Four secrets to dropping those extra pounds…

People go on a diet (or watch their weight) for a variety of reasons—to keep their hearts healthy…to avoid diabetes and other chronic diseases…or simply to look better.

But clearly something isn’t working. More than two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese. The average American dieter makes up to five weight-loss attempts a year—but within a year, two-thirds of dieters regain all of the weight that they lost…and more than 95% gain it back within five years.

Why are so many people losing the battle of the bulge?


The truth is, if we all stuck to healthful, whole foods—such as vegetables, fruits, lean meats and fish and nuts—far fewer people would ever have to go on a “diet.” Have you ever seen anyone eat too much broccoli? But sticking to this principle of eating whole (not processed) foods isn’t always easy. So here are the other steps I recommend to prevent out-of-control eating…

• Downsize your dishes. Have you noticed that serving dishes have gotten larger? A generation ago, the standard dinner plate was 10 inches…now it’s 12 inches, and it’s human nature to fill that extra real estate with bigger portions.

Even nutrition experts, who know all about these dangers, can be fooled by the so-called Delboeuf illusion, in which a food portion can seem large or small, depending on the empty space that surrounds it.

A fascinating study: Nutrition experts were given either a small bowl or a large one, along with an ice cream scoop. Those given the larger bowls took 31% more ice cream than those with the smaller ones. The big bowl made the large serving appear “normal”—even to those who should know better.

What to do: To avoid the Delboeuf illusion, use smaller plates and bowls. Not worth the effort? Consider this: Research shows that going from 12-inch plates to 10-inch plates reduces caloric intake by 22%.

Where to find 10-inch dinner plates: Bed Bath & Beyond…and Walmart. For fun colors in plates this size, go to or Also helpful: Some people notice that they also eat less if they start using chopsticks…or hold utensils with their nondominant hand.

• Go with single-serves. A study published in the journal Appetite found that men ate up to 37% more (women 18% more) when food came in bigger bags.

Single-serve bags typically contain one to two ounces. Admittedly, that’s not very much. But if you’re going to indulge now and then by having, say, potato chips, a single-serve portion has about 150 calories. Think how much more you’d get by dipping your hand repeatedly into an oversized bag!

Also helpful: If you decide to save money with bigger packages, pour the amount that you want to eat into a bowl…and don’t go back for refills. To cut the compulsion to go back for another serving, take a few sips of lemon water to break the cycle of wanting to eat more.

• Slow down. It takes roughly 20 minutes for chemical signals of fullness to reach the brain. People who eat quickly tend to get more calories than they need—or even want.

Scientific evidence: When researchers instructed participants to either rush through a meal or take their time, the slow eaters (who took small bites, chewed their food well and put down their forks between bites) consumed 88 fewer calories. They also reported that they felt less hungry than when they ate more quickly.

What helps: When eating a meal, set a timer (or an alarm on your cell phone) for 20 minutes and pace your eating so that it takes that much time to finish.

• Watch what you’re watching! You may know that television leads to “mindless eating”—one study found that adults who ate pizza while watching TV consumed 36% more calories than those listening to music. The reason? They were too distracted to notice what they were doing—or when they were full. But new research shows that some types of viewing are worse than others. Action movies and sad movies are more likely to trigger distracted and/or emotional eating than more sedate viewing choices.

What helps: To avoid excessive eating when watching a movie or TV, especially an action movie or a tearjerker, sit down with some crunchy veggies instead of a bowl of popcorn or other snacks.

The Heart Health Bible: The 5-Step Plan to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease