5 Ways to Eat Less by Tricking Your Brain

Posted On Aug 23, 2016 By Erin Kuh, MBA, RD

5 Ways to Eat Less by Tricking Your Brain

Turn on the TV — food commercials. Drive anywhere: Fast food, food billboards, food radio ads. Food at the checkout line at the hardware store. Candy at home goods stores. Food is EVERYWHERE. And it's not all carrot sticks, chia seeds, and apple slices.

It takes conscious effort to not be bombarded by the overwhelming amount of food marketing, and even more effort to not give in to one of hundreds of external environmental cues telling you you're hungry, you need to eat. Right now.

More and more research studies are showing that our eating habits are shaped in large part by environment and external cues, rather than our own mind's power to make conscious choices. Armed with this knowledge, how can you use it in your favor to trick your mind into overcoming the subconscious decisions made multiple times per day that have potential to wreak havoc on your health?

  1. Clear your counters and desktops

    The more visible food is, the more likely you are to eat or think about food. Keeping a fruit bowl on the counter is fine but stow away everything else. Out of sight, out of mind is true!

  2. Cut food into many pieces

    You may find yourself mentally and physically satisfied with less food by creating the illusion that you have more on your plate. How to accomplish this?

    • Slice an apple rather than eating a whole one
    • Cut your sandwich into quarters instead of just half
    • Before cooking bacon, cut slices in half. This way you "feel" like you're getting two pieces instead of just one! You can use this approach with other high calorie foods.
    • Instead of placing a whole chicken breast or steak on your plate, slice it first and then take a few slices rather than the whole piece of meat.
  3. Don't be a sheep

    We tend to keep eating if those around us are eating. Or we get seconds if someone else does. Take note of this the next time you're eating out, when it can be the most damaging due to the oversized portions or endless baskets of chips, bread, etc. Eat slowly and when you're full, push your plate away, pop in a breath mint or piece of gum, or put your meal in a to-go container right away to avoid mindless munching.

  4. Eat on smaller plates

    This has been recommended for years and it really does work! And it doesn't require tediously measuring and weighing out every morsel of food. The smaller your plate or bowl, the less you eat, but your brain is still satisfied because your plate looks full of food.

  5. Eat less variety in a single meal

    More variety at a single meal keeps our taste buds intrigued, which then tells our brain to keep eating. Buffets are a great example of this. Variety is good, but only to a certain extent. To avoid over-stimulating your taste buds, stick with 3–4 different foods or dishes at a single meal. For example, a breakfast with eggs, fruit, and toast or dinner with chicken, one or two vegetable dishes, and roasted potatoes, offers just enough variety to be nutritionally well-rounded and satisfying without over-stimulating the taste buds.

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