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Inhaling the aroma of freshly baked cinnamon buns while walking through the mall can collapse the best of weight-loss intentions. On the other hand, watching a violent movie likely puts the kibosh on your appetite. In addition to these obvious appetite deterrents and stimulants, other more stealth issues can also play a role in the your weight-management efforts. Be aware of the ones that trick you into overeating — and use those that work for you.
Your favorite scent may help you lose weight, according to Alan Hirsch, MD, neurological director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. Sniffing a vanilla, banana, green apple or peppermint scented candle may trick your brain into thinking you’ve already eaten it, says Hirsch. “Smell is 90 percent of taste.” Spritz one of these fragrances on a tissue if a candle isn’t available to cut cravings.
Listening to music
If you find yourself overeating at your favorite lively restaurant, it may have more to do with the background music than the homemade blue cheese dip, according to a 2012 study published in Psychological Reports. Researchers found that softening the music in fast food restaurants resulted in an 18 percent drop in calories consumed. “When it comes to music, it so much depends on how much you like or dislike a certain piece,” says Joseph Cardillo PhD, research psychologist and author of Your Playlist Can Change Your Life. “What calms one person could repulse another.” Cardillo recommends experimenting to find what works best for you. “Use songs that send the message you need to hear to channel your willpower.”
Eating off colored plates
While the color blue is widely known as an appetite-suppressing color, red may work even better. A 2012 study published in the journal Appetite showed that participants drank less from the red-labeled cup than from the blue-labeled cup and ate fewer snack food from the red plate than from the blue or white platesdr. Researchers believe the red color works as a subtle, subconscious “stop” signal.
Chowing down on potatoes
Potatoes get a bad rap. They’re banned from many diets because of their high carb content, yet they possess one attribute that make them a dieter’s dream: resistant starch, an appetite suppressant. Resistant starch is known as the “third type” of dietary fiber, says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, board certified specialist in sport dietetics and the Dallas Cowboys sports dietitian. “Resistant starch is found in beans, legumes, starch fruits and vegetables (like bananas), whole grains and some types of cooked-then-cooled food like potatoes and rice.” Note that the longer and hotter the starch is cooked, the less resistant starch it contains, so cold potatoes provide more resistant starch than hot. Potato salad (no mayo), anyone?
Spiking meals with vinegar
Not just for salad dressing anymore, vinegar (acetic acid) helps lower the glycemic index (reduces the blood sugar spike) after eating carbohydrate-rich foods. “Many studies show that vinegar lower the glycemic index up to 20 to 35 percent,” says Goodson. “A stable blood sugar means you feel satisfied after a meal and don’t get hungry quickly.” If a meal such as a salad lends itself to a dash of vinegar, go for it, says Goodson, but eating acetic acid containing fermented and pickled foods have the same effect. Or combine the resistant starch of cold potatoes with a vinegar dressing for double benefits.
Nibbling dark chocolate
Yes, chocolate, a major downfall of many dieters, may actually help you lose weight. The catch: it must be dark, not milk chocolate. And sorry, but you’ll have to skip the caramel filling and nuts, too. Nonetheless, it’s still chocolate. A 2011 study published in the journal Nutrition & Diabetes showed that participates felt more satisfied and less hungry after eating dark chocolate, rather than milk chocolate. It also lowered the desire to eat something sweet or fatty. Melt an ounce of dark chocolate and use it as a dip for fresh fruit for a healthy, appetite-suppressing snack.
Dimming the lights
Along with listening to soothing music, dimming the lights in a restaurant also resulted in people eating fewer calories, according to a study out of Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. The researchers divided half of a Hardee’s fast food restaurant into a fine dining environment, complete with soft lighting. Researchers expected the relaxing environment to entice people to eat more. Instead, although it took diners longer to eat, they ate less food than people who eat in a fast food environment. They also rated the food more enjoyable. So take your time, dim the lights and lose more weight.