Cornell University researchers asked a group of people a simple question: “How do you know when you’re through eating dinner?”
Doesn’t everyone push the plate away when they feel full? NO. The leanest people do, but people who are overweight rely more on what are known as “external cues.” For example, guys packing a few extra pounds tend to stop eating when . . .
1. Their plates are clean.
2. Everyone else in their group is finished.
3. The TV show they’re watching is over.
These cues have nothing to do with how they feel physically. When eating becomes mindless, overeating becomes routine.
The key player in all of this appears to be a region of your brain called the left posterior amygdala, or LPA. This area monitors the volume of food in your stomach during a meal. Fill your gut to a comfortable level, and the LPA tells your brain to drop the fork. Trouble is, it delivers that information at dial-up speed in a DSL world. Many men consume calories faster than their bodies can say, ‘Stop!'”
Sit Down to Snack: Turns out, the trappings of a formal meal make you think you’re eating more than you actually are—and that may boost satiety levels. A 2006 Canadian study found that when people ate lunch while sitting at a set table, they consumed a third less at a later snack than those who ate their midday meals while standing at a counter.
Think of it as the Zen of eating: “If you treat every dining experience with greater respect, you’ll be less likely to use your fork as a shovel,” says sports nutritionist and behavioral psychotherapist Lisa Dorfman, M.S., R.D. “And that includes snacks as well as your three squares.”
University of Massachusetts researchers found that people who watched TV during a meal consumed 288 more calories on average than those who didn’t. The reason: What you’re seeing on television distracts you, which keeps your brain from recognizing that you’re full.
Slow Down: “Pay close attention to those first three bites, which people usually wolf down due to excitement,” says Jeffrey Greeson, Ph.D., a health psychologist at Duke Integrative Medicine. In fact, mimic a food critic: “Examine the food’s texture, savor the flavors in your mouth, and then pay attention and feel the swallow,” he says. “Psychologically, this form of meditative eating boosts satiety and promotes a sense of satisfaction for the entire meal.”
While you’re at it, try spicing up relatively bland fare, such as scrambled eggs, with hot sauce or smoked paprika. “Hot, flavorful foods help trigger your brain to realize you’re eating,” says Dorfman.
Keep a Food Journal: It’s an effective way to remind yourself how much you’re eating over the course of a day. But it doesn’t need to be complicated: University of Pittsburgh scientists found that dieters who simply wrote down the size of each meal (S, M, L, XL) were just as successful at losing weight as those who tracked specific foods and calorie counts.
Don’t Trust the Healthy Menu: You’re likely to underestimate your meal’s calorie count by about 35 percent, according to a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research. The best approach is to check the restaurant’s nutrition guide before you order. A University of Mississippi study found that people consumed 54 percent fewer calories when they used this simple strategy.