What's a way to trick yourself into eating smaller portions?

Judith Beck, PhD

Rather than tricking yourself, it is better to see what works best for you. There’s no magic in the number of meals and snacks you consume. Find a schedule that fits you best.

A small minority of people seem to do best with three larger meals a day and no snacks. It’s quite clear to them. If it’s not mealtime, they just don’t eat.

Other people do better when they consume their food on a regularly spaced basis, for example, breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack.

Still others, particularly those who like to eat at night, might try the following schedule of eating: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, snack.

Experiment with different schedules. Do you like to eat less food more often? Would you prefer to have larger meals (and fewer, smaller, or no snacks)?

Probably the most important point is to limit your eating to planned times. If you want to lose weight permanently, it doesn’t work to make spontaneous decisions about when to eat. You’ll lose (that is, gain weight) in the long run if you eat when you feel like eating instead of when you’ve planned to eat.

Eat more...more often that is! When you eat more (every 2-3 hours) you tend to eat smaller portions because you don't feel as hungry. Always start the day with a healthy breakfast, which is what it says -- breaking the fast. Then, have a snack midway in between your breakfast and lunch. Again, after your lunch before your dinner. A small snack before bed is also acceptable. You want these snacks to be about 200 calories or less. If you keep these five to six snacks/meals small, your body will adjust to this and eventually you will feel fuller on less food.
Along with the excellent suggestions from Dr. Roizen and Dr. Beck, I find that one of the best tools is to only prepare enough food for one serving. This eliminates the need to "trick" oneself. It is also helpful to "plate" your meal in the kitchen, rather than having large portions on the dinner table and serving yourself from a platter or casserole dish.

Another helpful tool I use is pre-portioning for multiple meals/days. I will generally cook large portions of staple foods over the weekends (oats, rice, chicken, beef or fish) as well as cut and mix vegetables and salad greens. I then weigh and measure my portions, and place them in plastic baggies or containers. This way my week day meal preps are already done! I simply open my refridgerator, pull out a small container of almond butter and a serving of oatmeal for breakfast. Before leaving my house, I pack my cooler with my salad and the premeasured chicken, vegetables and rice, along with whatever additional mini-meal I have planned for the day. Come dinner time I cook just enough for my husband and me, or enough for the two of us and some "planned-overs" to be portioned out for another meal.

Whatever tools you choose to use, know that preparation is the key! 
It is not a matter of tricking yourself into eating smaller portions, it is a matter of eating the correct portion size to start with. Most of us have no idea what a proper portion size is. We eat as much as we want with no idea of how much we are eating. Start reading labels and measuring out your food to get smaller portions. Eat every 3-4 hours whether you are hungry or not. Use food combinations like always eat a protein with a carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are emptied out of your stomach in about on hour. When you add a protein you extend your gastric emptying time because it takes your body longer to process the protein so you feel full longer. Add a healthy fat like walnuts or almonds and feel full even longer. It takes your body the longest to process fats. 
I agree with everything that has been said here. These are all very good ideas and examples to follow. I especially like what Dr. Beck said:

"Rather than tricking yourself, it is better to see what works best for you. There’s no magic in the number of meals and snacks you consume. Find a schedule that fits you best."

I find that my clients have different work schedules therefore different food schedules so you really have to gauge what is best for you as an individual. Sometimes it is difficult to eat on a set schedule because of your work schedule. Personally, I even forget that I am hungry when work gets busy. It is when I have slowed down that I realize that I have not eaten since breakfast.

So in addition to what has already been said you also have to monitor how much you eat as well as what you eat. Since I became a trainer I have become more conscientious of what I eat. My snacks went from being a bag of chips to a yogurt or a pack of cookies to a pack of fruit snacks. This by itself helped me to lose weight significantly while boosting my metabolism.

It is also a good idea to not eat heavy meals before your regular bedtime because the food does not have time to digest.

What works for me is to eat every 3-4 hours with lunch being the largest meal of the day because I have the time and energy to burn off what I have consumed.

Another good thing I have been doing is writing down everything I eat. I find that in doing so I actually eat less because I know that everything that goes in my mouth has to be written down. This is tedious and to keep from having to write so much I just stick to my meal plan. This way I also stick to my caloric intake.

Once you have set yourself in a habit of doing things that work for you; you won't have to trick yourself into anything. You will eat until you are full then stop. Just like that.
Hara Hachi Bu: That is the Japanese saying that you should eat until you are 80% full. Not 100% full. Or 140% full. But 80% full. We’ve all heard that it takes a while for your brain to register that it is full. So do your brain (and bottom) a favor and slow down. You can do this by taking a sip of water between every bite of food. Or making sure you set your fork down between bites while you chew to completion. And by all means, go powder your nose between courses.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Eat on 9-inch plates instead of traditional 13-inch dinner plates. Research has shown that the visual effect of eating is a powerful signal to your stomach to slow the digestion process. People who eat meals from smaller plates consume fewer calories but still have the same feeling of satiety as people who eat off larger dishes.
YOU: The Owner's Manual, Updated and Expanded Edition: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger

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YOU: The Owner's Manual, Updated and Expanded Edition: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger

Between your full-length mirror and high-school biology class, you probably think you know a lot about the human body. While it's true that we live in an age when we're as obsessed with our bodies as...
Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics

Start with smaller dishes. Smaller food portions look bigger on smaller plates. Always measure out carbohydrate foods. Pasta, rice, cereals, and potatoes should be no more than1/2 cup per serving. Limit the serving; always plate your food in the kitchen; do not serve family style from the table. Having bowls of the food right in front of you encourages over eating. Measure out salad dressings. One serving is generally 1 T. unless it is fat free. Serve larger portions of vegetables since they are low in calories and high in fiber. The fiber will help keep you full. Pay attention when eating. Stop before you are full. Be comfortable but not stuffed.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.