From the Dukan Diet to the Caveman Plan, weight-loss regimes instructing us what to eat and what to avoid are big business.
But a number of recent studies have revealed how making several small lifestyle changes could help you lose weight without feeling deprived of the food you love.
Habits such as using a smaller plate or drinking water before a meal can have a significant impact on your waistline, the research revealed.
Even the people you eat with can make a difference, with male companions encouraging women to eat less, and skinny friends with large appetites making people think they too can eat more.
The latest study into the subject, from McGill University, found that those who cook at home, rather than eat out, make healthier food choices.
Lead author Laurette Dube told the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: 'If the association between positive emotion and healthy food is built in the home, then that environment can serve as a reminder of that association and motivate people to choose healthier food that can make them happier.'
Experts believe that such subliminal behaviour changes are more effective than regimes that require one to exercise willpower.
Psychologist Roy Baumeister, who is co-author of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, told The Atlantic: 'Dieting in general does not work, so the odds are against it. But it's worth a try.'
He added: 'It's better to make gradual, long-term changes to how you eat than to use your willpower to resist temptation bite by bite.'
But Atlantic writer Hans Villarica remains to be convinced: 'No causal research has aggregated these priming tactics into a cohesive plan... If a strategy were to be produced, some of its power may be lost if people who become aware of the inducements try to go against them.'
10 TIPS TO LOSE WEIGHT WITHOUT GOING ON A DIET
1. USE A SMALLER PLATE
A Cornell University study found that when a fixed portion of food was eaten from a large plate, diners felt they had been give a smaller than average portion, so ate more. When the same portion of food was eaten from a smaller dish, the meal seemed more substantial, so they ate less.
2. USE A BIGGER FORK
An Italian study into the relationship between fork size and consumption found that diners who used smaller forks ate more than those given larger forks. Researchers believe those with smaller forks felt they were making slower progress in satisfying their hunger, so ate more.
3. EAT WITH MEN
...If you're a woman. According to psychologist Meredith Young, women eat less if there are men around. She told The Atlantic: 'It is possible that small food portions signal attractiveness.'
4. READ THE LABELS
Those who read nutrition labels on food packaging eat around 5 per cent less fat than those who don't bother, according to researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
5. DRINK WATER BEFORE MEALS
A 12-week study of 48 people aged between 55 and 75 on low-calorie diets found that those who drank two glasses of water before each meal lost an average of 4.5lb more than those that didn't.
6. AVOID LIGHT AT NIGHT
This includes late-night television and computer use. A study into the effects of bright light, dim light or darkness on weight-gain in mice found that those under a bright light at night gained 50 per cent more weight than those in darkness.
7. HIDE UNHEALTHY TREATS
...And keep healthy snacks in sight. Office workers ate less chocolate when dishes of candy were moved from their desks to the other side of the room, reveals a study by Mindless Eating author Brian Wansink.
The same trick can be reversed to positive effect. A Cornell University study found that when a middle school cafeteria salad bar was moved to a more prominent position, consumption of some items increased by 250-300 per cent in a year.
8. BE CAREFUL AROUND FRIENDS
Children eat more with a friend than with a stranger, according to a study at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Researchers said that this trend, which applies to adults too, can be blamed on the fact that friends act as so-called permission-givers, and encourage one to indulge.
9. BEWARE OF SKINNY FRIENDS WHO EAT A LOT
Worse still, are thin friends who have large appetites. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that participants snacked more during a movie when accompanied by a skinny person who ate a lot, compared with those sitting next to a fat person who ate a lot.
10. AVOID ADVERTISEMENTS FOR EXERCISE
A University of Illinois study revealed that participants who were shown advertisements encouraging exercise ate more than those who weren't. The same was true of participants exposed to subliminal words relating to exercise during mealtimes.
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