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Ten ways to trick yourself slimmer

23 July 2015 ( 01 June 2017 )

A healthy balanced diet and regular exercise hold the key to staying in shape but there are plenty of little tricks you can try to help yourself.

Spaghetti with tomatoes on a white plate
The more obvious the contrast between food and plate colour, the less likely you are to overeat.

1. Don't shop before dinner

Feeling hungry? Steer clear of the supermarket! People who haven't eaten all afternoon choose more unhealthy, high-calorie foods than those who eat before shopping, says a study from Cornell University. Even if it's inconvenient to buy your groceries after lunch, at least aim to write your shopping list when you're not feeling famished – and vow to stick to it. That way, you're less likely to arrive at the checkout with a trolley full of crisps and biscuits.

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2. Don't eat in front of the TV

Watching TV while you have your dinner can be an unhealthy distraction – and means you're more inclined to reach for a sugary snack afterwards. Diners who concentrate on their meal - and focus closely on the flavour, texture and appearance of the food – tend to feel more satisfied, according to research from the University of Birmingham.

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3. Use smaller serving spoons

It's human nature to pile up your serving spoon to capacity – regardless of how much food you actually intend to eat. One US study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that people served themselves 14.5 per cent more ice cream on average when using a larger scoop.

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4. Choose your plate colour wisely

Believe it or not, the colour contrast between your food and plate creates an optical illusion that can lead you to eat more than you realise, according to research from Cornell University. The more obvious the contrast between food and plate colour, the less likely you are to overeat. In the study, people who served themselves pasta with tomato sauce on a red plate ate 22% more than those who ate the same meal from a white plate.

5. Choose your glass carefully, too

Alcohol is packed with calories - which is one of the many reasons why it's never a good idea to overindulge. But did you know you can slow down the rate at which you drink by choosing a different-shaped glass? Opt for a straight glass and you'll be better able to gauge how much you're drinking than if you go for a curved one, say researchers at the University of Bristol. Using glasses with volume markings also helps, of course.

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6. Hide those second helpings

Made a nice big stew, lasagne or casserole? Once you've served up, put the remainder away – with a lid on it – before you sit down for dinner. If you put it on the table or even just leave it sitting out in the kitchen, you'll be more tempted to go for seconds.

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7. Tailor your portion sizes

Give everyone the same-sized portion - regardless of their gender, height, body shape or lifestyle - and chances are someone's going to be taking in more calories than they need. As a rough guide, women need 2,000 calories per day and men need 2,500. Interestingly, women also tend to eat more when they dine with men because they don't want to give the impression they're constantly counting calories, according to recent research from Ireland.

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8. Listen to relaxing music

…and dim the lights during dinner. Lighting and noise can influence food consumption because they dictate how satisfied we feel. Create a calming environment and you're more likely to relax and enjoy your food instead of wolfing it down mindlessly. People consume an average 175 more calories in a brightly lit fast food restaurant than they do in exactly the same eaterie when it's dimly lit with relaxing background music, according to research at Cornell University.

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9. Chew your food for longer

Make each mouthful last longer and you'll significantly reduce the amount of calories you consume – partly because it gives your brain longer to register that the stomach is full. One study from Harbin Medical University in China found that people who chewed each piece of food 40 times ate 12 per cent less than those who chewed just 15 times. It's also a good idea to pause – and even put your cutlery down – between mouthfuls.

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10. Have a laugh

Finally, give yourself a break and forget all about portion sizes and serving spoons for a little while. Have a proper 15-minute belly laugh every day and you could burn up to 280 calories in a week. That's according to a US study, published in the International Journal of Obesity. Laughter speeds up the metabolism and works lots of different muscles.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.