11 Painless Ways to Trick Yourself Into Eating Less

by Sarah Winfrey on 25 February 2014 1 comment

It's here: the time of year when New Year's resolutions curl up and die. We're already at the end of February, which means that most resolutions have been broken, if not abandoned outright. (See also: How to Make Your Resolutions Stick)

If you are considering giving up your resolutions for weight loss and/or eating better, think again. Sometimes, these resolutions are too difficult to attack head on. However, if you can trick yourself into eating less, you just might be able to achieve more success with these resolutions than you had dreamed possible.

1. Dine With a Fast Eater

When you eat with dining companions, you are likely to finish when they do, no matter how much you have actually consumed. So if you eat with someone who eats quickly, you won't have as much time to consume calories. Try to avoid eating large meals with people who linger, or you might find yourself eating even more than usual.

2. Eat Off a Smaller Plate

People who eat off smaller plates eat less food. Think about it this way, and it makes sense: When you fill a small plate and eat it all, you feel like you've eaten a whole plate of food, even when, in fact, you haven't eaten nearly as much as you might have eaten if you'd had a larger plate.

3. Lower the Lights

Experimenters changed the lighting in part of a restaurant and then examined how that changed the ways people ate. While people ordered just as much rich and high-calorie food when the lights were low, they ate less of it and reported themselves happier and more satisfied after their meal. Echo these results by eating in dimmer light at home, too.

4. Take Smaller Portions

In general, people eat the food they are served. Therefore, if you serve yourself a small portion, rather than a large one, you're likely to eat less. Even if you're very hungry, eat your small portion, and then take some time to evaluate whether you're still hungry. It's better to eat two small portions that you actually want, rather than a single large portion that you're not actually hungry for. (See also: Losing Weight With Portion Control)

5. Drink More Water

When you drink water while you eat, you may find yourself craving vegetables, rather than french fries or other salty and/or unhealthy snacks. No one knows exactly why this works, but it seems especially effective for some people. The only way to know if it works for you is to try it, so what are you waiting for?

6. Use a Larger Fork

While it seems counterintuitive, people who eat with a larger fork tend to eat less. Psychologists surmise that this happens because eating with a large fork helps people see more clearly the fact that they are consuming the food on their plates. They feel like they are accomplishing the goal of alleviating their hunger, so they eat less overall.

7. Contrast Your Food and Your Plate

The higher the contrast between the color of the food and the color of the plate it's on, the less you will serve yourself and, therefore, the less you will eat. Whenever you have a chance, pick a plate that is very different in color than the food that will be put on it. This is especially true when you are serving yourself, as studies show you will put less food on it.

8. Snack With 100-Calorie Packs

If you want a snack but you don't want to eat too much, try eating from one of those 100-calorie snack packs. If you don't want to spend the extra money that those cost, or the snack you want doesn't come in a 100-calorie portion, try buying in bulk and then repackaging the items yourself. Either way, you are likely to consume fewer calories than if you were to snack out of a large bag. (See also: Delicious and Healthy Snacks)

9. Snack on Appetite-Suppressing Foods

There are many foods that can make you feel less hungry, such as almonds, fat rich avocados, foods rich in fiber like oatmeal and apples. Include these in your diet regularly, and you're likely to find yourself eating less than you did before. Make sure you don't overdo it, though. While most of these foods are considered "healthy," eating more food than you are hungry for is never a good thing.

10. Remember How Much You Ate

People who think they ate a lot at their last meal are less likely to think themselves hungry than those who think they didn't eat very much. Apparently, our perceived hunger is actually more about how we are thinking about our food and portion sizes than it is about what we actually eat. So don't think about deprivation, and instead convince yourself that you are eating well, and you will eat less overall.

11. Limit Your Selection

When people are presented with food with which they are familiar, they generally eat less. This, it seems, happens because we do a better job of predicting just how full familiar foods will make us, and so we don't take more than we need. When we're not familiar with the foods we're offered, we serve ourselves more and eat more, because we think we might need it in order to feel full.

If any of these suggestions help you find success with your resolutions, let us know! And if you have any other tricks or tips that might help people out, send those our way, too.

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Andrea Karim's picture

I actually find that eating slower makes me eat less. I grew up in a family of "scarfers" and we always over-ate.

When you eat more slowly (chew a ridiculous amount of time, take smaller bites), it gives your stomach time to send signals of fullness to your brain. In general, it takes 20 minutes for the brain to recognize fullness (I don't have studies to back this up, but it's what my dietician told me). You can easily shovel down too much food if you eat too fast, but if you eat slowly, you give your stomach time to realize that it's sated.