Everything we do is controlled by the brain. Whether consciously or subconsciously, it’s in charge of all our body’s functions.
So when we say that our stomach is telling us it’s time to eat, it’s actually our brain that’s giving us the message – and it is also responsible for telling us when to stop.
For those of us who are overweight, understanding how the brain works, and its relationship with our appetite and how much we eat, can actually provide us with a number of different ways to ‘trick’ our brains into helping us eat less.
So, here are 5 things you can try to curb your appetite and reduce the amount of food you eat. You can do all of them without much effort, and they could have a big impact on your weight loss.
Have A Starter
When most of us are having a meal at home, we usually only have one course. When we eat out at a restaurant, we often feel a bit naughty if we order a starter as well as our main meal – especially if we’re watching our weight. But having a little starter before your main meal can actually be a great way to trick your brain into helping you to eat less.
You see, it can take a while for the stomach to send the message to your brain that you’re getting full; so if you’re only eating one course, those messages might not be received until after you’ve finished it – even though you probably didn’t need to eat all of it to feel full.
Eating a suitable starter 10-20 minutes before your main meal starts this communication process a little earlier; so the brain gets the message that you’ve eaten enough while you’re eating your main meal, and helps you to stop before you eat more than you need to. Starters that contain lots of air, water and/or fiber are best for this, and an apple or light salad before your meal is a great way to make you feel like eating less.
Eat More Tomatoes
Whether you’re a big fan of them or not, if you’re trying to lose weight, adding more tomatoes to your diet could actually be a great way to help you eat less. A recent study showed that, of those who took part, the ones eating the food enriched with tomatoes reported feeling fuller and more satisfied.
This is probably because of the effect the compounds in tomatoes have on our appetite. Our stomachs stimulate hunger and increase our appetite by producing a hormone called Ghrelin.
It’s thought that the Lycopene in tomatoes, which is actually responsible for making them red, reduces the level of Ghrelin and therefore our appetite. This means we feel full when we have actually eaten less food than normal – and all we have to do is add more tomatoes to our diet.
Make Meal Times Blue
Scientists have long been aware of the impact colors can have on our brain. Red colors can make us feel dynamic, yellows make us feel happy, and greens can have a calming effect. But if you want to try and eat less, you might want to start going blue at meal times, as scientists have found that of all the colors, blue is actually an appetite suppressant.
This is possibly because there are very few, naturally occurring blue foods, so our appetite isn’t automatically stimulated by this color; or perhaps because our ancestors evolved avoiding poisonous foods which were often blue in color.
Whatever the reason, the more blue you have around your food, the less likely you’re going to feel like eating it. That’s not to suggest that you should take it to the extreme and dye your food blue (although you could quite easily and it would still taste pretty much the same), but simple measures like eating off a blue plate, having a blue table-cloth, or even putting a blue light in your kitchen or fridge could help to reduce your appetite and the amount of food you eat.
Reduce The Size Of Your Plate
Not many of us consciously choose our crockery with size in mind, and for those that do, bigger might seem better – but not if you’re trying to lose weight. We tend to judge the size of things by comparing them to other objects close by, and this also applies to the size of our plates and the servings of food on them. A small portion on a large plate will usually look out-of-place to us, and studies have shown that you are more likely to take a larger serving of food if you are using a larger plate.
Also consider that as kids, many of us were told that we weren’t allowed to leave the table until we’d ‘cleaned our plate’. So, with large portions on large plates, and a brain that’s been conditioned not to leave anything, is it any wonder so many of us are overweight? Using smaller plates for your meals is a great way to reduce portion size, and you could even try to re-condition your brain by leaving some of the food on the plate – so you start to eat until you’re full, rather than till it’s all gone.
When we think about how our body sends messages to and from the brain, we typically imagine that this is something it does very fast – your brain tells your hand to move or your mouth to smile and a split second later it happens. But when it comes to communication between the brain and the stomach, this is something that happens much more slowly – and understanding this could help you to lose weight.
Scientists estimate that it takes around 20 minutes for the stomach to let the brain know that it’s full and that we can stop eating, and for a lot of us, that is much longer than it takes for us to eat our meal. As a result, the brain doesn’t actually receive the message until after we’ve finished eating.
Eating much more slowly gives the brain more time to get the message that we’re full. Chew your food more, put your knife and fork down after each mouthful, maybe even take a short break halfway through your meal. It does need a conscious effort, but it can really help with your weight loss, and this is the same reason why the earlier tip of having a starter before your meal is such a good idea.
The secret to losing weight is eating fewer calories than you burn off during the course of the day, and one of the easiest ways to eat less calories is to eat less food. For anyone looking to lose a few pounds this is often easier said than done, and it can be difficult to still feel satisfied when we’re eating less than we’re used to.
Fortunately, our understanding of the relationship between the brain, our appetite, and how much we eat means that with these handy little tips just about anyone should be able to reduce their appetite and eat less. They’re not difficult to do and something you can start doing straight away.