Why We Eat More Than We Think

Our subconscious has a lot more say about how much we eat than we give it credit for. It's time we take back control of our diet and the scale, says nutritionist Theresa Albert. The key to weight loss? Mindful eating.

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Bigger box, bigger servings.

Studies show that the larger the package, the more we'll consume. This rule is the same whether it's cereal, shampoo or laundry detergent. Eating lesson: Buy food in smaller packages. If you must buy in bulk, separate the contents into smaller portions immediately.

Variety is not the spice of life.

Studies show the greater the variety of food available, the more we will eat. In fact, even the illusion of variety (e.g. multicoloured candies) will lead us to consume extra. Eating lesson: Avoid too much variety on your plate and let the "taste boredom" work to your advantage.

Out of sight, out of mind.

Seeing or smelling food makes us want to eat it; willpower can only take us so far. Every time we look at food we have to make the conscious decision not to eat it. Eating lesson: Store treats in opaque containers so you're not so visually tempted.

Just out of reach.

Study after study has shown the more of a hassle it is to get to food, the less we will eat. If you had to hunt, skin and cook your dinner, you would eat a lot less so use that to your advantage. Eating lesson: Keeping snacks just six feet away will reduce consumption.

The more, the merrier?

The more people you're dining with, the more you'll eat. Studies show that eating with just one person increases consumption by 35%, while eating in a group of seven or more will cause you to eat almost double. Eating lesson: When you're out to eat, ask your server to put half of your meal in a doggy bag before they even bring it to the table.

Don't play the guessing game.

We're terrible at guessing how much food we've consumed. We consistently underestimate the number of calories we take in each day. Eating lesson: Familiarize yourself with serving sizes by spending a week measuring your food. Keep a food diary to force yourself to be conscious of how much you're actually eating.

Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs.

Our brains have developed visual cues to help us decide when we're full. The most powerful? The clean plate. Surprisingly, research shows that the actual size of the plate, and thus the volume of food consumed, matters very little. Your brain won't realize it's full until you've eaten everything on your plate. Eating lesson: Buy smaller plates and you'll eat less almost automatically.

 

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