Lose Weight by Cutting Up Your Food

April Daniels Hussar, SELF magazine

Are you struggling to reduce your portion sizes? New research says the answer might be right in your silverware drawer.

The research from Arizona State University (ASU), set to be presented this week at the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), concludes that, like rats, college students find multiple pieces of food to be more satiating and rewarding than one big piece of food.

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Wait -- what? Yes, rats and college students. The ASU researchers found that rats prefer to be rewarded for navigating through mazes with multiple, small pieces of food rather than one large piece of food. In another study, they gave 301 college students pre-measured portions of bagels -- some were whole; some were cut into pieces. The students were told they could eat as much or as little of of the bagels as they wanted, and as much or as little of a test meal that followed the bagels. Guess who ate less overall? The students who received cut-up bagels.

"Cutting up energy-dense meal foods into smaller pieces may be beneficial to dieters who wish to make their meal more satiating while also maintaining portion control," says Devina Wadhera, the study's lead author and a graduate student in ASU's department of psychology, in a news release.

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Marjorie Nolan, registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells HealthySELF that the technique make perfect sense. "If you're taking more bites, it's going to take you longer to eat your meal, and therefore your hunger hormones will catch up with you and you'll end up eating less," she explains. Nolan says it's scientifically proven that when you eat large bites quickly, you end up eating more, because it takes 20 minutes for your brain to realize you're full.

"It's a timing thing," says Nolan of the technique, but it's also psychological. "If you're making an effort to cut up your food, chew more, take smaller bites, then you're putting the effort into eating fewer calories, and by default you're increasing your mindfulness," she says. "It doesn't matter what you're eating, if you're slowing down, chewing more, focusing more on how it tastes, that's going to register in your brain that you've eaten through the reward pathway. The end result is that you will eat less."

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As long as you're still eating healthy amounts of food, Nolan says she would "absolutely" recommend the technique for weight loss and portion control. "This is a great method," she says. "It's one of the only ways that you're guaranteed to slow down when you eat."

Here are a few more of Nolan's techniques for slowing down your eating:

  • Put down your fork or spoon between each bite.
  • Make sure you drink a certain amount of water during your meal, because it will slow you down to drink between bites.
  • Set a timer, so that you don't finish your meal before 20 minutes.
  • Chew bigger bites for longer and really enjoy them.

"Regardless of what technique you're employing," Nolan says, "if you're slowing down your eating, you're probably going to eat less. You have to find the technique that works for you."


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