Drop that cupcake!By Meghan Rabbitt
With diet traps lurking around every dinner table and pantry shelf, it's easy to overeat. Here's how to navigate the danger zones without gaining a pound.
Related: More Tricks to Outsmart Your Appetite
Diet Trap: Eating Slowly
Mom's been telling you for years to stop shoveling in your food, and you know that this bad habit makes you consume more calories. But eating too slowly can also backfire. Research shows that the longer a meal lasts, the likelier we are to reach for a third glass of wine or dinner roll. "Just sitting at the table means a greater chance of nibbling on something, even if you're not hungry," says Sasha Loring, a psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher at Duke Integrative Medicine.
Sidestep It: A meal should last 45 minutes: long enough for you to enjoy it, but not so much that you'll overeat. Make a 45-minute playlist, and get up after the last song.
Related: 15 Ways to Start Eating Healthier
Diet Trap: Too Many Choices
Ever wonder why it's so hard to resist those pastries in the middle of the conference-room table, even if you had a hearty breakfast? Research suggests it's because a plate holding a variety of foods heightens our senses and turns on our taste buds. "Take away the choice and our senses get numbed, making a tray of the same type of muffin look less appealing," says Wansink.
Sidestep It: To help you say no to the bagels and doughnuts at your next meeting, bring a snack of your own, or pick a spot at the table where you'll have to leave your chair to take one. "You'll be more likely to think twice about it, since you'd attract attention getting up," says Taub-Dix.
Related: 7 Snacks for Diet Success
Diet Trap: Bold Color
Ever wondered why lots of fast-food joints use red in their stores and logos? It's because red is a stimulating hue, and it just may increase your appetite.
Sidestep It: In your kitchen, go for blue, which experts believe suppresses hunger. "Blue is a soothing, calming color that can subconsciously help you slow down and enjoy your meal," says Taub-Dix. Not ready for robin's-egg walls? Use blue place mats, or arrange a bouquet of hydrangeas as a centerpiece.
Diet Trap: Easy Access
Are you more likely to indulge in a slice of apple pie a la mode (a) if you have to bake it from scratch or (b) if it's sitting on your kitchen counter? It's a no-brainer; we're lazy when it comes to snacks. That's what a Columbia University researcher found: Animals that had to press a lever 10 times to get food ate more often than those who had to do it 100 times.
Sidestep It: Kimberly Irby, 29, a healthcare database manager in Denver, avoids buying treats at the supermarket. This way, if her sweet tooth strikes, she has to walk to a nearby ice cream shop. "I often skip dessert, but only because I don't want to make the effort to go and get it," says Irby. "If it was sitting in my freezer, I'd eat it for sure."
Related: Tricks to Excuse-Proof Your Diet
Diet Trap: In-Your-Face Goodies
If candy is in a clear container rather than an opaque one, we'll eat 22 percent more, research shows. "When we see something delicious, the pancreas secretes insulin, which lowers our blood sugar and makes us feel hungry," says Wansink.
Sidestep It: Keep treats under cover. Susan Smith, a 28-year-old bartender in Southold, New York, banishes her boyfriend's favorite snack, cheese, to one of the produce drawers at the bottom of the fridge. "If it's not right in front of me, I'm less likely to reach for it," she explains.
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