5 Clever Weight Loss Tips Neuroscience Can Teach You

brain neuroscience

You brain can allegedly destroy fatty foods with builtin lasers.

Whoever said losing weight was fun? When it coming to shedding those extra pounds, we’ve all got our preferences: counting calories, intermittent fasting, the paleo diet… the list goes on and on. But what if there was a way you could really kick your weight loss plan into high gear without paying a penny to your local fat fighter consultant or suffering the giddy effects of living on two hundred calories day? Would you give it a shot?

I’m guessing you’re still here but before we dive into the nitty gritty let me say one word: willpower. Did you just recoil in horror at that word? That’s good! You see, an ongoing study by Stanford Professor Kelly McGonigal suggests that your lack of focus might actually be good.

By actively monitoring your daily decisions and actions you will improve your willpower. But what has this got to do with losing weight? It’s all in your mind, quite literally. Any kind of weight loss plan can be given a boost by applying some of these tried and tested mind games.

Let’s take a look at some examples and find out why they work:

Buy Smaller Plates

tiny plates

Ok, there are limits!

Yeah, I know you’ve probably already seen or heard this one but the reason I’ve added it here is because it works. I’ve used this trick to help lose weight and it is pretty effective – as long as you don’t go and refill your plate with seconds!

Why It Works

Picture the scene: you serve a hefty portion of your homemade lasagna onto your plate. Deep in the recesses of your mind, the ravenous sharpens his spear – soon your meal will be nothing but cerebral cave paintings and a warm glow radiating from the pleasure region of your brain. But you’ve had the last laugh.

You see, your grey matter is really good at recognizing food which is really handy otherwise we’d be just another notch in the evolutionary bedpost of mistakes. What it doesn’t do very well is work out how much is front of it. In fact, the xxx does a very good job of turning you into a pure eating machine.

By spreading out your meal on a smaller plate you’ve tricked your mind into believing there’s more than actually meets the eye. “Ding, ding” round one to you in the epic slugfest with your greedy mind.

Want to turn it up a notch? If so, then you need to…

Drink Like A Fish

tiny plates

Totally fat free!

Ever wondered how to achieve the feeling of having gorged a mountain of food in a marathon eating session the Romans would be proud without the belt bursting side effects? Munching through a wheelie bin full of Special K would probably do the trick but you’d soon get bored of the taste and the side effects of a really high fibre diet could be… interesting.

The easiest way to achieve the, “Oh my God, my bowels have become impassable passageways” feeling is to drink water with you meal – lots of it. Alternatively, you can eat foods that are high in water content – like cucumbers and… cucumbers. Oh, watermelon, soup and salads.

Why It Works

Ok, this one is really easy and even I didn’t need to think about why it works. It’s all about convincing you brain into thinking it’s full. The problems all start at the point we see our delicious, three course meal arranged in front of us. In anticipation of a gut busting eatathon, our brains start to use large quantities of the sugar in our bloodstream – cue the sugar crash and say hello to, “Mr. or Mrs. Grumpy”. Eating restores those blood sugar levels but in your rush to refuel fast you actually overeat because your body doesn’t have time to tell the brain that your little stomach is full. A perfect recipe for weight gain (unlike chocolate cheesecake which is just perfect). By consuming drinking water of eating foods high in water content you’re effectively fooling the brain into thinking you’re full when, in fact, you do have some space for that last slice of chocolate cheesecake.

Hide Your Food

child playing hide and seek

It’ really is child’s play.

Have you ever wondered why squirrels hide their food? Did your school teacher or some well-meaning biologist convince you that they were storing up some high calorie goodies to carry them over the long, cold winter months? I’m sorry – you’ve been lied to. Squirrels are secret snackers. In fact, they hide their food to stop them gorging on the entire nut collection in one go and ending up on Mr. Fox’s Christmas meat selection platter! And it can work for you as well.

First off, I’m not talking about hiding all of your food – that would be silly. You’re also like to be carted off the moment someone spies you scaling your roof in order to hide a Mars bar in your chimney stack. Hide the “bad” food and make the healthy food more accessible.

Why It Works

I could go into the geeky science stuff but we all know how boring that can be (unless you have a massive IQ and a domed forehead in which case, feel free to do some serious research). Let’s look at it from another, everyday angle: hide and seek. Remember that game? Do you remember how one of your friends always managed to find somewhere nobody ever found them? After a while, the game got pretty boring, didn’t it? Well replace your ninja-like friends face with a picture of a Snickers. Now make the rest of you easy to find friends something a bit mundane but equally energy packed – like a bag of assorted nuts. Can you see where this is going? In the end, your brain will happily take the nuts over the chocolate in order to get the energy rush it needs. Sod you, crafty Snickers bar!

Eat Really Slowllllyyyy

snail crawling

But not this slow.

Once upon a time, I had a carpentry teaching who spoke in a very slow monotone voice. He’s still alive and well so I’m not going to out him here but, for anyone that went to the same school as me – he used to trim his fingernails using the electric sanding machine! Anyway, his slow, deliberate tones failed to instill any kind of woodcraft into my head – if Ikea don’t sell it then it won’t go up in my house. But what eating slowly? Does it work? Oh yes, slowing down and savouring your food has been shown to help dieters lose some serious weight.

Why It Works

Remind yourself of the last time you indulged yourself and tucked into a meal from a fast food restaurant (ok, I’m using the word, “restaurant” lightly). How did it taste? Edible or, on a scary note, delicious? Now, be honest: can you actually recall the taste or did you simply gulp down the food as fast as possible in the vain hope that speed at which you ate would hopefully prevent any calories from clinging on? Yeah, I’ve done that too.

The concept is similar to taking on water during your meal – by eating too fast you don’t give your body a chance to register it’s full. Before you know it, you’ve overeaten and you’re feeling bloated. By chewing your food slowly and taking time before you shovel the next load into you mouth your body catches up with what you’ve eaten and let’s you know when to stop eating.

Remind Yourself Why You Want To Lose Weight

chocolate cake

Because this is pure evil!

Kitchens are a death trap for your dieting plans. You can pretty guarantee that lurking somewhere among your green, leafy good intentions there’s a sin, or two, waiting for you. Sneaky chocolate bars, huge blocks of cheese that scream, “eat me” and high calorie fizzy drinks are the most obvious of the assassins waiting to shred your weight loss plan. Here’s an idea that works: why not just say “no” to eating food that’s going to add the pounds and remind yourself why you’re dieting?

Why It Works

Here’s a gem I found whilst reading Kelly’s book – when we congratulate ourselves for doing something, anything, we’re effectively giving our brain a license to be bad. Did some gardening today that burnt through a few hundred calories? Well done me, I can now chew my way through a huge chocolate bar. By congratulating yourself you’ve given the ancient pleasure seeking area of your brain permission to seek satisfaction, regardless of the consequences.

Instead, when you stop and ask yourself why you did something good you’re forcing your brain to check that your actions are aligned with your goals. Basically, the more modern part of your brain regains control and beats back that urge to each fattening foods.

See how easy it is? Seriously, I used the second example to shift an extra stone of weight that I’d been carrying around my waist like an unwelcome passenger on my tour bus through life! What’s more, some of the ideas I’ve presented for you can be modified to fit in with just about any area of life. I have some ideas which I’ll cover in another article that I’m planning to post in the next couple of weeks.

Anyway, now it’s your turn. Go and practise some of these cunning tricks and use the comments below to let me know how you did. By the way, if you don’t see the expected results straight away feel free to either keep going with the method you chose or switch to another that you feel is right for you.

One final point: building your willpower works best when you have to constantly battle to achieve the results.