When you were a kid and your mom said not to touch something, that which was the first thing you desired to do? Touch it, right? Now apply that theory to your eating routine. If a person lets you know to influence clear of the cookie jar because those little morsels of goodness are chock-full of calories, shouldn’t you be even more tempted to grab one (or three)? Rest assured, you aren’t the only person.

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In a series of three studies, researchers at Arizona State University discovered that when dieters were exposed to negative messages about food (think: “Sugary snacks are bad for you”), they craved unhealthy?food more. (Yep, that is correct.)

In the very first study, folks who read an adverse message about dessert had more positive opinion of these bad-for-you foods than people that were exposed to an optimistic or neutral message. In the next study, dieters read either a positive or negative message about sugar-laden snacks; then watched a video while noshing on cookies. The result: The negative-message group ate 39% more cookies compared to those?who read an optimistic message. And in the final study, dieters who viewed a message that listed both the pros and cons of their snacks choose fewer unhealthy ones than dieters who read a strictly negative message.

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“We think dieters increase their interest in and consume more processed foods after seeing one-sided negative messages because they feel like their freedom to manage their diet is threatened,” explains Nguyen Pham, among the study’s researchers. For this reason Pham recommends utilizing a mix of positive and negative messaging-such as “Dessert tastes good, but isn’t good in my?health”-to help to keep your consumption under control.

“Dieters do not see double-sided messages about processed foods like a threat for their freedom,” she says. “Instead, they view these messages as providing much more freedom of preference. As a result, they are more likely to adhere to the messages and choose less unhealthy foods.”

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So next time you are about to police your (or a friend’s ) diet, do this mental?trick?instead. It may just provide you with the resolve you need to walk away.