Diet Pitfalls and Their Solutions, continued
TRAP: Big Containers and Plates
Buying large jars of your favorite foods at the supermarket or king-size candy bars at the movies is money-wise but diet-deadly. In a study I conducted at a Chicago movie theater, the 77 people who were given big popcorn buckets ate an average of 53 percent more than the 74 who were given medium buckets. Another one of my studies tracked 62 participants and showed that people who made pasta from a large box ended up preparing an average of 20 to 25 percent more.
You should also be choosy about your china: As the size of your plate or bowl increases, so will the amount of food you dish out and consume. A recent experiment conducted by my research team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign confirmed just that: Of the 85 participants, those who were given 34-ounce bowls scooped out a third more ice cream than those given 17-ounce bowls.
FIX: When you dine out, the portions are often supersize, so choose a healthy appetizer and split an entrée with your spouse. You can also ask for a half order of a main course (most restaurants will do this, particularly if it's pasta). If the waiter won't scale back the size, ask the kitchen to put half the order in a takeout box before bringing out the dish.
If you're eating at home, serve dinner on large salad plates (seven to nine inches in diameter) instead of traditional 12-inch dinner plates. And if you're cooking with ingredients from a bulk-size box, measure them carefully no improvising allowed!
TRAP: Low Lighting, Fast Music
Even the atmosphere of a room can trip you up. University of California Irvine researchers found that the 400 dieters they tracked were more likely to binge when there was less light. Dim lighting can loosen your inhibitions, making you more relaxed about how much you consume. It can also encourage you to linger at the table and the longer you sit there, the more you'll nibble. (Some restaurants rely on this trick, hoping that candlelight will inspire you to order dessert or another glass of wine.)
Snappy tunes can also cause trouble. When a fast-food restaurant, for example, wants you to eat quickly and leave, it plays music with 120 to 130 beats per minute. The reason: Speedier tunes tend to make you eat faster (and more).
FIX: Whether you're hosting Christmas dinner or sitting down to a family meal, be sure to turn up the lights and pop in a relaxing CD.
The more time you spend in front of the tube, the more likely you'll be to gain weight. Worst of all is watching your favorite show: When you're really distracted by, say, Lost, you completely lose track of how much food you've put in your mouth. What's more, a study I conducted with 73 participants revealed that people who ate while they watched TV for an hour downed 28 percent more than those who watched for a half hour.
FIX: If you're spending lots of time in the TV room over the holiday break, keep healthy snacks on hand celery, carrots, fruit, or unbuttered popcorn. And sit down with only a small portion in front of you. Eating straight from a box, bag, or serving bowl is a recipe for regret.