The Diet Detective: Healthy Tips for a Healthy Life

Cut Your Food Up Into Small Portions and Lose Weight

Researchers at the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University found that when you cut up food into smaller pieces versus a single-piece portion of the same amount of food you decrease your intake. The idea is that people use numbers as a cue to judge quantities of food, with larger numbers usually associated with larger quantities. "Therefore, a food portion cut into multiple, bite-sized pieces may perceptually look [like] more and therefore elicit greater satiation than the same portion presented as a single, large piece." 

In this study, the researchers gave 301 college students a pre-measured approximately 3-ounce bagel uncut or cut into quarters. Several minutes after the bagel was eaten, the entire group was told they could have more if they wanted. Those who received the single, uncut bagel ate more calories than those who received the multiple-piece bagel. "This shows that food cut into multiple pieces may be more satiating than a single, uncut portion of food."

More: 10 Eating Strategies for Permanent Weight Loss

Don't Skip Meals and Lose Weight

Women who reported skipping meals lost almost 8 fewer pounds than women who did not. "The mechanism is not completely clear, but we think that skipping meals or fasting might cause you to respond more favorably to high-calorie foods and therefore take in more calories overall," said Anne T. McTiernan, director of the Fred Hutchinson Center's Prevention Center in Seattle and lead author of the study. "We also think skipping meals might cluster together with other behaviors. For instance, the lack of time and effort spent on planning and preparing meals may lead a person to skip meals and/or eat out more."

More: Turn 5 Main Ingredients into 25 Different Dinners

Just Seeing Fattening Foods May Trigger Hunger

Seeing high-calorie foods even in a photo can stimulate the brain's appetite and create an increased desire for food, according to Kathleen Page, M.D., assistant professor at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

In this study, researchers showed participants photos of high-calorie foods, such as ice cream and cupcakes, as well as low-calorie foods, such as fruits and vegetables, as well as non-food items.  "After each block of similar images, participants rated, on a scale of 1 to 10, their hunger and their desire for either sweet or savory foods." Halfway through the picture viewing, participants drank 50 grams of glucose­, the amount of sugar in a can of soda­ on one occasion and an equivalent amount of fructose on another occasion.

More: 8 Steps to a Healthy Relationship with Food

The researchers then used functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to see which brain regions where activated in response to viewing the images and how sugar consumption influenced brain activation of hunger and appetite.

The results showed that simply viewing high-calorie food images (as compared to low-calorie foods and non-foods) activated brain regions that control appetite and increased ratings of hunger and desire for sweet and savory foods. Desire for sweet foods was higher after consuming either of the sugar drinks. "Compared with glucose ingestion, fructose tended to produce greater activation of brain regions involved in reward and motivation for food. These findings," Page said, "suggest that added sweeteners could be one of the main contributors to the obesity epidemic."

More:  The Diet Detective: Inspirational Diet and Exercise Quotes

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