Trick Your Brain into Eating Less When You're at Home
You already take tinier bites from smaller plates and bowls. Here are seven other lab-tested diet strategies that may fool the (ravenous) unconscious.
Change the Lightbulb
In your dining area, swap out your bright, harsh lights (especially fluorescents) for a softer alternative—like the new warm, white LED bulbs. When Cornell University researchers gave a fast-food restaurant a fine-dining makeover (a warmer glow along with soft jazz), diners lingered longer but ate 18 percent less of the fast-food offerings
. Bonus: They also relished their meal more.
Hang a Mirror in Your Kitchen
Prevent yourself from overeating fatty foods by letting vanity (or at least self-awareness) work in your favor. "Something as simple as a mirror on a refrigerator" is all it takes, write researchers at Iowa State University. In their study, diners who ate in a room with a large mirror
unknowingly consumed significantly less fatty food (cream cheese) than those who weren't forced to see themselves.
Choose a High-Contrast Plate.
Unconsciously, you'll serve yourself less food if the color of your plate is starkly different from its contents
. Cornell researchers found that buffet diners put 22 percent more pasta on their plates when the colors blended (pasta with tomato sauce on a reddish plate, pasta alfredo on a white plate).
Swap Out Your Utensils
Serve yourself less food than you think by using tongs instead of a serving spoon
. (Specifically, 16.5 percent less, found researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, who say that pinched food is harder to transfer.) Then eat the food with chopsticks—a Cornell study found them to be used more than three times as often among normal-weight diners as obese ones at a Chinese food buffet. Chopsticks slow down food intake
, giving the brain time to realize that your stomach is full—before you've overeaten. These "nudges" are tiny, but over time, they add up to thousands of calories avoided.
Pour on Extra Olive Oil
It sounds counterintuitive, but you’ll feel fuller and eat less later in the day, advise researchers at Technische Universität München and the University of Vienna who compared the daily calorie consumption of people who ate various oil-enriched yogurts. Compared to other fats like lard, butterfat, or rapeseed oil, olive oil contains the highest amounts of two compounds, Hexanal and E2-Hexenal
, that reduce glucose absorption in the liver. Note: Italian olive oil contains more of these diet-boosters than olive oil from any other country.
Eat Sweets in the Morning
Further reduce carb cravings by adding a crucial side dish to your morning egg whites: dessert
. In an eight-month study at Tel Aviv University, obese dieters who ate a small sweet
—a square of chocolate, a doughnut or a cookie—with a protein-packed breakfast lost on average nearly 40 pounds more than a group who avoided sweets. The double-punch combo of protein and carbs makes you feel fuller longer, and with fewer late-day cravings, increasing the chances that you'll stick to your diet over the long term.
Stop Thinking About Exercise
Because a workout on the mind leads to hunger and overeating. A Cornell University study found that people primed with an exercise scenario served themselves 55 percent more snacks
than those whose thoughts were focused elsewhere. While physical exertion suppresses the appetite in the short term (but doesn't necessarily lead to weight loss over the long term), thinking about it triggers the brain to crave calories.
Next: The surprising reasons you're eating more
As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.