Chances are good that your New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, and short of a medical procedure, the most effective way to do that is to eat less and exercise more — but that’s easier said than done. However, there are some simple ways you can trick yourself into eating less food that don’t require the sort of effort or self-discipline associated with the typical diet.
1. Use small plates and tall glasses.
If you take the food from a large plate and place it on a smaller plate, it fools your mind into thinking there’s more food than there is. The same illusion works with drinking out of tall, thin glasses.
2. Eat slowly.
Eating too fast doesn’t give your stomach enough time to realize it’s full, causing you to overeat. As evidence, studies have shown that fast eaters have a much higher body mass index (BMI) than slower eaters. There are several methods of slowing down your eating:
- Relax before starting to eat. Think happy thoughts, because stress causes people to eat faster.
- Talk. Your mother might have told you to not talk with your mouth full, but talking in between bites helps slow your intake of food.
- Chew thoroughly. Consider counting the number of times you chew to get in the habit.
- Pause. Put down your utensils between bites, and if you’re considering seconds, take a few minutes to let your stomach adjust; it may decide it’s actually full.
- Eat with your non-dominant hand. Eating with your “off” hand will naturally slow down the process of eating — granted, you might end up spilling half of your food (which will certainly lower your calorie intake).
3. Don’t watch TV.
Being hypnotized by the TV makes you less likely to pay attention to how much you’re eating, and your natural urge is to keep eating until the show or movie has ended. All the food commercials don’t help, either. It’s not surprising that a Harvard study found that children eat an extra 167 calories for every hour of TV they watch.
4. Use small utensils.
They don’t necessarily have to be baby spoons, but a University of Rhode Island study found that people who used smaller utensils — particularly smaller spoons or even chopsticks — ate about 70 fewer calories per meal, probably due to the slower intake of food.
5. Use mirrors.
An interesting study found that people eat less junk food if there are mirrors nearby reflecting their gluttony. Consider putting a mirror magnet on the refrigerator and in other strategic places around the kitchen.
6. Keep snacks out of sight.
What you can’t see can’t hurt you, right? OK, maybe it can, but research has shown that people eat less food if it’s packed away and not easily visible or reachable. Even if they know where the food is and how to get it, the extra effort might give them reason to pause and think about it. One study even found that office workers ate 23% less candy from an opaque candy dish than from a transparent container.
7. Eat breakfast.
Eat more to eat less? Studies have shown that people who eat breakfast have a lower BMI and consume fewer calories than those who skip breakfast — perhaps because it makes them feel more full throughout the day. Keep in mind that high-protein breakfasts work best at suppressing the appetite, so lay off the pancakes and bagels.
8. Take single-serving snacks.
Bowls are there for a reason. Use them. Instead of grabbing a whole bag of chips to eat, pour a single serving into a bowl so you won’t be tempted to keep going until you reach the bottom of the bag.
9. Use red plates.
Apparently, some studies have shown that people eat fewer snacks when they’re on red plates or bowls. Maybe there’s something subliminal about red meaning “stop.” Who are we to argue with science?
10. Chew gum.
Gum gives your mouth something to do, and the flavoring can make the taste of food less appealing.
11. Eat less variety.
You know how, when you order a sampler platter, you feel like you have to try everything? Don’t do that. Chances are if you have two plates with the same amount of food but different levels of variety, you’ll eat less from the plate with less variety.
12. Eat spicy foods.
Spice not only makes you eat slower, but it also makes you eat less, for a number of reasons. First, it makes you drink more water, which fills you up. Second, depending on how spicy it is, it’s borderline painful to eat. And lastly, it triggers receptors in your brain that make your body more aware that you are in fact eating.
13. Segregate the food.
When you sit down for a meal at the dinner table, leave the least healthy foods in the kitchen to reduce the temptation to eat more.
14. Leave the clutter.
Don’t be in a rush to clear away the remnants of a meal before it’s over. One study found that people ate 30% more chicken wings if the bones from the ones they’d already eaten were taken away. Leave evidence of the food that’s been eaten (bones, cupcake papers, candy wrappers, etc.) as a reminder of what’s already gone into your stomach.
15. Brush your teeth.
Brushing your teeth after dinner makes your mouth feel clean, reducing the likelihood of you wanting to dirty it up with food. Plus, it sends a message to your brain that feeding time is over.
(Sources: Summer Tomato, Men’s Health, Prevention, The Telegraph, SparkPeople, Woman’s Day)