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How to Trick Yourself into Eating Less

The same sized portions on different plates.

We’ve picked up on thousands of signals since childhood that we use to determine how much to eat.  It can be a good thing (i.e. a serving of veggies with every meal) or it can be bad (i.e. having to “clean your plate”).  Aside from the foods we choose, there are many environmental factors that determine what we eat to a greater degree than we’re aware.

Research shows that as much as we may try to closely monitor what we eat, sometimes our best efforts are undermined.  Therefore, I’m suggesting that one aspect of eating a healthy amount of food (and the right types of foods) is about tricking ourselves – and here’s how to do it:

1. Don’t look at it.

Research: When candies were placed in clear jars they were eaten 46% more quickly than when they were in opaque jars.
Principle: Simply seeing or smelling a favorable food can increase reported hunger and can stimulate salivation, which means you tend to eat more.
Trick: for unhealthy foods, use opaque jars or wrap food in tin foil.  Keep healthier foods (like fruit) visible on the counter or in the fridge.

2. Eat the same thing.

Research: If more than 1 flavor of yogurt is offered, people eat 23% more.
Principle: Variety (even perceived variety) makes people believe they will enjoy the food more and increases consumption
Trick: Have 2 or fewer things on your plate at a time – especially at buffets or receptions.

3. Size matters.

Research: the volume of food eaten tends to be a better indicator of how full individuals report they feel than does the calorie density of the food.
Principle: Proper portion sizing is integral because you will eat more volume, even if it means excess calories.
Trick: Pre-portion high calorie items like nuts or candies.  Then, the end of the package acts as a stopping point, rather than volume or fullness.

4. Buying in bulk is better for your wallet but worse for your waist.

Research: When convenient, ready to eat foods are initially stockpiled, they are eaten at slightly more than twice the rate of non-stockpiled foods (an avg. of 112% faster).
Principle: When you think there’s an abundance, you’ll eat more.
Trick: Stockpile healthy foods and only purchase the unhealthy foods in small amounts, once in a while.

5. Optical illusions are out to get you. 
Research: People tend to overestimate height by 20%.  Even professionals (bartenders) pour more liquor in highball glasses vs. tumblers.
Principle: More than 71% of the food you eat is consumed using a bowl, plate, glass or utensil so making your food appear larger is better for your health.
Trick:  Choose tall drinking glasses, small plates, and small utensils.

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