Note: This is the second article in two-part series. Make sure to check out the first article before starting with this one!
10 Ways To Lose Weight Without Going On A Diet: Part I
I’m going to jump right back in with the next 5 ways to lose weight without going on a diet. We start this post with number six.
#6 Colors and appetite
Years and years of evolutionary pressure have cued your body to respond in different ways to different colors. For example, a lot of ripe fruit is red in color. This has trained your brain to associate the red color with sweet. These color associations can have a dramatic effect on the way you perceive food to taste.
One study showed popcorn to be perceived as sweeter when eaten out of a red bowl. Participants perceived popcorn to be saltier when it was consumed out of a blue bowl. (11) This effect is also noticed in the color of tableware a dish is served in. For example, strawberry mousse looks to be a more vibrant hue of red when served on a white plate compared to a black plate. Participants found strawberry mousse to taste sweeter when served on a white plate. (12)
When you plate dessert, try to use a dish that amplifies the color of the dessert. The brighter color the dessert looks, the better. If you perceive this dish to be sweeter, you’re likely to eat less.
In modern society, the color red isn’t always associated with fruity delights. Instead, it’s a color often used to note caution. Think back to your last drive, did you notice how many signs had red on them. In this context, the color red can also be used to help you proceed with caution. Even when it comes to food intake.
In one study, participants were offered a plate of pretzels to snack on while they completed a survey. They pretzels were placed on either a red, white, or blue plate. Those who had pretzels served on a red plate consumed 50% fewer pretzels than those served with the white or blue plates. Similarly, when a red sticker was placed on a plastic cup, participants consumed 50% less sugary drink mix compared to when there was no sticker on the cup. (13)
Another study put a red potato chip at regular intervals in a tube of Lays Stax potato chips. For those unfamiliar with the chips, they’re Lays version of the Pringles potato chip. Participants who consumed potato chips with a red chip at regular intervals reduced their total intake by about 250 calories. (14)
It is thought that the red color stops mindless consumption. And mindless consumption is the reason why you can easily crush a bag of potato chips. The red color ques you to pay attention.
The take-aways here are twofold:
- Serve snacks on a red plate
- This will inhibit mindless consumption. By doing this, you’re less likely to overeat.
- Serve sweets and desserts with a dish/plate color that intensifies the color of the treat.
- If you perceive the dish to be a brighter color, you’ll likely perceive it to be sweeter and therefore eat less of it.
#7 Portion control
Humans love to see massive portions of food. Think back to the last restaurant commercial you viewed: it’s likely that that the food shown was in excess. Like Thanksgiving style portions. Unfortunately, when food is served to you in a large portion you’re likely to eat it all. Even if you don’t need the extra calories.
In One study, college students were served either a 9 or 13-ounce pasta dish. It turns out that the 9-ounce dish was enough food. no one went back for seconds. But those who were served a 13-ounce dish ate it all. In this study, those with a 13-ounce dish consumed 43% more food (172 additional calories) than those with the 9-ounce dish. Even though the ingredients were exactly the same. (15)
If your plate is large, you’ll consume more food than if your plate is small. While this might sound insignificant, consider that those eating with a large plate consume nearly 50% more snack foods and 25% more meals than they did when eating with a small plate. (16)
Plates aside, make sure you’re also considering the size of the container in which you serve your snacks. For example, let’s say you put 500 grams of chips in a small bowl. Your brain will perceive there to be a lot of chips. Therefore, you’re less likely to overeat. However, if you put the same 500 grams of chips into a massive salad bowl, your brain will perceive there to be a chip scarcity. Odds are, you’ll overeat.
Another way to trick your brain into perceiving that there is more food (and therefore reduce the amount you eat) is by dividing your food into smaller pieces. One study showed that people ate less when four sandwiches were cut into thirty-two pieces than when the same sandwiches were served as sixteen quarters. (17) When food is served in smaller pieces you’re more likely to savor and enjoy each bite. When food is plated in large servings, you’re more likely to wolf it down.
Did you know: the more time food spends in your mouth, the more satiating it is?
This is why a smoothie is less satiating than a salad consisting of the same ingredients and calories. Smoothies spend little time in your mouth.
The takeaways from this section are:
- Eat your meals on a small plate
- If you’re snacking, put your snack in a small bowl/container
- Cut your food into small pieces before eating
- Opt for whole foods instead of smoothies, juices, or drinks
#8 Don’t trust your eyes
When it comes to food quantity, your eyes can’t be trusted.
