The road to diet hell is paved with good intentions. Even if you’re committed to eating healthily, our minds are tricky little buggers that often derail our plans, without us even realizing it. The result is that people, in general, eat way more food than they think they do. Here are nine stealth-y tricks to take control of your mind-of-its-own appetite.
Eat dinner on dessert plates.
Are your eyes bigger than your stomach? Large plates cause an optical illusion, making us think we have less food than we really do. A Cornell study found that people eat a full 25 percent more when they eat off a larger plate. Instead, swap out your large plates for smaller ones (max 10 inch) or serve dinner on dessert plates. An easy trick for a trimmer dinner!
Drink from thin glasses.
If a short, wide glass looks smaller than a tall, thin glass, don’t be fooled. A study published in the British Medical Journal found that people pour 30 percent more liquid into a short glass versus a tall one. Even after the phenomenon is explained to them and they’re allowed to practice pouring less, they still pour 26 percent more in a short glass. The takeaway? Drink water from any old glass but pour caloric drinks like juice or soda into skinny glasses.
Eat at the dining room table.
Prone to eating straight out of the container while standing at the kitchen counter? In a study about which small changes work best for weight loss, researchers found that sitting down to eat at the kitchen or dining room table is among the most effective. So pull up a chair and make mealtime a sit-down affair.
Drink a glass of water before eating.
Think you’re hungry? You might just be thirsty. Our minds tend to confuse thirst with hunger, so drinking a glass of water before eating can help you eat less, or even make you realize you don’t need a snack at all!
Nix “family style” serving platters.
Dinner spreads with steaming bowls of garlic mashed potatoes and heaping plates of chicken wings might look amazing in Bon Appetit, but they’re a sure way to pack on the pounds. Serving food “family style”—with the serving platters on the table—makes you more likely to opt for seconds, or even thirds. Instead, serve your portion before you sit down and leave the rest of the food on the counter.
Snack on pistachios.
Snacking goes awry when you shovel handfuls of food in your mouth without even realizing it. Eating in-shell pistachios (a low-calorie nut) may help you curb your vacuum-like instincts in two ways, according to studies published in the journal Appetite. First, digging those nuts out of their shells slows consumption (no shoveling here!) and can decrease your calorie consumption (from the nuts) by 41 percent.
Second, the pile of empty shells serves as visual cue to remind you how much you’ve eaten, thus making it more likely that you’ll stop when you’ve had your fill.
Grocery shop with cash.
It sounds strange, but take an envelope of cash with you on your next shopping trip, and mentally commit to only spending that amount on food. Besides helping you save money, paying with cash might keep junk food out of your cart. Junk food is often an impulse buy (hello, holiday theme Oreos), and paying with credit or debit cards lowers your impulse control. Paying with cash forces you to think about what you’re buying, so if you’ve been known to toss a bag of Doritos into your basket seemingly against your own will, leave the plastic at home, folks.
Be the first to order.
Unless all of your friends are healthy-eating superstars at restaurants, jump in there and order your meal first. Why? Because if the people in your group order burgers and fries with a round of margaritas before you, how easy it going to be for you to order the vegetable stir fry and a glass of red wine? Exactly.
Dish your takeout food onto your own plate.
Restaurant portions are huge, but when they’re packed into takeout containers it’s hard to gauge that for yourself. Next thing you know, you’ve devoured an entire carton of pork fried rice in the blink of an eye. Dish your food out onto your own plate at home and you’ll likely eat less when you can visually measure your portions against a familiar dish.
If you want to outsmart your eating instincts, here’s the secret to success: Choose one of the tips in this gallery—just one, mind you—and commit to doing it for at least 28 days (the time it takes to form a habit). As food researcher Brian Wansink, Ph.D., says, “The best diet is the diet you don’t know you’re on.” Which tip will you pick to try?
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