Wansink, Painter, & North’s 2005 experiment with “bottomless bowls.” Unsuspecting subjects ate soup under careful observation, but half of the subjects were eating from specially modified bowls that slowly refilled. Amazingly, both groups of soup slurpers thought they had consumed the same amount of soup, and both felt equally satiated. In reality, those with self-refilling bowls had consumed 75% more, and they had no idea!*
*In a related experiment, graduate students were paid to watch the Super Bowl and eat snacks. Those who got their snacks from large bowls, rather than small bowls, put 53% more food on their plates and consumed 56% more calories, scientifically proving, among other things, that I should have gone to Cornell for grad school!
Portion sizes matter. We know restaurant portions are often much too large for one person, but those dinner plates in our homes have grown, too. If you own a house with original cupboards from the 1960s, you may have noticed that your modern dinner plates don’t fit in them. In fact, a backlash is growing related to dinner plates, including a diet book based on using 9-inch dinner plates. (A one-minute video trailer for The 9-Inch “Diet” shows the evolution of plate size.
So you’re sold, but how have I structured my “Portion Tricks” eating plan? Simple:
Use the small dinner plates. The yellow ones pictured above. I haven’t even measured them, because that’s kind of the point – controlling calories with no measuring.
No seconds. Filling that small dinner plate several times is not the idea. Nice try.
Take home half... If I’m at a restaurant, I’ll take home half my food. Some suggest asking for the to-go container when your food comes, though that feels a little over the top for me personally.
...or order a smaller portion. Order a half sandwich or order an appetizer instead of an entrée. Just be careful: some of those are pretty big, too.
Snacking is allowed, but only one serving, and never straight out of the container. I’m not at the stage where I could function well on only half-servings and small plates without some snacks. But I’m limiting portions to one (reading and measuring, if needed) and definitely not eating straight out of the bag.
Will this work? A very similar plan worked wonders for Philly sports fan Ed Rendell, who has dropped 62 pounds by cutting portion sizes in half and doing 30 minutes of cardio per day. Hopefully it will work for me, too.