Leading article: Trick or treat?

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A New study in the journal
Science has suggested that if you think hard about eating sweets, you will probably eat fewer of them. It's because of a process called habituation: the more you imagine a habit, the less excited you become by the prospect of indulging it.

This discovery is, of course, counter-intuitive: for years we have assumed that thinking about something desirable increases cravings for it and the likelihood of consumption. But now we know the opposite to be the case. Armed with this knowledge, what bad habits could habituation be used to quell?

Maybe England football fans, by constantly imagining their country being awarded the World Cup, will then be less distraught when it doesn't happen. Perhaps those precious hours devoted to X Factor could be spent on more worthwhile pursuits if those viewing pleasures were contemplated in advance.

And above all, dieters might avoid those midnight snacks, and other sinful indulgences, by imagining each fattening mouthful in close succession. As the scientists put it, "people who repeatedly imagined the consumption of a morsel of food – such as an M&M or cube of cheese – subsequently consumed less of that food". If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Now then, let's imagine what's on the menu for lunch?

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