Control Your Appetite with Repetition

Medically reviewed in September 2021

Want a simple, no-frills trick for cutting back on calories? Repeat yourself. That is, repeat your meals and practice habitual eating.

Research shows that if you repeat meals -- for example, by eating the same healthy breakfast or lunch every day -- you will consume less food overall.

Love Meal Monotony
It's all thanks to the magic of meal monotony. Basically, there's an appetite-suppressing effect that comes naturally from restricting food choices. Call it "school cafeteria syndrome." And it really works. In a recent study, researchers fed volunteers the same macaroni and cheese dish every day for 5 days. By the fifth day, volunteers ate much less mac and cheese. In fact, on average they were consuming almost 20 percent fewer calories by day five. (Learn the new rules for weight loss.)

Make It a Habit
Some researchers think meal monotony lessens hunger because of what psychologists call habituation. The more times you present a stimulus to somebody, the weaker their reaction to the stimulus becomes. This applies to everything from violent images to loud noises. One bloody picture or loud bang will really affect you, but after several in a row, you start to get used to them. Or eat mac and cheese day after day, and the mouthwatering dish will have less pig-out appeal. Of course, you don't want to make a high-fat meal like mac and cheese a daily mainstay. But if you can plan one healthy option for either breakfast or lunch -- and repeat it daily -- your habitual eating may help you overeat less.

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