When it comes to food, humans aren’t great with self-control — as evidenced by the fact that more than one in 10 of the world’s adult population is obese. If you can’t muster up the self-control to resist another bite, try tricking your brain into eating less with these 10 tips (no hypnosis necessary).
1. Use small plates and bowls.
A study published in January 2012 in the Journal of Consumer Research discovered that people tend to serve themselves considerably less in small bowls than large bowls. Researchers theorized this was because of the Delboeuf illusion in which two circles of the same size are placed close to each other. One is surrounded by a large ring (think a large plate), and the other is surrounded by a smaller ring (think a small plate). This illusion makes the circle (i.e., our food) surrounded by the large ring appear smaller, so we end up serving ourselves too much.
A 2006 study also found that even nutritional experts dished themselves (and ate) more ice cream when given larger dinnerware. Oddly enough, when this experiment was altered so that people were eating in isolation, the dish size had no effect.
2. Make sure your plate or bowl is a different color than your food.
The 2012 Journal of Consumer Research study previously mentioned also found that the color of your dishware matters. The bigger the difference between the food color and the plate color, the less likely participants were to over-serve themselves. In other words, you’re better off serving tomato soup in a white bowl, since you’re more likely to serve yourself too much if you serve it in a red bowl.
3. Match your tablecloth to your dishware.
The Consumer Research study reported a third factor influencing our portion control: tablecloth color. When the tablecloth color matched the dishware color, participants dished themselves less food. Researchers hypothesized that this was because matching the tablecloth and the dishware helps eliminate the Delboeuf illusion’s effect (see trick No. 1) by making the dishware (i.e., the outer circle of the Delboeuf illusion) less noticeable.