The time is ripe - Thinking about the future reduces unhealthy eating in those with a higher BMI
Research suggests that being oriented more towards the future (than the present) is correlated with healthier eating. However, this research tends to be correlational, and thus it is unclear whether inducing people to think about their future could increase healthy eating. Therefore, we investigated whether inducing people to think about their lives in the future versus the present would influence their intake of healthy (muesli) and unhealthy (Maltesers) food. Across two experiments, the effect of thinking about the future versus the present interacted with participants’ body mass index (BMI) to influence their consumption of unhealthy food, but no reliable effects were found for the consumption of healthy food. Among individuals with a higher BMI, thinking about their lives in the future resulted in lower consumption of the unhealthy food compared to thinking about their lives in the present. However, this effect was reversed for those with a lower BMI. In Experiment 2, we found no evidence that this effect was due to reduced impulsivity (as measured by a delay discounting task and a stop-signal task). This suggests that thinking about the future can reduce unhealthy eating among heavier people.