Due to a natural sense of self-preservation, your brain is usually very much on your side when it comes to staying fit and healthy. However, at certain times – such as when you find yourself in the presence of a cream cake – such instincts seem to go out of the window. Even when humans know something is bad for them, they often can’t avoid eating it, and they’ll routinely overindulge well beyond the amount of food they need to be full. Fortunately there are also some methods by which you can trick your brain into supporting your diet.
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Simply opting for a smaller plate could help in reducing portion size, as a dollop of pasta that appears too little on a 12-inch plate might seem sufficient on a smaller one. Several studies have found that using a smaller plate can reduce calorie intake by as much as 22% using a 10-inch plate compared with a 12-inch one.
Pick The Right Colour
Another optical illusion that can scupper portion control is serving food on the same colour plate. A study in 2012 found that people served themselves 20% more when using plates that match the colour of their food compared with using contrasting crockery. Your best bet is going green, so the only thing you end up overloading on is vegetables. Or mint choc chip ice cream.
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Eat In The Dark…
A tricky one to pull off when in company, unless you head to the Dans Le Noir restaurant, but a study in Germany earlier this year found that people who ate blindfolded consumed 9% fewer calories, and not just because they kept missing their mouth. The darkness inhibited the participants’ pleasure, so they were able to recognise when they were full more easily.
…But Order In The Light
You might save calories by eating in the dark, but you’re 16 to 24% more likely to order healthy food in a well-lit space, according to a 2016 study. This is because you’re more alert, with those lulled into drowsiness by gloomy restaurants ordering 39% more calories.
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Count Your Bites
If counting calories doesn’t appeal, you can try counting bites instead. A study in late 2015 found that asking participants to reduce the number of bites they took by 20 or 30% resulted in an average weight loss of 3.5lb.
Wait 20 Minutes
Before heading back for seconds, give your body 20 minutes to register the food you’ve already eaten. The same goes for pudding – if you don’t move on to the cake straight away, you might find that you’re full enough without it.
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.