Eating healthy is hard. It’s a nightmare trying to find low-fat recipes that don’t also taste like cardboard mixed with salad. When you’re hungry have to think “Am I really hungry? Or do I just want to eat a whole box of animal crackers because I’m bored?” and then while you’re eating a whole box of animal crackers you have to feel guilty about it.
It’s a never-ending battle and it seems the winner is always cake – cake wrapped in bacon. Yet, believe it or not, you actually have a surprise ally in this battle against covering everything in chocolate and deep-frying it. That ally is your brain: Your stupid, stupid brain.
With a few simple tactics you can actually trick the grey idiot matter in your skull into eating less and being healthier!
Big Plates, Small Forks
At an Italian restaurant psychologists arranged for customers to have differently size forks. Half the customers were given smaller forks, the other half were given larger forks. The end result? Those given bigger forks left more food on their plate at the end of their meal.
The same is true if you serve yourself using smaller plates.
So how does that work? Well, this is where you being a moron comes in handy. Because it takes your brain a while to clue into the fact it’s had enough food you tend to use other cues to work out whether you should be hungry. These cues include looking at your plate to see how much is left, and how much of an impact their fork shoveling is having. If you chip and chip and chip away with a smaller fork, you can go through a dozen mouthfuls and your plate will look roughly the same. On the other hand, if you take a single bite and suddenly a fifth of the plate is clean your brain becomes convinced its eating LOADS.
Eat Burgers While Looking At A Salad
Yes, that’s right. Acquire loads of healthy food and low-fat recipes to display around your dining room, then go get yourself a KFC. Then, as you chug down on your double down sandwich just stare at that fruit bowl and reflect on how you are everything that is wrong with western civilisation.
A study in a school cafeteria showed that kids who had the option of choosing fruit tended to make healthier choices even if they didn’t actually select the healthiest options that were on offer.
The Power of Imagination
“Why don’t you eat the salad while imagining that it’s a triple cheese and bacon burger?”
“SHUT UP MUM!”
Yes, this doesn’t seem like the most convincing idea, but what you think has a big effect on how you eat. In one study it was shown that people given plates of “medium” cookies ate more than people given plates of “large” cookies – even though said cookies were identical apart from being labelled “medium” and “large”.
This comes down to a chemical called “Ghrelin”, which is basically the thing that makes you hungry. But the levels of Ghrelin you produce don’t just depend on how much you’ve had to eat, but how much you think you’ve had to eat. So you can eat all the low fat recipes and healthy meals you like just so long as you convince yourself you’re eating a huge steak.
Sam Wright is a freelance writer and brain master.