What you think about before dinner affects how much you eat

Looking forward to dinner

Your evening meal can be the light at the end of the tunnel of a busy or boring day, that you look forward to and relish.  That’s great – an enjoyable and relaxing interlude can only be a good thing.  Choosing what you love to eat so you satisfy your appetite as well as your hunger means double satisfaction.

Too much of a good thing?

This evening oasis can create a problem though, when it becomes a nightly feast that is way beyond what your body needs.  The side-effect of all that pleasure is your expanding waistline, often with a side-order of frustration and helplessness.  You don’t want to give up the pleasure but you do want to lose the inches.  What can you do?

What you think about before you eat affects how much you eat

Luckily for you (and me and countless others), research groups around the globe are studying eating and appetite, and producing helpful pointers.  One of these is the Eating Behaviour Research Group headed by Professor Suzanne Higgs at the University of Birmingham in the UK.  Professor Higgs studied the effect of being reminded of a recent eating episode on subsequent food intake.  One group of people were asked to think about what they had eaten for lunch, and another group were given no guidance about what to think about, for 5 minutes prior to eating. The group that thought about what they’d eaten for lunch then ate less dinner.  She then compared what happened when people were asked to think about “lunch today” compared with “lunch yesterday” and found that the “lunch today” group ate less at dinner than the “lunch yesterday” group.

These results suggest that memory of recent eating influences how much we eat.  And we can use this finding to help with adjusting our own dinner size.  If you want to lose weight and currently eat too much for your evening meal, try spending a few minutes before you start eating your dinner, thinking about what you ate for lunch today.  Then sit down to enjoy that lovely dinner.  You may find that you eat less, even without trying to.  The effect may be subtle, but it’s a great way to engage the non-conscious processes involved in eating to help you move in the right direction.

More tips on how to eat less

This think-about-lunch tip is one of my 12 tips in the chapter on how to stop eating in my book “How to Retrain Your Appetite: Lose weight eating all your favourite foods” available from independent bookshops, major book retailers and online.


Higgs, S (2002) Memory for recent eating and its influence on subsequent food intake. Appetite vol 39 pages 159-66


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