Published on October 24, 2011
Appetite control, weight loss, and healthy eating can all be influenced by your subconscious mind.
So why not play a few tricks on your subconscious? Not only can you use these five powerful calorie control tricks to trick your brain into eating less food, but you can make yourself feel fuller, faster – and resist the urge to eat more.
Calorie Control Trick #1: Use Smaller Utensils & Dishes
In the video above, I show you how the size of the bowl, plate, or spoon that you use can significantly influence how much food and how many calories you consume. In the study “Ice cream illusions bowls, spoons, and self-served portion sizes.”, 85 nutrition experts who were attending an ice cream social were randomly given either a smaller (17 oz) or a larger (34 oz) bowl and either a smaller (2 oz) or larger (3 oz) ice cream scoop. After serving themselves, they completed a brief survey as their ice cream was weighed.
Even when nutrition experts were given a larger bowl, they served themselves 31% more without being aware of it. In addition, their servings increased by over 14% when they were given a larger serving spoon.
In this study from University of Pennsylvania,psychologists conducted an experiment in an upscale apartment building in which they left out a bowl of the chocolate candies with a small scoop.
The next day they refilled the bowl with M&M’s, but used a much larger scoop – and when the scoop size was increased, people took 66 percent more M&M’s!
So use smaller plates, bowls and utensils, even if somebody laughs at you for eating your soup with a teaspoon.
Calorie Control Trick #2: “Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind”
Whether you're eating dinner at home, at a party with snack tables or out at a buffet, there is a simple rule that multiple studies have confirmed: the less exposure your eyes, ears and nose have to food, the less likely you are to eat too many calories.
For example, unless we are eating outdoors, for dinner my wife or I will plate the food and bring it to the table, but leave any larger dishes, pots, pans or bowls full of food on the countertop or on the stove, where we are less likely to reach for them and grab a second serving.
You can use this same trick in many other ways, such as:
-At parties, don't park next to the snack table, but instead socialize farther away from the grub…
-At buffet restaurants or regular restaurants, seat yourself farther away from the kitchen, the bar, or other food displays…
-Keep any snacks or tempting sweets in opaque (non-transparent) containers or places where they're not readily accessible in your home…
-Shove any tasty, tempting food to the back of the refrigerator or pantry, and bring the healthy food to the front…
Any of my energy bars, sweet exercise drinks, or other sugary, tempting treats are kept in two inconvenient places: the garage, and a door in the bottom of my bedroom closet. This ensures I'm much less likely to eat empty calories. I talk about more tricks similar to this in my book “100 Ways To Boost Your Metabolism”.
Another good book for learning about how easily our minds are tricked is 59 Seconds, in which the author describes a series of experiments that compared putting chocolates on office worker's desks to putting the chocolates six feet away. When the chocolates were placed on the desk instead of 6 feet away, each person ate on average 6 more chocolates per day. In another similar experiment, the chocolates were placed inside either transparent or opaque jars. The chocolates in the transparent jars were eaten 46% more quickly than the opaque jars!
Calorie Control Trick #3: “Limit Your Options”
In a recent British study, research revealed that when kids were presented with snacks that were familiar and not much different than the snacks they usually had, they ate fewer calories.
Not only does this mean that you might be able to get your kids to plow through slightly less Halloween candy this year by ensuring that they get many of the same types of candy, but you can also assume that we probably don't change much as we age.
So instead of heading to the supermarket and stocking up on three different types of cookies, several varieties of cereal, five different types of fruits, and several choice selections of deli meats and cheeses, you'd be better off simply choosing one option. In doing so, you'll reduce selection in your pantry and refrigerator, and leave yourself less likely to overeat simply because you want to try a variety of new flavors.
Interestingly, this study reminds me of Stephen Guyenet's “Food Reward Hypothesis”, in which he suggest that by eating simple foods and reducing our reward response to food, we can probably do a better job controlling overeating and obesity.
Calorie Control Trick #4: “Slow Down”
Eating more slowly can help you to eat less. When you take your time with each bite, and fully chew and swallow (in many cases this means chewing a bite 20-25 times) you allow the fullness signal from gastric hormones to reach your brain and shut down your appetite before you eat too much.
But there may be more to eating less than simply slowing down.
At Pennington BioMedical Research Centre, 48 participants were studied in a lab as they ate three meals at lunchtime on different days.
Each participant was asked to avoid eating or exercise for 12 hours before lunch, and ate a meal of fried chicken, cut up into bite sizes at their own rate, at half their normal rate (paced by a beeping noise), or at a mix of their own rate and then the slower rate.
The finding was that the combination of beginning the meal eating at one's own eating rate, and then dropping to a slower eating rate, had the biggest reduction on appetite for both men and women – more than eating slowly all the way through.
So to reduce the appetite, it may make sense to eat at whatever pace seems natural at first, but about halfway through your meal, to consciously slow down and begin to savor every bite.
Of course, I always look at studies like this with a wary eye, because how often do you eat lunch after a 12 hour fast with no exercise?
Calorie Control Trick #5: “Remove Distractions”
Multiple studies have found that you eat more when you are distracted by TV, movies, phones or games. In that same book 59 Seconds, people who were paying close attention to a movie ate significantly larger amounts of popcorn compared to those that were paying less attention to the movie.
In another experiment in that book, people who actively listened to an engaging detective story being told to them during lunch ate 15% more than those who had no story to listen to.
In another interesting study, researchers at University of Southern California gave moviegoers either fresh popped or stale popcorn and monitored how much they ate. They found that taste of the popcorn was not the primary motivator for how much people ate. People ate the same amount of popcorn whether it was stale or fresh. But when people watched the movie in a meeting room instead of a theater, they ate ate more of the fresh popcorn than stale.
This study suggests that when you are engaged in an environment that is primarily geared toward entertainment, or absorbed in a movie on your iPad, you're likely to eat more food, whether or not you even like the food! It seems that distractions not only make you eat more, but can even make you eat more food you wouldn't normally eat anyways.
What do you think?
If you liked this, be sure to check out these other articles from BenGreenfieldFitness:
Are there other tricks that you personally use to help you eat less food? If you have more feedback, questions or comments, simply leave them below!
Related Articles You'd Like
Also published on Medium.