Seven ways to eat less using your brain

Can you trick your brain to desire less food? The latest research says it is quite possible, and it isn’t complicated or expensive to do so. These approaches rely on the brain's desire for enjoyment and pleasure, as well as a natural feedback loop that exists which should naturally stop us from eating more than we need.

Swap hands

Using your non-dominant hand, or eating with chopsticks, if you are not good at this activity is a very simple way to simply eat more slowly. In doing this, you naturally tend to eat less because your hypothalamus, the part of your brain that registers satiation, has time to register that you are getting full. This normally takes about 20 minutes, so the slower you get your food to your mouth, the more of a chance your brain has to catch up. This strategy should also provide the wonderful opportunity to chew your food more, which is also a natural way to reduce food consumption and improve digestion and absorption.

Turn the music up

Recent research found that when the music volume was turned up high, participants in an eating experiment started matching the intensity of the music with the rate at which they ate their food. They consumed 25 percent more carrot sticks and apple slices when the movies' music was turned up loud, which means that you may be able to get yourself to eat healthy foods that you are not crazy about, by turning the sound up. Obviously, the same probably holds true for eating unhealthy foods. It may be easier to have a rule that you only eat healthy foods while watching a movie anyway.

Choose tableware with care

People rated yoghurt more enjoyable and denser in taste when they ate it out of a heavy bowl, in a recent experiment. The "feel" of cutlery, crockery and glassware can force the eater to focus more intently on what they are eating. Researchers believe that this prompts an increased awareness of when the satiation response kicks in. Simply take time to choose your tableware and cutlery with care, and change it around regularly to keep the meal interesting and help your brain to pay attention to the whole experience of eating.

Get your nose involved

In another interesting food-related experiment, participants ate vanilla custard in a laboratory, while they were exposed to a cream aroma, which varied in intensity. When the strongest cream aroma was present, the participants took smaller mouthfuls of their vanilla custard, resulting in less of the treat being eaten. The researchers finding was that it seems that we naturally regulate the intensity of the sensations that we are exposed to. This could help us eat less when we are smelling a strong aroma. Eating foods with strong flavor profiles, like pineapple or mango, may produce similar results.

Overexpose your eyes

In the world of Social Media, where people are constantly posting what they've made in their kitchen or what they've eaten in a restaurant, you can be overwhelmed with the desire to eat all these delicious foods. However, it would seem that your brain doesn't actually want you to. A recent study suggests that exposing people to repeated images of the same types of foods may make them get mentally tired of the imagined taste, which would reduce the amount of the food they ate when faced with the real thing. And the effect may be generalized: although participants didn't see any images of peanuts, but looked at other salty foods, when given peanuts to eat afterwards, they enjoyed them less. It would seem that the more images you see, the less appealing the food is when you actually eat it. So, to avoid eating too many of your favorite treats look at many different images of them before the meal.

Use fats and oils wisely

Fats disperse flavor molecules more effectively than water does. Eating food that is devoid of fat will naturally reduce its flavor, simply because flavor molecules disperse effectively in fats and oils, but significantly less so in water molecules. It may be that this is one of the primary reasons that low-fat foods are not very appetizing, and need to contain vast quantities of additives to make them palatable. By adding the right fats to your meal, you naturally satisfy the brain's desire for flavor and enjoyment, releasing dopamine, the pleasure neurotransmitter. This automatically reduces the desire to continue eating after you are full.

Blue light and red plates

Eating off red plates was found to decrease food consumption in an experiment that compared food served on red, white, and blue plates. As we associate red with danger in Western culture, this may be the reason. Researchers aren’t sure whether this would work as a weight-loss strategy, as it was an unconscious result, and if you knew why you chose to eat off a red plate, you might not have the same experience.

Another interesting experiment looked at whether eating under a variety of different lights would influence food consumption. Men ate significantly less food when they ate under a blue light, as compared to yellow and white lighting. Women didn't have the same experience.

Conclusion

Involving all your senses seems like an effective way to be present while eating, as well as eating in a new way, such as with your non-dominant hand. In addition, reducing the speed at which you eat, and increasing your mindfulness while eating, will also help with weight loss as well as naturally reducing your stress levels. Your brain will start sensing that mealtimes are a time of calm enjoyment and you won't be driven to eat mindlessly. Of course, enjoying the healthiest food that you can find and prepare, should be a given already.

References

Bruno N, et al. The effect of the colour red on consuming food does not depend on the achromatic (Michelson) contrast and extends to rubbing cream on the skin. Appetite 2013 Dec; 71.

Cho S, et al. Blue lighting decreases the amount of food consumed in men, but not in women. Appetite 2015 Feb; 85.

Erasmus, U. Fats that heal, fats that kill. Burnaby BC, Canada: Alive Books; 1993.

Harrar V, Spence C. The taste of cutlery: how the taste of food is affected by the weight, size, shape and colour of the cutlery used to eat it. 2013,  Flavour 2013; 2(21).

Larson JS, et al. Satiation from sensory stimulation: Evaluating foods decreases enjoyment of similar foods. Journal of Consumer Psychology 2014 Apr; 24(2).

Privitera GJ, et al. Enhanced auditory arousal increases intake of less palatable healthier foods. Glob J Health Sci 2014 Jan 23; 6(3):

Spence C, et al. Assessing the impact of the tableware and other contextual variables on multisensory flavour perception. Flavour 2012; 1(7).

Zampini M, Spence C. Assessing the Role of Visual and Auditory Cues in Multisensory Perception of Flavor. Murray MM, Wallace MT (eds). The Neural Bases of Multisensory Processes. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press, Taylor & Francis; 2012, Chapter 37, Frontiers in Neuroscience.