Five Secret Tricks to Regain Control of Your Eating (Part 5)

This is the final step of our journey of finding more self-control.

In the first four steps, we’ve covered how to use our dinner plates effectively for improved weight management and weight loss, and have gained self-control while grocery shopping, at the office, and in restaurants.

The last place can sometimes be the most difficult.

At home.

We are going to apply three of the previous lessons here.  

First, I want you to treat your dining area as if it is a restaurant. Plate your first serving in kitchen, and do not forget to use the “Half Plate Habit” that we learned in Part One. 

But additionally, here we are going to divide all the food in the kitchen, just like we do on our plate. After we serve ourselves, bring the veggies, lettuce salads, fruits and milk to the table. Leave the entrees and starches in the kitchen.

This reinforces three previous tricks: “Half Plate Habit”, “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” and the “Six Foot Rule.”

You will always eat what is easily obtained, so make sure the vegetables and fruit are always prominent. And this applies not just during a meal. Have a bowl of fruit out on the counter and hide the chips, cookies and crackers in the pantry (or get rid of them altogether.)

Make sure that everyone has water in a glass waiting for them on the dining table. Again, if it is already in front of them, it will more like be consumed.

Make the dining experience enjoyable, not rushed. Do what most of the nicer restaurants do to make people satisfied with the environment. Dim the lights a little to help people bring focus to the food. Soft music in the background is excellent. 

And turn the TV off. Television is a distraction and leads to mindless eating, instead of what we are trying to do here, which is mindful eating. And everyone stays at the table until everyone is done eating. Make dinner a social event something to be enjoyed rather than rushed through.

Those are the five “secret” tricks to gain control while eating, whether you are at home, in the restaurant, at work or anywhere. When you use these simple actions, you will begin experiencing controlled eating. You will start enjoying those Simple Small Successes. And that will give you the confidence to make other changes to your eating habits.

And you will enjoy life more than before.

By now, you may have already read the five secret tricks, but if you want to listen to me as I talk about them, here is the podcast episode

Again, I want to acknowledge Dr. Brian Wansink and both of his excellent books, “Mindless Eating” and “Slim By Design”. His research and more importantly, his well-written and easy to read books were the source of these suggestions. You can buy these books using the affiliate links within the show notes.

Five Secret Tricks to Regain Control of Your Eating (Part 3)

If you just found this blog, I am giving five tricks (they really are not secret) for learning how to gain control over your eating habits.

On Monday, we learned a new method of portion control. It does not require weighing or measuring your food, nor do you need to record what you eat. It is called the “Half Plate Habit.” Yesterday, we went grocery shopping and learned a simple (and tasty) tip for keeping your buying habits under control while at the grocery store or market.

What about at work? Oh, that is a major challenge, right? I know coworkers who always have a bowl of candies on their desk. In fact, I have a bowl of candy in my cubicle, too.

There are two saying that could apply here. One is “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” But the saying which really applies is “Out of sight is out of mind.”

Did you notice the difference with my candy bowl? Mine is not on my desk. I keep it in a cabinet drawer, locked, behind my chair. I only use it when I know I am meeting with students, especially at the end of the semester. I unlock the candy, and place it out just before the students arrive, and when they leave, I immediately lock it back up.

The time it takes to unlock my cabinet is just enough for my “decider brain” to kick in and remind me that I really do not want nor need that candy. Another option is to put the candy in a covered bowl (ideally not a clear bowl) and moving it a mere six feet away. Just six feet! Those few steps are enough to get your “decider brain” active and in control. Candy in sight and within reach is candy that will be eaten.

Something else to do at work is to lock you purse or wallet in another drawer. That will prevent the random wander past the vending machines or cafeteria. The other tip for the work place is to bring your own food from home. When you pack your food, you are in control of everything. You know exactly what you packed, and how much you have. (Remember, you will still use the “Half Plate Habit” even when packing your food.)

Don’t sit at your desk and eat. Go to the cafeteria or go outside and eat while enjoying the sun. But don’t bring your money with you, so that will eliminate the temptation of buying some food there. Enjoy your time away from your desk. Enjoy your food. Recharge your mind away from your desk.

And just a reminder, if you do not want to wait, you can listen to last week’s podcast, where I list all five suggestions. The show is about 30 minutes long, and you can find it here. You can also subscribe to my podcast in iTunes (for users of Apple products) or Stitcher (non-Apple devices.)

I want to acknowledge Dr. Brian Wansink and both of his excellent books, “Mindless Eating” and “Slim By Design”. His research and more importantly, his well-written and easy to read books were the source of these suggestions. 

Five Secret Tricks to Regain Control of Your Eating (Part 2)

Yesterday, I talked about a new approach to weight management. Specifically, I gave you the idea of  the “Half Plate Habit.”
Using the Half Plate Habit whenever you eat from a plate will help you regain control over your eating. It is an easy method of teaching self-control, and costs nothing to implement. That’s right. A free new method to assist weight management and possibly weight loss.
While the Half Plate Habit can be used anywhere, the next suggestion is location-specific. Another place where you encounter food is at the grocery store. We all know that shopping on an empty stomach is a bad idea (but we still do it all the time). 

