If your diet plans feel like they’re falling apart, maybe it’s time to break them to pieces. That’s the suggestion of recent research shared at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior. In this study, both mice and men reacted similarly when faced with a food presented either as a whole, or in pieces. In the human study, college-age students ate more when presented a meal accompanied by a whole bagel — versus a bagel cut up in four parts. Why might this be, since both meals were the same size offering the same calories? Devina Wadhera, PhD, of Arizona State University and the main author of the presentation speculates, based on prior research, that smaller food pieces force diners to slow down, allowing for satiety to set in.  Like other mindful eating techniques, it puts up very small speed bumps to encourage tasting, chewing and savoring food — as opposed to wolfing it down.

In the basic study, rodents given a choice of either ten 30 mg food pellets vs. one 300 mg pellet preferred the smaller pieces, though they ended up eating the same amount in either case. The takeaway? To moderate your munching, choose bite-sized morsels instead of food that requires you to bite pieces off a larger whole (i.e., a pizza slice, a hunk of dark chocolate, a mega-bagel). To jump start your diet, try other ways to shift eating into lower gear:

  • Tensing muscles (like a clenched fist) might increase willpower by 140%.
  • Ditch dinky forks — they actually make you eat faster.
  • Switch to your non-dominant hand – or employ chopsticks (though we don’t suggest you try both simultaneously — you might starve!)
  • And most importantly, load up on fruit and vegetables, packed with nutrients, but low in calories — filling you up and helping curb cravings by satisfying nutrient needs.

Published June 1, 2013