Popular tools and techniques for dieting come and go—and they need to be used properly.
Whether it’s a low-tech paper and pencil diary or a more sophisticated app for your phone, the right diet technique can really help you meet your goals. Some of these tools—like online tracking devices that allow you to record your daily food intake and activity—work like a virtual health coach. Others are designed to help you improve your eating behaviors, such as learning to eat more slowly or control portion sizes. But just as in fashion—where “one day you’re in and the next day you’re out”—eating trends come and go, too.
Horace Fletcher, a health food devotee during the Victorian era, thought the best way to control food intake was to chew each bite of food 32 times. Soon, everyone was “Fletcherizing” to keep their weight down. Hard to imagine making that suggestion today, but it wasn’t that many years ago that we assured our clients that eating in front of a mirror was a sure-fire path to slower eating. Or, we’d suggest they put down their forks, take a sip of water, and dab their faces with a napkin between each bite. For some, these tricks worked – but for others, eating just became too deliberate (bite, sip, wipe, repeat).
In the 1990s the “red-light, green-light fork” was a popular device that was designed to slow down the rate at which you ate. When the green light on the fork handle lit up, you ate. When it turned red, you stopped. Trouble was, lots of people who used the fork managed to game the system. Green didn’t just mean “eat”—to most people it meant, “shovel it in as fast as you can before the light turns red”.
Fast forward to today, and there’s news of an engineer in Japan who has invented special glasses, dubbed “slim goggles,” that make food portions look up to 50% larger than they actually are. Pop these babies on and that little cookie you’re holding suddenly appears to be nearly the size of a dinner plate. What’s even more amazing is that—in a spectacular feat of optical engineering—the goggles only make the food look larger. The hand that’s holding it looks completely normal.
While the cumbersome nature of the eyewear has left the inventors with no plans as yet to market the diet goggles, it does suggest one thing: we continue to look for ways to fool ourselves into thinking that we’re eating more than we actually are. The goggles are sort of a high-tech version of using smaller plates and taller glasses – which appear to hold more food and liquid than they actually do.
Used properly, the stop-and-go fork could work. But if it doesn’t, it’s likely that you’ll blame the device—it certainly wasn’t you that failed. And that’s why tools and devices are only as good a diet technique as the intentions of the person using them. When it comes down to it, you need to accept responsibility for your actions—for better or for worse—which is why the best tools are the ones that help you do just that.
When you keep track of what you do and chart your progress, you can steer yourself back on track if you stray. You also get to take all the credit when your efforts pay off.