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Simple Trick for Eating Less Suggested by New Study on the Science of Eating

Tim Boyer's picture
See less, eat less says study

Having trouble at home eating less for weight loss? Here’s a simple trick you can try that a new study says can cause a person to unknowingly eat less than they normally would.


According to a new study published in the journal Food Quality and Preference—a journal that specializes in research that seeks to understand human sensory perceptions and consumer research in food and non-food products―scientists found that eating blindfolded can not only cause a person to overestimate how much food they ate, but also lead them to eat less than they would have otherwise without a blindfold.

The science of eating behavior is quite interesting when we consider how the brain processes information about each bite we take. From an evolutionary perspective this makes sense as our earliest forebears had to discern whether a food was edible or potentially rotten or harmful with pathogens. Not only was this dependent upon the sense of smell, but sight as well when looking for visual cues that may indicate whether some item was palatable or not.

More recently, visual cues such as the appearance of the amount of food on a plate can indicate to a person whether they have had enough to achieve satiation. This has even extended to research focused on the size of dinnerware and utensils as visual cues that may unwittingly trick a diner’s brain into believing just how much food is being consumed.

In other words, how we perceive the food before us can and does affect how much we eat and how we feel afterwards.

This point was made evident with a new study that compared the differences between 50 blindfolded and 40 non-blindfolded participants who were given cherry, caramel and vanilla ice cream and allowed to consume as much as they desired over a 15-minute period believing that they were taking part in an ice cream taste test. All participants were asked not to eat 2 hours prior to the experiment.

At the end of the 15-minute dining period, the remaining servings of ice cream were measured to determine just how much each person ate and the participants were quizzed about their eating experiences.

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What the researchers found was that:

• On average, the participants who could see their food ate 116 grams of ice cream and estimated they had eaten 159 grams (a 35% inflation).

• On average, the participants who were blindfolded ate 105 grams of ice cream, but estimated that they had eaten 197grams (an 88% inflation).

• The blindfolded group rated the desert less tasty and stated that they were less likely to purchase the ice cream than those who could see their food as they ate.

The researchers point out that this shows just how significant a role the sense of sight plays when it comes to eating behavior by causing “…a pronounced dissociation between actual and perceived intake.”

Furthermore, this means that just by covering your eyes during a meal or eating in the dark, that it could be an effective way to change your eating behavior and potentially eat fewer calories as a way to lose weight.

For more about how to eat less, here is a brief video on 6 easy tips on eating less and an article on a tricky way to eat less for weight loss.

Reference: “Eating in the dark: A dissociation between perceived and actual food consumption” Food Quality and Preference Volume 50, June 2016, Pages 145–151; Britta Renner et al.