Size Does Matter

17/09/12 10:33 AM

I found myself at a local market that boasts “the best salad bar on the Northshore” on my way to the hospital to visit a dear friend and her newborn child.  It had been five days since she was admitted.  No one should have to eat that much hospital food!  My mission was to bring something she would actually want to eat.

The salad bar offerings were healthy and fresh without a lot of the mayonnaise based salads commonly found.  The containers, however, were huge!   As I made my way around the salad bar filling the container, I realized that I had just constructed what could possibly be the world’s biggest salad.   Okay, maybe not the world’s biggest, but certainly too big for just one person.  I grabbed extra utensils and justified the super-sized salad with the thought that if the hubby was around, there would be plenty to share.

Here’s the lesson.  Size matters.  The larger the bowl, the plate or the cup – the more you will eat.

While I was attending the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, one of the popular books at that time was Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink, Ph.D.  In Mindless Eating,  Wansink’s research illuminates the fact that if it is there, we will eat it.  In one experiment, moviegoers were given either a medium or very large bucket of popcorn.  Those given the very large bucket ate 50 percent more than those given the medium size bucket.  Both groups reported eating the same amount of popcorn.  In fact, in another experiment, moviegoers were given 14 day-old popcorn in either medium or large buckets.  The large bucket people ate 31 percent more stale popcorn than those with medium buckets.  Again, both groups reported eating the same amount.  Experiment after experiment, Dr Wansink found that the larger the plate, the more people ate.

So, how can we overcome the tendency to overeat when faced with today’s extra large plates and bowls?

  1. Eat at the table.  When we eat in front of the television or computer, our attention is focused on what we are watching, not on how much we are eating.
  2. Give Thanks.  Pause before diving in to your plate and give thanks to the farmers who grew your food; the animals that gave their lives for your nourishment; the truck drivers who transported the food; and the store employees who stocked the shelves.
  3. Take a breath.   A deep breath relaxes the nervous system and physiologically  prepares your digestive system to absorb more nutrients from the food you eat.
  4. Slow down.  If you eat fast, try keeping pace with the person who eats the slowest.  Remember, it takes 20 minutes for your brain to figure out that you’re no longer hungry.
  5. Practice being fully present.  Really look at your food – colors and textures.  Take in the aroma.  Notice how it feels on your tongue.  What is the initial taste sensation?  What is the lingering taste sensation?  This can be a fun way to teach mindfulness to young children.
  6. Reduce plate size.  Using a 10-inch plate instead of a 12-inch plate will reduce consumption by about 20%.  Most people eat about 90% of what is on their plate.
  7. Learn what 80% full feels like.  Hint:  satisfied not stuffed.
  8. If you think you want seconds, wait ten minutes before refilling your plate.
  9. Dim the lights, light a candle, put on soft music and enjoy the conversation and company at the table.
Eating wholesome, freshly prepared foods with people whose company you enjoy is one of life’s greatest pleasures.  Savour it.




Posted by Deborah Buell | in Blog, Conscious Eating, Healthy Eating | Comments Off

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