Want to consume fewer calories without feeling more hungry? Just make your mind think your stomach is full. Certain science-backed mind games actually trick your brain into thinking you’ve eaten more than you have. The result? You eat less overall and end up losing weight. Not convinced? Try these simple strategies:
1. Use a smaller plate: When you stand next to a person who’s half your size, you might feel like a giant. (Don’t try it at the beach.) Use this illusion to your advantage when you set the table. When you plop a skimpy serving on a small plate, the portion pops and appears larger. In fact, an American Journal of Preventative Medicine study found that this practice helps people to serve themselves less and think they’ve eaten more.
2. Turn down the lights: Candle-lit meals aren’t just romantic. In a 2012 study published in the journal Psychological Reports, researchers dimmed the lights and played low-key music in one area of a fast-food restaurant. Diners who ate in the classy wing consumed about 18 percent fewer calories. So lower the lights, turn up the tunes, and relax before you dig in to a meal–in all likelihood, you’ll eat less.
3. Cut your food into bite-sized pieces: Chopping up your food into baby bites might make you feel juvenile, but it does more than prevent you from choking: In fact, a 2012 Arizona State University study found that people whose food was cut into into pieces ate less later on. Why? When your food is served in pieces, it takes up more room on your plate and makes your mind think you’ve eaten more even after the meal.
4. Bulk up your serving: Another way to make your serving look ginormous without adding calories? Give it more volume by adding calorie-free ingredients like water, ice, or air, or low-calorie components like veggies. For soups and sauces, just stir in a bit of water and add spices if necessary to beef up the taste. The same strategy works well with thicker yogurts: add a tablespoon of water and a pinch of sugar substitute to add mass and maintain the sweet taste. More ideas: Add extra ice cubes to the blender when you’re making a smoothie; whip mashed potatoes or eggs with an electric mixer to add air; and double the size of a microscopic microwave meal by adding a cup or two of mixed veggies.