Easy, sneaky tricks for portion control

Worried about your waistline?  Want to avoid overeating?  Use these simple strategies to help yourself eat reasonable amounts of food at mealtimes and snacktimes.

  • Never eat straight out of the bag or box.  If you plant yourself on the couch, bag of chips in hand, by the time that episode of Grey’s Anatomy is over you might find you’ve devoured half the bag.  Before you start eating, take a recommended serving size of the snack out of the box/bag and put it in a bowl.  Put the snack bag/box back in the cabinet (out of sight, out of mind!) and take your bowl to the couch.  Chances are, you’ll be too engrossed in what you’re watching to sneak back to the kitchen for seconds.
  • Be a little bored.  Studies have shown that repetitive eating can lead to weight loss.  The theory behind this is that even your favorite foods can get boring after a while if that’s what you predominately choose to eat.  Humans are programmed to have a habituation threshold–whatever your culinary vice, be it pizza or buffalo wings or hot dogs, you’ll habituate to it after a while.  And once you habituate to it, it’s very likely you’ll eat less of it than you used to.
  • Go ahead, eat the whole plate of food!  But there’s a caveat: it should be a smaller plate.  If you use a 10″ plate as opposed to a 12″ plate, you’ll automatically serve yourself 20-22% less food.  It won’t look like any less food to you–after all, that plate is nice and full–which will help to trick your brain into being satisfied with the smaller amount of food.  (But don’t use a plate that’s smaller than 10″–then it might really look smaller to you, which could make your brain think it’s not satisfied, prompting you to go back for second helpings.)
  • Get a bigger fork to go with that smaller plate.  New research indicates that using a plus-sized fork could help you eat less.  One recent study involved restaurant patrons–half got standard-sized forks while the other half got forks that were 20% bigger.  The folks who used the bigger forks ate significantly less than those who had forks of regular size.  Researchers found that bigger forks hold more food, which gave the people using those forks a visual cue that indicated they’re filling up.  On the other hand, the smaller forks–which, of course, held less food–seemed to make people think that they weren’t satisfying their hunger as quickly, which could compel people to keep eating.

There are ways to eat less without feeling like you’re limiting yourself–all it takes is knowing a few good ways to trick your brain and keep oversized amounts of edible temptations out of reach and out of mind.  If you have questions or want more information about ways to eat sensibly with reasonable portion sizes, it’s always a good idea to consult with a nutritionist or wellness coach.  Check with your employer first, since many employers offer wellness coaching (Health Advocate’s Wellness Advocate is one such program) as part of employee benefits packages.

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