It’s tempting to believe some people possess a magic power for keeping their appetite under control. After all, what else could explain your sister’s (really annoying) super-human ability to choose healthy, reasonably portioned foods 99 percent of the time? Certain seemingly unrelated habits and issues can influence when you put down the fork — and when you definitely don’t (but should).
1. You eat M&Ms instead of Hershey Kisses.
Choosing a wrapped treat will help you eat less than choosing ones that are ready to be popped into your mouth, according to a study published in the journal Appetite. The little extra effort it takes to unwrap a piece of chocolate was enough to deter people from eating as many. In the study, normal-weight women invited to sample freely from a bowl of 20 candies ate fewer candies (3.6 vs. 5.5) when the candies were wrapped versus unwrapped. Another trick? Using tongs to take the candy out of a bowl versus scooping it out by the handful also significantly reduced the amount of food taken.
2. You think you burned 500 calories during your 20-minute walk.
Chances are you overestimate the number of calories you burn when exercising, finds a study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. Volunteers were asked to exercise on a treadmill and then eat the caloric equivalent from a buffet. They overestimated calories burned by three- to four-fold and overcompensated by eating two- to three-fold more calories afterward. In reality, walking at a brisk pace (4 mph) for 30 minutes burns approximately 170 calories for a 140-pound woman. You won’t even burn off that bagel.
3. Your plates are big and white.
White food on a white plate increases the amount of food you’re likely to eat by about 22 percent when compared with a contrasting food (e.g. tomato sauce on a white plate), according to a study by Brian Wansink, PhD, from Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. This works both ways: For foods you’d like to eat more of, such as salad greens, researchers recommend eating off a green plate. Go for high contrast for high-calorie foods. If no various colored plates are available, simply swap a larger plate to a smaller one and you’re also likely to eat less.
4. You drink out of a curved glass.
Whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist, your perception of a half-full glass — and how much beverage it contains — depends on the shape of the container, according to a study published in PLOS One. Men and women who drank an alcoholic beverage from a curved glass (think flute shaped, with a flared top) were 60 percent faster to consume the beverage than those who drank from a straight-sided glass. Researchers believe the glass shape changed the perception of the halfway point, which influenced the rate of consumption.
5. You worry about your inbox in the shower.
If the mere thought of being without your smartphone makes you break into a cold sweat, it may be time to reign in that stress. Stress may cut your appetite in the short term, but if it becomes chronic stress, it can motivate you to eat more, according to researchers from Harvard Medical School. Researchers believe the release of the hormone cortisol during stressful times increases motivation to eat.