When you're trying to lose weight, what (and how much) you eat matters - but that doesn't mean you can't use some clever tricks to fool your brain and tummy into eating less.
See also:Seven diet myths that are keeping you fat
See also: Men and belly fat: Eight ways to bust your gut
1. Make sure you can hear yourself chew
Eating alone - and without the distraction of a television or radio - could help you eat significantly less, according to researchers from Brigham Young University, Utah.
Scientists gave study participants crunchy foods, such as pretzels and cookies to eat. Half were made to wear headphones playing loud music while they ate, while the rest snacked in silence. The group that could hear themselves snacking ate 30% less.
A seperate study from Cornell University found that playing soft music – not so loud that it obscures the sound of your own chewing – encouraged diners to chew their food more slowly and eat less.
2. Paint your dining room blue
If you want to eat less at dinner time, decorate your dining room or kitchen blue. Warm colours – such as yellows, oranges and reds - are known to stimulate the appetite (just picture the interior of McDonalds, KFC and Burger King if you need to be convinced). In contrast, blue has been found to curb appetite. Not only were people found to eat less in a blue room compared to red or yellow, research has shown that diners eat less when using blue-coloured plates.
While you're investing in blue crockery, be sure to downsize your plates and bowls. One study found that diners served themselves 31% more ice cream when given larger bowls.
A separate study published in the Journal of Consumer Research concluded that eating from a large plate makes you eat more, because the ring surrounding the food looks bigger – making your brain believe you're eating less than you actually are. With a small plate, the ring of plate seems smaller, making you believe that you're consuming more than you actually are.
It might sound strange, but using a bigger fork may help you eat less. Researchers from the University of Utah found that diners who used bigger forks ate 10% less than those who ate a normal-sized fork.
4. Eat with your left-hand if you're right-handed
Eating with your non-dominant hand may help you to consume less, say psychologists from the University of Southern California.
Researchers gave 98 cinema-goers a bucket of popcorn – the group that were told to eat with their non-dominant hand ate 30% less food. The theory is that the inconvenience causes us to re-evaluate if that fourteenth handful is worth the effort.
5. Cut your food into smaller pieces
Cutting your meal up into smaller pieces may trick your brain into believing that you're eating more than you actually are, causing you to feel full sooner.
Psychologists at Arizona State University gave 301 study participants bagels to eat – either uncut or cut into four pieces. Those who ate the bagel cut into pieces ate fewer calories that those who ate them whole.
6. Visualise eating your favourite food
You might think that daydreaming about eating chocolate will make your cravings worse – but research has shown the opposite to be true. A 2010 study published in Science found that people ate less of a certain food after imagining eating it. Picturing the food in your mind isn't enough – you need to visualise eating the food you're thinking about.
Researcher Joachim Vosgerau explained: "To some extent, merely imagining an experience is a substitute for actual experience. The difference between imagining and experiencing may be smaller than previously assumed."
7. Eat more protein
Keep your hunger locked up until lunch by eating protein for breakfast. Researchers gave two groups the same number of calories to eat for breakfast. The group that ate eggs lost 65% more weight and 16% more body fat over the eight-week study period than those who ate bagels.
8. Get your Zzzs
Several studies have found a link between lack of sleep and weight gain. Even just one poor night's sleep is enough to increase your appetite by 24%, and decrease levels of the fullness hormone leptin by 26%. Research has also linked chronic sleep deprivation (those who regularly get less than six hours per night) with a 55% higher risk of obesity.
9. Eat more omega-3 fats
Oily fish like salmon and mackerel aren't just good for your brain and heart – they could also help to keep you trim. Research has shown that eating omega-3 fats, particularly those found in fish and algae oils, has the ability to decrease appetite by raising levels of leptin. Just take care to count calories from oily fish or algae oils within your daily allowance.
10. Drink a pint of water before every meal
Some of the simplest tricks are the best. A study from the University of Birmingham found that obese adults who drank 500ml of water before every meal lost an average of 9.5lbs in 12 weeks. As you might have guessed, water fills up the stomach, so it takes less food in order to feel full.
See our pick of the 20 best kitchen appliances and gadgets that will help you eat well: