Outsmart Your Appetite
Diet Traps, ContinuedDiet Trap: Wining While Dining
Keep the bottle on the table while you eat and you're more likely to refill your glass (100 calories or more a pour).
Sidestep It: Leave the bottle on the counter or in the refrigerator during dinner, and use tall glasses. People in one study poured 28 percent more into short, wide glasses than they did into tall, narrow ones -- even though both glasses held the same amount.Diet Trap: Wining Group Outings
Hitting your favorite restaurant with friends? The celebratory atmosphere means you're more likely to let your dietary guard down. Typically, when you eat with another person, you consume 35 percent more than you would alone, and the amount you eat increases as much as 10 percent with each additional person at the table.
Sidestep It: Practice crowd control by sitting next to the smartest eater, sharing with her or reaching for the same foods she does. To forestall those "Come on, have just one more" pleas when she's out for tapas with her friends, Elizabeth Stephan, a 30-year-old teacher in New York City, always leaves a little food on her plate. "If my friends think I'm still finishing, they'll offer up what's left on the table to others," she says.Diet Trap: Cute Dessert Plates
Those plates you got as a housewarming gift could be upping your sweets intake. In one study, people were asked to rate brownies served on dessert plates, paper plates, and napkins. Although they were all from the same batch, those on real plates were rated "excellent" compared with "nothing special" for those on napkins. Why? Our taste buds are biased by our imagination: We figure that the dessert on the pretty plate is more likely to be delicious, and if we expect a food to taste good, it will. And of course, the tastier it is, the more we eat.
Sidestep It: Put your fine china away. When Jen Huling, 23, a graphic designer in Denver, heard about this research, she headed to her favorite thrift shop for the ugliest (and cheapest) dessert plates she could find.Diet Trap: Buying in Bulk
It may be better for your budget, but loading up at a club store can sabotage your diet if you're not careful. In one study, people who were given large packages of spaghetti, sauce, and meat typically prepared 23 percent more (around 150 extra calories) than those given medium-size ones. "Big packages make you think that your portions can be bigger too," says Wansink.
Sidestep It: When you're unpacking your groceries, separate the contents of giant value packs into several smaller containers.Diet Trap: In-Your-Face Goodies
If candy is in a clear container rather than an opaque one, we'll eat 22 percent more, research shows. "When we see something delicious, the pancreas secretes insulin, which lowers our blood sugar and makes us feel hungry," says Wansink.
Sidestep It: Keep treats under cover. Susan Smith, a 28-year-old bartender in Southold, New York, banishes her boyfriend's favorite snack, cheese, to one of the produce drawers at the bottom of the fridge. "If it's not right in front of me, I'm less likely to reach for it," she explains.Diet Trap: Mood Lighting
You may be tempted to dim the overhead lights before you sit down to dine with your sweetie, but studies show that it may spur your appetite. "Soft lighting calms you down, making you more comfortable and uninhibited," says Wansink. The result? You reach for that monster-size serving of fettuccine Alfredo and pile on extra Parmesan. But too-bright lights are also bad news: They stimulate your senses and can cause you to gulp and go.
Sidestep It: Ditch the candlelit meals and the bright fluorescent lights, and find a happy medium.Diet Trap: Icy Temperatures
Restaurants and theaters often keep thermostats low. That's a bummer for your waistline, because your body needs to eat more to stay warm, says Wansink. In hot temps, you'll drink more liquids and eat less.
Sidestep It: Set your thermostat between 68 and 75 degrees, and bring a cardigan when you go out to eat or to the movies.Diet Trap: Easy Access
Are you more likely to indulge in a slice of apple pie a la mode (a) if you have to bake it from scratch or (b) if it's sitting on your kitchen counter? It's a no-brainer; we're lazy when it comes to snacks. That's what a Columbia University researcher found: Animals that had to press a lever 10 times to get food ate more often than those who had to do it 100 times.
Sidestep It: Kimberly Irby, 29, a healthcare database manager in Denver, avoids buying treats at the supermarket. This way, if her sweet tooth strikes, she has to walk to a nearby ice cream shop. "I often skip dessert, but only because I don't want to make the effort to go and get it," says Irby. "If it was sitting in my freezer, I'd eat it for sure."
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, June 2009.
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