Are you sick of those stupid ads that claim to help you have a simple tip to lose weight? Seriously, stop it internet. Instead, use your brain to trick your stomach into eating less.

portionsEating is one of our favorite past times in America. In fact, USDA say that Americans age 15 or older spends ten and a half hours a week simply eating or drinking (it’s like a quarter of a work-week).

Back in 2009, the World Health Organization released a study showing Americans aren’t obese ONLY because of a lack of physical activity, but also we tend to overeat. Portion control is important, but it’s hard to measure portions when dining out. There is a solution to that: use some visual trickery.

When we look at our meal, the brain takes in all sorts of information—from the sight to the smell, to the plate size and the amount of food on it. And from that, you decide how much of it you are going to eat.

A study in the Journal of Consumer Research placed two different fork sizes at an Italian restaurant to see what would happen. In the end, diners who used the large forks ate less than the ones who had the small forks. The reason they guessed has to do with goal-oriented eating. We go to restaurants, expecting to come out satisfied thus a large fork makes a bigger dense in the food on your plates—visually speaking. That’s really important because we see that we have eaten more and because of that large dense, we feel like we have eaten a lot in only just a few bites.

The same goes for the size of dishware. With small plates, the fork size doesn’t really matter but with large plates—that were both high-dining with just a little portion and completely full like in a chain restaurant—the size of the fork affected how much we ate.  While the fork does matter less with a smaller plate, the plate size matters all of the time.

A study in the Journal of Pediatrics found if offered, that kids will select from a large and small bowl—either one, and fill them to the brim with cereal and milk regardless—the larger bowls creates significantly more food waste and they overeat.

The problem is we are not very in tune with our bodies. Since we never learned to be hungry and eat properly, the brain uses the eyes as a visual cue to measure how much we’ve eaten. Rather than listening to the hundred-million neurons in our guts which is more than our spinal cord—by the way—a quick fix is to take time and learn about your body.

The authors of the large fork study put it this way: When you are hungry, drink water instead of eating. Pay attention to how the feeling of hunger goes away. If it returns, you do need food and if not, you were just thirsty.

We have what is called a weak “hunger reflex.” Ten minutes after the meal begins, your brain will begin to note the rising insulin levels and blood sugars in your body and nerve cells in your stomach will begin to help you feel satiated. Once you feel the slightest bit of pressure from your stomach, you should stop eating. If you have ‘packed it to the rafters,’ then you have overeaten and that’s bad. Welcome to America.

Try and learn about your hunger reflex, it’s kind of great. Although you may still overeat on vacations and around the holidays, if you pay attention to your body, you will eat a lot less day-to-day.

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