Lose weight with this no-exercise trick backed by research

Bryce Gruber

Researchers found eating this easy hack could help you shed up to 16 pounds.

If you're looking for yet another effortless weight-loss hack like this one that lets you shed pounds in your sleep, you're in luck, because research has identified possibly the easiest trick yet-- and it's free, effortless, and you can eat all the same foods.

All you have to do, it seems, is eat ALONE. In fact, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating with someone else can cause you to consume 44% more calories than eating alone. Worse yet, you'll eat 58 percent more with three people, 69 percent more with four people, 96 percent more with seven people. The research is in clear favor of eating alone if you'd like to lose weight.

How does social eating make us fat?

"Although mindful eating seems to be kind of trendy these days, this concept is practiced regularly by those who focus on hunger, fullness and the pleasure of eating versus obsessing over the number of calories, grams of fat or sugar they are swallowing," explains Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It - Taking You from Label to Table. "When we’re distracted, like when watching TV, scrolling through our socials or chatting, we’re paying more attention to those activities instead of what’s happening in our mouths and we forget what and how much we're consuming. This could lead to over or unnecessary eating."

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Simply put, eating with others keeps conversation flowing and encourages us to either consciously or subconsciously notice silent social cues to eat more. This phenomenon is known as "social facilitation," and may actually be a throwback to the early days of human development when we were learning to survive.

"Experts at the University of Birmingham led a team of researchers in Britain and Australia who found that eating 'socially' has a powerful effect on increasing food intake relative to dining alone, after evaluating 42 existing studies of research into social dining. They explain that ancient hunter gatherers shared food because it protected against periods of food insecurity -- this survival mechanism may still persist today."

"From all the years I’ve been counseling clients, I do believe over, and sometimes under, eating is contagious. When we eat with others we’re often involved in conversations, thereby distracting us from paying attention to what we’re tasting or the texture or temperature of a food," says Taub-Dix of this fascinating lifestyle hack. "The lack of attention could make us eat more. When we eat with others who eat more — we may spend more time at the table and match the amount they are consuming. Words like, let’s order dessert or want to split another dish with me? are common magnets for prompting you to consume more than you may have eaten if you were alone."

The more comfortable you are with someone, the more you eat

It's not just about eating with friends or family, either. It turns out that eating with people you're more comfortable with, like a spouse or best friend, can encourage people to lose track of their eating. "Humans are social creatures by design and these studies reflect that eating has evolved from evolutionary times of survival needs to a social behavior," shares Dr. Uma Naidoo,​ MD, Nutritional Psychiatrist and author of ​This Is Your Brain on Food. "Eating together with others involves other activities such as drinking alcohol, something that stimulates appetite! As we sip on wine, and eat cheese, we may lose count of just how much as we are socially engaged (and distracted) and there is little mindful eating. This is why weight loss programs will tell their customers to bring a healthy food to a gathering that they can eat; to fill their plate with low calorie veggies so they can step back from the fried foods or other unhealthy options that may tempt them."

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"One of the results from this study showed that family social undermining for healthy eating was associated with weight gain at 24 months, suggesting that the interactions among family may cause weight gain over time," Naidoo details. "This could be a level of comfort and familiarity a person feels within their family, whereas with a date or co-worker one may feel tentative and be concerned about feeling judged by how much or what you eat."

The solution? Eating alone. You may lose up to 16 pounds.

Experts agree you can shave hundreds of calories off your daily consumption by eating alone, or at least in far smaller groups. Researchers at Duke University in North Carolina found that cutting just 300 calories a day, or the amount you might rack up from sharing a plate of fries with a friend or co-worker, can drastically improve your metabolic health over time.

This small, nearly effortless calorie reduction improved biomarkers for blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. The positive side effects didn't stop there though, because over the course of the two-year study, those who reduced their caloric intake by that relatively-simple 300 calories per day lost an average of 16 pounds in the process. The icing on this tiny piece of cake? The lost pounds were almost entirely fat.

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And you can speed that weight loss up dramatically

"I always talk about paying attention to body intelligence," says Naidoo. "After indulging in less healthy eating, many people will talk about not feeling well. We know that there is a real gut-brain connection and that our emotions are also linked to how we feel. Start with mindfulness even when you are with others, rather than shoveling down the potato chips and dip. Think about your personal health and nutrition goals before you join the event."

Dr. Naidoo suggests following up your new mindful eating habits with these additional easy tips to add fuel to the weight-loss fire:

  • Bring your own healthy foods to group meals that you actually enjoy so you don't indulge in less healthy options. This also helps with portion control you don't have to think much about.
  • Drink more water. It helps you stay hydrated, but also creates a feeling of fullness that may help you gain a bit more control over reaching for more food.
  • Skip the alcohol or set a limit of one drink at the beginning of the meal. More booze means more calories and less control over our eating habits.

If you're feeling really ambitious, commit to taking a short walk around the block after your main course. Taking a brief walk has been shown to control blood sugar more effectively than most other measures, and may signal your brain to skip dessert and additional social eating cues.

Love this article? Then you'll love this prescription-free insomnia hack that's easy enough for anyone to try.

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Bryce Gruber covers women's lifestyle content and news ranging from shopping to travel, beauty to parenting, wellness and delicious eating. Find her at @brycegruber on social media, and across a variety of women's lifestyle and parenting topics at TheLuxurySpot.com, Readers' Digest, Bravo, Parents.com, Martha Stewart, and on your TV screen through national talk shows including The Tamron Hall Show. She lives and works in New York's Hudson Valley with her five small children.

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