However, studies show that it is not that we are hungry when we shop, but rather that our good memory and imagination kicks in to tempt us. We walk past broccoli, cabbage and onions with no imagination input, but walk past the delicatessen, the aisle full of potato chips or the bakery with its fresh doughnuts, and we start remembering how good those donuts taste, we remember the sound of crunching those chips, and we revel in the memory of the last time we ate those warm onion rings (at the last football game, right?)

(Side note: as I sit here and write this section, my stomach is growling and my salivary glands are working overtime. And I do not have anything in front of me other than my laptop. It is all my imagination and memory creating this physiological response, just as if I were standing in front of an endless sea of sweets.)

How can we short-circuit our imagination and memory? We are going to give it something else to focus on:


It could be Bubbliscious, Juicy Fruit, or Bazooka Joe, but when we chew gum while shopping, it is more difficult to imagine the taste of those onion ring and sweet rolls. Please give this a try. This is the only suggestion that will cost you any money, and the price of gum will probably be offset by the savings when you don’t buy that bag of Cheetos.

That’s it for today’s tip. Tomorrow will be a suggestion for simple changes on the job.

And just a reminder, if you do not want to wait, you can listen to last week’s podcast, where I list all five suggestions. The show is about 30 minutes long, and you can find it here. You can also subscribe to my podcast in iTunes (for users of Apple products) or Stitcher (non-Apple devices.)


Again, I want to acknowledge Dr. Brian Wansink and both of his excellent books, “Mindless Eating” and “Slim By Design”. His research and more importantly, his well-written and easy to read books, were the source of these suggestions.

Five Secret Tricks to Regain Control of Your Eating (Part 1)

Let’s start with the beginning. 

Most people are overweight in the US. Recent studies show more than 60% of people 12 and older are overweight, and about half are clinically obese. It’s not getting better over time, it is getting worse.

But everyone already knows that, or if you don’t know that, I’m not sure where you are living. The US is big.

That was the origin of my blog and podcast. I wanted to help people reach their goals—all goals—including weight management. And my constant refrain is “calorie counting and move more than you used to.”

I still believe that to be the foundation of any successful weight management program. I use LoseIt to easily count my calories and my Fitbit to keep reminding me to walk more.

But, that is not enough. Or rather, maybe that is too much, at least in the beginning. Learning to eat the correct number of calories, and then log them all, and then create a new habit of walking more are three very large goals. They are worthy goals, but it is possible they are too large, too aggressive, and too monumental to talk all at once.

I am working with a weight loss client. Let’s call him “John”. We connect about three times a week with email, video mail and Skype calls. Last weekend we were talking about his strategy, and a phrase came to me. I told him that while his goal is large, we are going to focus on “Simple Small Successes”. Small goals that can build on each other, creating a succession of successful actions. We are going to set John up for success, because each goal has a very simple threshold. Success breeds success. As we move further into his program, the goals will continue to be simple, but eventually they will result in very large changes to his eating and living habits.

I started to think about how I can help more people. I’d love to be able to meet with all of my readers and listeners as I do with John (and it is possible for some) but until I am able to become a fulltime consultant and coach, I will give your advice here.

There are five areas that affect our eating habits, five locations that we can make very small changes to help you make better choices.

You will not need to buy different food, cook differently, or eat at different restaurants. You will not count calories, do special exercises, and go to meetings. In fact, there is only one thing you will need to purchase, and it will cost you only some spare change! But we will get to that in a bit.

But before I give you my ideas, I want to give full credit to Dr. Brian Wansinck. He is the author of two books about the habit of eating. “Mindless Eating” is an excellent discussion of our bad habits while eating. And we all have them. His newest book, “Slim By Design” takes his first book and adds many actions that will help the reader change their life. So to be clear, none of these ideas are mine. I am using his ideas. My words. His ideas.

We encounter food in four general places: home, the grocery store, the work place and restaurants. I am going to give you specific steps for each of those places. Remember, I am focusing on Simple Small Successes and each one of these ideas are free, simple and effective.

What are they?

Let’s start with the first idea, which can and should be used anywhere. Let’s consider the plate you use to eat.

How much of eat group are you supposed to eat? And what size plate?

The USDA has a complicated definition of how much of eat type of food to eat. And if you want to follow that, you will eat very healthy. But it is not simple, and remember this is all about “Small Simple Successes”.

This is what MyPlate looks like on my actual plate.

So instead of the USDA plate with its four categories, I suggest an easier approach. It is simply eating with a “Half Plate Habit.” Take your plate—any plate—and visually divide it in half. That is easy enough, right?

