If you’re dreaming about that cream cake in the fridge, keep it in mind just a little longer.
For thinking about food before you sit down for a meal can help you lose weight.
Researchers found that remembering previous meals that were delicious and filling can lead to us eating smaller portions – and ultimately enjoying trimmer waistlines.
And it seems concentration is key to healthy eating, because the researchers also found being distracted while eating could lead to you piling on the pounds.
This is because we lose track of how much we have eaten and tend to eat more than we need if we are not focused solely on our plate of food.
After analysing previous studies, the researchers found that techniques such as writing down previous meals and using visual reminders of previous meals, such as keeping food wrappers, were associated with a reduction in meal sizes.
Lead researcher Dr Eric Robinson, from the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society based at Liverpool University, said: ‘Our research could be developed as a new strategy to reduce the need for calorie-controlled dieting.’
He added that more work was needed to establish how the techniques might affect people who are overweight because the studies they looked at involved adults of a healthy weight.
Researchers have now developed a smartphone app, which is currently being trialled on overweight and obese people, to see if awareness of consumption can lead to weight loss.
The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The research also found being distracted when eating a meal leads to increased consumption of the immediate meal but has even more of an effect on later eating.
Distractions – which also include listening to the radio or music or reading a newspaper at the dinner table – affects awareness of the food they are eating and results in over-consumption.
Dr Robinson said: ‘People who are distracted while they eat appear to pay less attention to what they have eaten.
‘If you remind people of what they have eaten throughout the day it helps them to feel more fulfilled and less hungry because people’s awareness of food effects what they eat.
‘Watching TV while eating has long been associated with weight gain but people just assumed that it was because these people did not exercise.
‘When they are watching TV they are distracted by what is on the screen and not paying attention to what they are eating.
‘We know that our theory works in practice, in studies.
‘The results were so striking that we wanted to test them in real life situations. That is why we have developed an App to be used by overweight and obese people. This will remind them what they have eaten throughout the day.
‘This is ongoing at the moment so we will have to see what happens.’