The researchers planned and carried out six interesting experiments. For the first they recruited 93 undergraduate women at a gym who had a goal of losing weight. All participants received the same instructions to try to reduce their calorie intake over a 5-day period, but half were told to be “mindful” about their food consumption, whereas the other half were taught a three-step pre-eating ritual to remind them to reduce calorie intake. Before every meal they had to cut their food into pieces before consuming it. Next, they rearranged the pieces so that they were perfectly symmetric on their plates, and finally they had to press their eating utensils against the top of their food three times.
It appears that rituals really can boost self-control. Participants who enacted a pre-eating ritual reported significantly lower calorie consumption than those who attempted to be mindful about what they ate.