Then—here comes the easiest part—when you eat, fill one half with fruits, vegetables and green leafy salads. Tuna pasta salad and potato salad do not count here. But all the steamed, roasted, grilled and raw veggies you like, your favorite fruits, and a nice salad with fresh greens, that will be how you fill half your plate.

Easy enough?

The other half? Anything you want.


Anything you want, but with two rules: the food cannot extend over the edge, and you cannot pile food on top of other food. But otherwise, pizza, spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, BBQ ribs, quinoa salad can all go on this half. This is where the tuna pasta salad and potato salad will go, along with the onion rings, French fries, and brownies.

Wait a minute! Do I really think this will help you gain control over eating? It sounds like I am suggesting that pigging out is the answer to being overweight.

Yes. It will help. Think about it. First off, you only have half a plate to fill with the “pig out” food, and I limit it to not extending over the edges, and not piled high. So the reality is you will not get a lot on that plate. But the other half is full of the really good food, the healthy food. The fruits have sugars, which will satisfy your sweet tooth (and we all have one) while the veggies and their fiber help fill our stomach with bulk but not many calories.

But the real magic happens when you decide you want that extra piece of pizza. When you get up to go get it, you then remember that you will also need to eat a half plate of fruit and veggies, too. Many times, you will decide that maybe you really do not want that pizza that badly, and you will stop eating, and very likely eat much less than you normally would have eaten.

What happens if you cheat and take the pizza but not the fruit and veggies? Well, yes it is cheating, but the only person who loses is you. This “Half Plate Habit” will only work if you really want it to work. It will be the most difficult of my five suggestions, but it is the most important, because you will be able to use this everywhere: at home, at a family gathering, at an all you can eat buffet, and at work.

This one habit will be the first habit to propel you to success.

That is my first “secret” trick to gain control over your eating habits. This trick can be–should be–used everywhere you eat.

Tomorrow we will go to a specific place of food, and give you a simple and extremelt inexpensive trick to help you maintain control.

If you do not want to wait for the next blog post to reveal and explain the next tip for control, you can listen to my podcast and hear all of them.

Note: the links to LoseIt and Fitbit are my affiliate links. That means if you click on those and buy one (or all) I will receive a small commission. It does not change your cost at all, but it will help me continue to provide recipes and advice here and in my podcast Make Your Someday Today. That is the only firm of payment I have here, or in the podcast. I tell you about tools that worked for, and if you belief they can help you, your purchase keeps my work going. And for that, I thank you!

Small Changes Make a Big Difference

What if you could do one small, almost invisible thing, and that simple act would help reduce your calorie intake by up to 359 calories a meal?

Would that help you get healthy?

Would it help the people you live with?

What would you pay to prevent gaining 38 pounds a year?

Would you make the decision to act?

Many current sets of dinnerware feature dinner plates that are 10-11 inches. I’ve seen one with 12″ plates. The set of Corel plates that we formerly used had 11″ dinner plates and 8.5″ salad plates.

These are much larger that our vintage plates from the 1950s, when dinner plates were 9″ and salad plates were 7.5″. That doesn’t sound like much, until you calculate the area that each plate holds.
My wife and I use the 9″ plates, but we leave a thumb-width around the edge. That reduces the available area to 8″. Why don’t we just use the 7.5″ plate? Because by always leaving a thumb width on every plate, we train ourselves for those days when we eat at someone’s home. We’ve done it long enough that we know how much empty space to keep all around the plate.
We only fill it one time, and we don’t pile food on top of each other, so we are careful to only choose the foods we love.
What a difference an inch makes!
Plate Diameter  Square Inches   Ratio to 8” plate
         12”                   113.1                  2.25
         11”                     95.03                1.89
         10”                     78.54                1.56
           9”                     63.62                1.27
           8”                     50.27                1.0
So what does all that mean?
When I used the 11″ plates and filled them to the edges–not an uncommon practice in my previous life–I was able to put 1.89 times more food on that plate than I can now. If my old way of eating allowed me to load 1000 calories (imagine a Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and all the rest of my most favorite meal), my new plating habit now only allows 529 calories. Changing that eating habit saved me up to 471 calories, and since I routinely ate second and third helpings, my other new habit of only one serving saves many more calories.
If you just switch from a 10″ to 9″ plate, you will save a lot of calories. That 10″ plate holds 1.23 times the food a 9″ plate will hold. Again, comparing a potential 1000 calories piled on the 10″ plate, that will be reduced to 813 calories (edge to edge) or only 641 if you use my thumb-room method.

That is potentially 359 calories saved. In ONE meal! Over the course of a year, that would be almost 131,000 calories eaten. Eating off your old plates could add almost 38 pounds–or using the new plates may help you lose the same amount.

In every case, we will see a full plate. Our minds will think that we are getting a LOT of food, but we will be limiting how much we eat.
The difference in how much food a plate can hold, based on comparison of square inches.

The equation is area = πr2(where pi = 3.141592654)