Weight Loss Win: How to Choose Smaller Portions

portion control plate

If you have a love-hate relationship with food, going back and forth with diets, healthy eating, meal planning and bouts of binging, caving or settling, you're not alone. You're trying to do what's best for your health, but your body is sending your mind mixed signals with cravings galore. It's time to get on the defensive side and be proactive! If you know you're likely to wiggle your way out of a healthy diet, give yourself an incentive to stay with it. Yes, a prize. It's time to go back to the basics of actions and rewards.

Through a series of seven experiments, a smart guy named Martin Reimann led University of Arizona's Eller College of Management found that people would choose smaller portions of food if that meant they'd receive a prize, too. Sounds kind of like the genius of a fast-food happy meal, no? See the study here.

One example included sixth-grade students, 78 percent of whom choose half of a sandwich instead of a full so they could also get a pair of $1 ear buds. Experiments just like this kept providing the same results. Yet, the participants quickly went back to their old habits of choosing large portions once the prizes were removed.

1. Find your motivation. Every single story in the Skinny Mom's "My Weight Loss Journey" Series shows how each woman found her motivation — her real reason for wanting to change things. Once you're equipped with this answer, the little bits of daily motivation can fall into place. Perhaps making your own dinners, choosing smaller but more frequent meals or adding more color to your plate can be matched with a hot yoga class, a healthy dessert later or renting a movie.

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>> Click here to read Kelly's weight loss success story!

You might even need something more immediate. For example, if you choose the "Pick Two" option at Panera instead of the bowl bread bowl with a baguette, you get the delicious green tea instead of a water. As you practice this type of behavior, the idea is change your association: Smaller portions are a positive thing.

>> Read more: Why Your Mind Doesn't Want You To Lose Weight

2. Stay accountable. For reality's sake, you're going to be going most of this alone. That doesn't mean you shouldn't find a friend or a program that can hold you accountable. Many women turn to Weight Watchers, BeachBody Fitness, health and nutrition coaches, and the like. There is something that will work for you, you just have to seek it.

During the study, Reimann also discovered women were more likely to forgo the prize and take the larger portion (read why weight loss is harder for women). This is something to keep in the back of your mind when you find you're arguing with yourself. During these moments of weakness is when you need that support team the most. Not only will the people who hold you accountable be watching, but they will also be there to catch you when you stumble.

>> Give it a try: 21-Day Shred

3. Take it home. Trying to get your kid to eat vegetables can be physically painful sometimes, and along the same lines is trying to get them to be on their best behavior. Instead of telling little Bobby to get better marks at school or go potty by himself and then he'll get an ice cream, give him a non-food incentive. The researchers found that linking good behavior to non-food rewards early in life could be the ticket to squashing overconsumption for the next generation.