Mind Games and Dieting: How to Trick Yourself into Eating Less

By: Saira Malhotra

We have seen the paintings that create an optical illusion over and over, and each time we are dumbfounded. The mind enjoys playing momentary tricks on us and if we could see its face, we know its smile would be wry. When the mind games are obvious, we are able to call them out, but what about when they aren't so obvious?

This week, NPR looked at the Delboeuf illusion, understanding how two dots of the same size, appear different when outlined by different-sized circles and the relationship this has with food consumption. Based on this understanding, Professor of Marketing at Georgia Tech, Koert Van Ittersum and Director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell, Brian Wansink, conducted a study to understand the impact of illusions and serving size.

When participants were asked to estimate volumes of soup in smaller bowls versus the same volume in larger bowls, their estimates confirmed the Delboeuf illusion. Food plated in small plates created the perception of a more hearty serving versus the same food offered in larger plates often resulting in overeating. This also shed light on the overindulgence that takes place at a buffet.

According toVan Ittersum, "We are oftentimes our own worst enemy. And that's not because we want to overeat." The study indicated that we have very little control over these illusions as we are not able to recognize them even after being alerted to them.

Understanding this is very useful if you wish to achieve your dietary goal by reducing your food servings. Here are some useful tips:

1)      Serve yourself in an appetizer plate rather than a dinner plate.

2)      Use chopsticks rather than forks wherever possible.

3)      Take a few seconds to chew each bite thoroughly before swallowing.

4)      Switch out the dessert spoon for a teaspoon.

5)      Drink beverages from 8oz glass without filling it up.

Photo: Rakesh Rocky

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