The Meaning of Sin: How Being Bad Is Good For You

Modern science reveals a silver lining in even the blackest cloak of sin.

By Joe Kita from Reader's Digest Magazine | April 2013

The Meaning of Sin: How Being Bad Is Good For YouChris Buzelli

Thirty-six percent of American adults are obese, so it may seem there could be no upside to gluttony. But this is one instance in which the sin may actually be the solution. Scientists at Tel Aviv University discovered that adding a little dessert to an otherwise balanced breakfast facilitates weight loss.

Imagine it this way: In front of you is a dashboard, just like in your car. One of the gauges is willpower. When that needle is pointing to full, you are cruising along, ignoring all the fatty foods that make you heavy. But each time you’re tempted by something and tap a little willpower to avoid it, the needle slips a bit. After a full day of denying yourself, your willpower is on empty—and that’s why you go elbow-deep into a bag of chips. So a little indulgence—a cookie at breakfast or the occasional cheat meal—keeps that needle tending toward full and strengthens your willpower over the long haul.

For instance, prior to the 2008 Olympics, the Slim-Fast world was staggered by reports that Michael Phelps ate 12,000 calories per day, much of it from pizza, pasta, and pancakes. Phelps denied the figure, but it wasn’t as crazy as it sounds. For endurance athletes who burn 9,000 or more calories a day in training, being gluttonous is the only way to sustain energy. Likewise, if you’re preparing for a half marathon or a two-week bike tour, raising your caloric intake may be necessary for you to stay healthy and competitive.

Pigging out may also be the secret ingredient to a successful political career. A 2010 University of Missouri–Kansas City study found that overweight male candidates were perceived as more reliable, honest, inspiring, and better able to perform a strenuous job than their thinner adversaries. Once again, ladies, these findings held true only for men.

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