Tame Your Appetite with these 10 Psychologist-approved Techniques – Men's Health

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Eat less, lose weight – sounds simple enough. But what do you do when your stomach is grumbling and your hanger levels are peaking? You enlist these smart satiety strategies
Researchers at Cornell University in New York recently asked a group of people an elementary question. ‘How do you know when you’ve eaten enough?’ The answer might seem obvious. Doesn’t everyone push the plate away when they feel full? Well, no. The leanest people do, scientists say, but those who struggle with their weight often rely more on external cues, such as a clean plate or whenever everyone else is finished.
Unfortunately, these cues have nothing to do with how we feel physically. ‘People’s brains are often out of touch with their bodies,’ says Peter C Herman, a University of Toronto expert on appetite control. ‘And when eating becomes mindless, overeating becomes routine,’ he adds.
The key player in all of this appears to be a region of your brain called the left posterior amygdala (LPA). This area monitors the volume of food in your stomach during a meal. Fill your gut to a comfortable level and the LPA tells your brain to drop the fork. But the trouble is, ‘many men consume calories faster than their bodies can tell them to stop’, explains Professor Herman. ‘So they look to external cues to guide their consumption.’
Fortunately, we’ve scoured the science and recruited the top experts in the industry to create these 10 simple strategies to help you fill up without filling out. Let’s get started.

Unverified research has revealed that if your house contains crisps and Haribo, men will find them after 11pm and dispose of them swiftly, especially after drinking alcohol. Instead, stock your kitchen with healthy snacks, such as nuts, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins – not Snickers. By ensuring that your snacks match your diet, you’re far less likely to find yourself reaching for junky ones, says Christopher Mohr, a dietitian and wellbeing consultant at Mohr Results.
Sharing plates may still be de rigueur in contemporary restaurants, but a study from the State University of New York at Buffalo has shown that men who ate with a group of mates downed 6% more calories than when they ate with a partner. According to the research, that’s because people often match their intake of food to that of their dining companions. Of course, it may also be related to the fact that chicken wings and buffalo sauce are pretty calorific. Try eating before you go out for drinks.
A study from the University of Rhode Island found that slowing down between bites decreases a person’s calorie intake by 10%. ‘Breathing helps you gauge how hungry you are because it directs your mind towards your body,’ says Jeffrey Greeson, a health psychologist at Rowan University. ‘It’s also practical because you can do it throughout a meal without drawing attention to yourself.’ Inhale oxygen, not your dinner.
The trappings of a formal meal make you think you’re eating more than you actually are – and that may boost satiety levels. A Canadian study found that when people ate lunch while sitting at a set table, they consumed a third less at a later snack than those who ate their midday meals on the hop. Think of it as the zen of eating. ‘If you treat every dining experience with greater respect, you’ll be less likely to use your fork as a shovel,’ says sports nutritionist and behavioural psychotherapist Lisa Dorfman. ‘And that includes snacks as well as your three square meals,’ she adds.
While you’re at it, give Netflix a rest. A study from the University of Massachusetts found that people who watched television during a meal consumed 288 more calories on average than those who did not. That’s more than a grab bag of Monster Munch. And the reason is that Cobra Kai is distracting your brain from recognising that you’re full.
When you experience a craving, imagine eating a sizzling steak (or the vegan equivalent). ‘If you’re truly hungry, the steak will sound good, and you should eat,’ says Richard Feinman, professor of biochemistry at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, New York. ‘If it doesn’t appeal, your brain is playing tricks on you.’ Interestingly, hunger is often confused with thirst. Sometimes, you just need to drink more water.
Not only is a restaurateur’s idea of what constitutes healthy eating not to be taken at face value, you’re likely to underestimate your meal’s calorie count by about 35%, according to a study published in the Journal Of Consumer Research. Keep this discrepancy in mind when you’re deliberating over drinks and starters – or visit the restaurant website’s nutrition page, if it has one. (It really depends on your taste: most chains do, but Le Gavroche does not.) A University of Mississippi study found that people consumed 54% fewer calories when they used this simple strategy.
‘Pay close attention to those first three bites,’ says Dr Greeson. ‘People usually wolf them down due to excitement. Instead, mimic a food critic. Examine the food’s texture, savour the flavours in your mouth, and then pay attention and feel the swallow. Psychologically, this form of meditative eating boosts satiety and promotes a sense of satisfaction for the entire meal.’ While you’re at it, try spicing up relatively bland fare, such as scrambled eggs, with hot sauce or smoked paprika. ‘Hot, flavourful foods help to trigger your brain to realise that you’re eating,’ says Dorfman.
Beware fad diets – especially the wacky ones. The wilder the ‘rules’ of the diet, the more people talk about them, and the stickier the diet becomes. It’s the nutritional equivalent of clickbait. Such diets make it difficult for easy, common-sense eating strategies to surface and sustain. One meal doesn’t define your diet, so don’t assume you’ve failed or fallen off the wagon if you indulge every so often.
We understand the logic, ‘It’s okay, this doughnut has no sugar in it – it’s flavoured with honey/dates/coconut sugar/agave/molasses.’ But it’s not really sugar-free. All-natural sweeteners such as these raise your blood sugar just like the common white stuff, leading to cravings and dips in energy – which is less than ideal.
It’s not just about the numbers on the scales. ‘Discovering that your new diet improves the quality of your life and health can be powerful motivation,’ says Jeff Volek, a professor at The Ohio State University. He suggests monitoring migraines, heartburn, acne, mouth ulcers, sleep quality and cardiovascular health. If this approach has knock-on benefits, lap them up.

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