1. Think yourself slim. To curb an afternoon snack attack, try thinking back to what you had for lunch. Study participants asked to recall their last meal before doing a taste test ate about one-third fewer cookies than those who were asked about their morning commute, finds a study in Physiology & Behavior. “Remembering what you ate activates your brain’s hippocampus, which may play a role in decision-making to help you say no to consuming extra calories,” explains Suzanne Higgs, the lead study author from the University of Birmingham in the UK. To tame your appetite, jot down a detailed list of everything you had for lunch (no cheating!), then review it before your afternoon vending-machine visit. You may decide you don’t need that super-sized candy bar after all.
2. Relieve bloating. Eating salty foods like hot dogs and chips can make you look and feel puffy, but you can trick your body into letting go of excess liquid by noshing on natural diuretics. For a triple dose, try tossing half of a sliced cucumber with ¼ cup parsley and 1 Tbsp lemon juice, says Jackie Keller, a celebrity nutrition expert who has worked with stars such as Reese Witherspoon, Angelina Jolie, and Charlize Theron.
3. Eat fish to burn fat. Put more fish on your dish to get more out of your next sweat session. Astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant that gives salmon, shrimp, and other seafood its pink color, may boost fat burning and exercise endurance. In fact, mice who ran on a treadmill lasted 20 percent longer and burned about 7 percent more fat when taking an astaxanthin supplement compared to those who didn’t, discovered researchers at Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine in Japan. It wards off oxidation in the cell’s energy powerhouse, known as the mitochondria, to increase endurance and fat burning, speculates Susan Kleiner, PhD, RD, author of The Good Mood Diet. Kleiner says to eat 6 ounces of wild salmon at least three times a week to max out your exercise.
4. Divide and conquer. A stay-slim trick may be as simple as dividing food into smaller packages. Study participants who were given 24 individually wrapped cookies ate them in an average of 24 days, while those who received a box of 24 without the partitions polished them off in just 6 days, according to the Journal of Marketing Research. “Partitioning food prevents you from eating larger portions because stopping to open another package forces you to pay attention to how much you’re actually consuming,” says Amar Cheema, study co-author and associate professor, McIntire School of Commerce, University of Virginia. But before you stock up on bulk boxes of 100-calorie pack treats, know that partitions may lose their effect over time if ripping into another package becomes a routine task. Instead, try switching it up by using plastic baggies as well as different types and colors of containers.
5. Limit your food choices. If you want to ward off overeating, stock your cupboards and lunch bag with a smaller variety of healthy foods because having too many choices may actually sap your willpower. “The act of choosing requires energy, and that depletes your reserves to lower self control,” says Kathleen Vohs, PhD, from the University of Minnesota. So stay away from those all-you-can-eat buffets and stick to your go-to meal—you’ll conserve your willpower for those times when it really counts (like when your cubicle mate brings in her addictive brownies).