 5 minutes to avoid spending too much time on the game.
- Monitor your cravings to see if they diminish after you finish your game session.
- Record your weekly weight loss and compare it to weeks when you were not playing Tetris.
Playing Tetris is an inexpensive tool that is worth trying. You may find you see a decrease in cravings that can help you control your food intake. While playing the game won’t automatically cause you to drop 50 pounds, controlling your cravings can help you control your calorie intake, which does help with weight loss.