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By: Tanya Fortune
As a scientific study suggests sleeping in your parents' bed as a child makes you slimmer when you grow up, we look at some of the more weird and wonderful ways to battle the bulge.
The key to losing weight is simple; eat a balanced diet and work up a sweat a few times a week and you will more than likely remain at a healthy weight.
However, recent research suggests that keeping the muffin-top at bay might not be as straightforward as we think. The complexities of the human body, not to mention the mind, mean that anything from painting your kitchen blue to eating off smaller plates could affect your weight.
Here is a list of our favourite quirky ways to lose weight.
Sleep in your parents' bed
According to research carried out in Denmark, children who wake up at night and then fall back asleep in their parents' bed are less likely to be overweight than little oiks put back in their own bed. The study of 500 Danish children found that those who never slept in their parents' bed after waking up at night were three times more likely to be obese than those who went to sleep in their parents' bed every night after waking up. The boffins who carried out the study claim the positive parental response creates a sense of security in the child which may protect against obesity. But don't go getting any ideas - you're too big for that sort of behaviour now.
Eat with your non-dominant hand
Want to avoid mindless snacking while watching Made in Chelsea? Eat with your non-dominant hand, according to researchers. A study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology found that snackers who typically ate popcorn at the movies consumed less when asked to eat with their less-favoured hand. Professor David Neal, from the University of Southern California, said: "When we've repeatedly eaten a particular food in a particular environment, our brain comes to associate the food with that environment and makes us keep eating as long as those environmental cues are present."
Eat in front of a mirror
Mirror, mirror on the wall... It might sound like an extreme case of vanity, but research by scientists at Iowa State University found that when people watch themselves eat, consumption of high-calorie foods decreases by nearly a third. The researchers claim this occurs because the person is made more aware of their diet and health goals. Not to mention their bingo wings.
It's enough to put anyone off their food, but the secret to losing weight could be... dining in the buff. Fans of the 'Naked Lunch' diet claim that eating without any clothes on makes you feel self-conscious about every fat-laden mouthful, so you eat less.
Paint your walls blue
Bizarre as it may sound, the colour blue is an appetite suppressant. A study by Dr Val Jones and the Parsons School of Design in New York showed just how colour can affect food consumption. The research team set up three rooms bathed in different colours - red, yellow and blue, in which participants were served identical plates of food. Around 33% fewer snacks were consumed in the blue room, perhaps because we associate blue with mouldy food. You don't have to repaint your walls, of course, but you could try eating off blue plates, or cover your table with a blue tablecloth.
Take a photo of your food
Had enough of crash diets? Try the flash diet instead. Keeping a food diary is a common method of recording what you eat, but in practice it's a time-consuming chore, which puts many women off dieting. Using your smartphone to take a snap of your meals, on the other hand, is quicker and - according to a University of Wisconsin-Madison study - more effective. The researchers asked dieters to record what they ate over one week in words and in pictures, and, when quizzed about the experiment afterwards, the volunteers reported that the photo diaries were a far more powerful disincentive to overeat. The dieters commented that they were less likely to choose chocolate and other junk because they felt ashamed at having to take photos of these food choices, while some also said it highlighted the fact that they weren't eating enough vegetables.
Eat off smaller plates
This isn't just Liz Hurley's favourite diet tip; the Small Plate Movement has actually been taken up by academics, governments and the media to help families in the US shed pounds by simply reducing the size of their crockery. Research shows that people serve up food in proportion to the size of the plate they have been given. Therefore, the more reasonable the plate size, the less calorific the portion on it. In fact, even a two-inch drop in plate size results in 22% fewer calories being served (leaving more room for dessert).
Get some sleep
Sleep deprivation and obesity have been linked before, but health experts have been unsure why - until now. Two new studies, which scanned the brains of people who suffer from lack of sleep, have found that sleep deprivation may cause obesity by impairing the brain's ability to make healthy diet choices. The research showed that parts of the brain related to reward were activated while regions that controlled behaviour where inhibited. The studies were carried out at Columbia University in New York and the University of California, Berkeley. So, get a good night's sleep, repaint your kitchen, eat naked, take photos of your food... anything is worth a try - but we still say keep to the eat well-and-exercise plan.
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