You will likely keep eating until your eyes tell you that there is no more food. One study had participants consume tomato soup in large bowls. Participants were instructed to eat as much as they’d like. The twist is that half of the participant’s bowls (secretly) kept refilling themselves. The group of participants that received the self-refilling bowls consumed 73% more soup than those whos bowls were not self-refilling. (18) Don’t rely on your eyes to tell you how much food you’ve consumed!
If you spread your food across your plate instead of keeping it neat and tidy, you’re likely to eat less. A study done at Arizona state university found that participants ate fewer chicken pieces when they were scattered across the plate than when they were clustered close together. (18)
This goes back to why I recommended consuming your food on a smaller plate. If you have pasta for lunch (gluten-free, I hope!) and you eat it on a large plate, the pasta is clustered towards the center. Visually, there will be a lot of empty plate. Your eyes (and brain) will perceive this as a small serving and you’ll be more likely to overeat.
If you take the same serving and put it on a small plate, the entire plate will likely be covered by food. Your eyes (and brain) will perceive this to be a lot of food. If you eat this way, you’re more likely to feel full after the meal.
To better illustrate this point, one study had participants serve themselves ice cream. The catch was that half of the participants were given a small bowl. The other half were given a large bowl. Those who received the large bowl consumed 31% more ice-cream than those given the small bowl. (19)
Even more interesting, the participants who received the small bowl believed they had served themselves more ice-cream than those with the large bowl. Your eyes are not great at estimating food quantity. If your average meal isn’t completely covering your bowl/plate, consider purchasing smaller dishes. If you do, the odds of you losing weight go way up!
#9 Move calorie content to real-world examples
If you read the ingredient lists and calorie information on food, you’re more likely to make healthier purchase decisions. But even when you know the calories quantity of a given food you probably don’t have a real-world example of what that equates to.
Let’s say you’re debating indulging in your favorite chocolate bar. For the sake of this example let’s assume that said chocolate bar has 250 calories in it. What do 250 calories mean to you? For most, 250 calories do not have much context to it. So, why not eat it? But what if I told you that the chocolate bar you’re wanting to consume would mean that you’d have to run for 50 minutes or walk 5 miles to burn the same number of calories?
When you put calories into a tangible, real-life example of what that energy output looks like, you’ll probably make better decisions. Below, I’ve listed a graph of how many calories are burnt during typical gym activities. (19)
The next time you find yourself reaching for an unhealthy food, just remind yourself how much time you’ll need to spend at the gym to work it off.
|Gym Activities||125-pound person||155-pound person||185-pound person|
|Weight Lifting: general||90||112||133|
|Stretching, Hatha Yoga||120||149||178|
|Aerobics: low impact||165||205||244|
|Stair Step Machine: general||180||223||266|
|Weight Lifting: vigorous||180||223||266|
|Aerobics, Step: low impact||210||260||311|
|Aerobics: high impact||210||260||311|
|Bicycling, Stationary: moderate||210||260||311|
|Rowing, Stationary: moderate||210||260||311|
|Circuit Training: general||240||298||355|
|Rowing, Stationary: vigorous||255||316||377|
|Elliptical Trainer: general||270||335||400|
|Ski Machine: general||285||353||422|
|Aerobics, Step: high impact||300||372||444|
|Bicycling, Stationary: vigorous||315||391||466|
#10 The shape of your dish makes a difference
Yes, even the shape of your tableware or the food itself will affect how your brain perceives food to taste. Food consisting of the exact same ingredients will taste sweeter if it is created in a round shape opposed to a square or angular shape. (20) Even the shape of the plate will make a difference. Round plates alter your perception so that you’ll perceive more sweet flavors from food. (21)
This phenomenon occurs because the experience of sweet foods occurs from round or curved foods. Think of any fruit you consumed today. Was it round/curvy or angular/square? In nature, sweet foods tend towards being round. Similarly, even man-made sweets are often round in shape. Cookies, ice-cream, doughnuts, muffins; all are round.
If your aim is to lose weight, you’d be wise to cut your sweets into round or circular shapes and present them on round plates. This will amplify the sweet flavor. An increased intensity of the perceived sweetness of a food will cause you to eat less of it. If you consume fewer sweets, your daily calorie consumption will decrease and you’ll likely lose weight. Just by changing the shape of your food and the plates you eat them on.
Ok, there you have it, another 5 ways to lose weight without going on a diet (or changing your nutrition plan)!
Did you check out the first five ways to lose weight without going on a diet?
If not, be sure to check out that post before leaving.
Also published on Medium.