There may be multiple causes for the increase in obesity in recent decades, but a major factor is the drastic increase in portion sizes.
This is true for home meals and restaurants. But the fact that we eat out so often plays a big role in widening our waists.
People in most modern countries too often fill their diets with what scientists call ” energy-dense foods, ” which represent items like fast food, fried dishes, and foods with empty calories and few nutrients like soda, potatoes. fried and white breads or pasta.
The truth is that both children and adults will eat more when more is available, a phenomenon known as the “portion size effect.” Knowing your portion sizes and other environmental cues is important in fighting weight gain and the obesity epidemic .
Why? This might surprise you, but our internal sensors that tell us that when we have eaten too much we are easily fooled.
Particularly in the long term, our appetite is much more influenced by external stimuli, what we see, like, touch and smell, than by some internal mechanism.
Of these senses, what we see on our plate is the most powerful factor in how much we are going to end up eating.
Are there ways to combat the effect of portion size?
The history of food serving sizes
The increase in serving size is not a recent thing. One study examined 52 Last Supper paintings created between 1000 and 1900 AD and found that the size of the main meal and the bread depicted increased significantly, particularly after 1500.
Sometime around the 1970s, portion sizes began to grow disproportionately for most restaurant meals.
The increase was fastest in the 1980s and continues to increase as the average body weight of American individuals increases (according to studies).
Starting in the 2000s, there have been several common makers of individual serving sizes. So the size of an individual serving may vary from country to country.
Some of these items that are commonly mislabeled with serving sizes larger than USDA or Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards include.
“Unlike practices that were common just 15 or 25 years ago, food companies now use larger sizes as sales advertising. Fast food companies promote larger portions with signs, staff pins, and placemats.
Manufacturers of diet foods such as frozen meals advertise larger meals; restaurant reviews refer to large portions; and the restaurants of the national chain of important brands promote large portions directly on the menus.
Restaurants are using larger plates for dinner, bakers are selling larger muffin tins, pizzerias are using larger pans, and fast food companies are using larger containers for grabbing and frying.
Identical recipes for cookies and desserts in old and new editions of classic cookbooks specify fewer servings, which means larger servings are expected.
Another indicator of the trend toward larger servings is that automakers have installed larger cup holders in newer models to accommodate larger sizes of beverage cups.
Overall, our observations indicate that the portion sizes of virtually all foods and beverages prepared for immediate consumption have increased and now appear typical. ”
As I mentioned, the tendency to eat out has also played a role. In 1977, about 23 percent of calories were consumed outside the home, but nearly 34 percent were consumed elsewhere in 2006.
11 percent may not seem like a huge figure, but considering that many less expensive and / or chain restaurants have a plate of food that exceeds what a true single serving should be, this makes a huge difference.
Here are the 10 tricks to trick your brain into wanting to eat less
What is the best way to train your brain to want to eat less food, or consume more of the nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods that contribute to a healthy body?
Several specific tips have been included in this article below, but it all comes down to mindful eating. If you want to decrease the amount you eat, you will need to start with intentionality, which will take time and effort.
1. Pay attention to portions
You probably think that sounds too simple, but the number one way to eat less is literally to eat less!
Don’t rely on yourself to eat, serve, and portion control without knowing the proper size first.
Particularly when preparing food at home, eating at buffets or group breakfasts, and serving your children, look at packages or do a quick search online for the right serving size. If a serving is one-third of a package, don’t eat it all.
Both adults and children will eat more when there is more food in front of them – this is one way your body is pretty bad at self-regulating. And guess what, this is true sometimes even if the food doesn’t taste very good.
Since restaurants can make this very difficult, I suggest starting a meal using the next tip.
2. Look at the nutrition facts
Restaurants can actually decrease the number of diners by including the calorie count for each meal on the menu. This impact is most drastic when a daily calorie suggestion (typically 2,000 calories / day) appears on the menu.
People who are already overweight statistically underestimate the number of calories found in larger meals, especially when it comes to fast food (which you should avoid anyway).
Don’t you see it on the menu? Google it. Most major restaurants have nutritional data available online or can provide it when requested.
If a meal you are eating contains a large number of calories (usually a red flag goes up when I see a number over 700 to 800 in a meal), decide before you start eating to control your portions.
Order a to-go box and hand out 1/3 to 1/2 of your food before you start eating to eliminate the visual cue of more food.
When shopping at the grocery store, reading Nutrition Facts labels is an important way to avoid not only high-calorie foods, but also to avoid the worst ingredients found in many foods.
3. Eat in bright areas
Candlelit dinners can be romantic, but they’re also probably higher in calories. In one trial, subjects were asked to eat in total darkness.
Compared to the group that ate in the light, those in the dark consumed 36 percent more food, and had no physical indication that they were fuller or should not order dessert.
Rather than find yourself in a dark room in front of your television, try practicing mindful eating by sitting at a table in the light and focusing on your food, then entertain yourself later.
If you are in a dark restaurant, do not relax when determining the actual portion size of what you are eating.
4. Watch what you eat for snacks
People tend to trust packaging, which is generally not a bad thing. However, many snacks are “single-sized” in larger-than-necessary serving sizes.
You will likely eat more of the same snack if you increase the size of a “single serving” and serve it in a larger container.
This is due to something called “unity bias”: our brains see an individual thing as the same density, even if one is smaller.
They offered five mini-crackers or five regular-size crackers, a person will likely eat the full serving of both, which means that people who eat the larger crackers consume more calories.
When considering snacks, don’t let your brain fool you. Take the time to count a single serving and avoid eating from large containers like a bag of chips.
5. Begin meal planning
Putting a serving of a snack in a snack bag is a great way to control the portion sizes you eat, but this isn’t limited to just snacks.
When you spend time on the meal plan and bulk preparation, you can stop overeating much more easily.
When planning meals, you can finish the food on your plate just as usual. Typically, people choose to finish the entire meal rather than eat in portions.
By having your food prepared in advance, you can not only decide the size of the portions you will eat each day, but you can also choose when to eat, reducing the amounts of food you eat.
6. Eat a high protein snack before you go out
Appetizers may not be a bad idea, after all. When you eat something small before a full meal, you may be able to decrease the amount you want to eat for the main dish. This is particularly true when the “pre-meal” includes a large amount of protein.
High-protein snacks that might be great to have, especially if you’re going to a restaurant that offers calorie-heavy meals, include things like protein bars, black bean brownies, chia puddings, and guacamole-filled eggs.
7. Add more vegetables and eat them first
Do you want to trick your brain into eating more good things? Add healthy veggies to your plate in bulk and start with them.
It won’t actually reduce the amount you eat from the rest of your meal, but you will eat more of the healthier foods on your plate simply by serving and eating them first. This is true for both children and adults.
8. Place repeatable foods away from the table.
If you put repeatable foods in the fridge instead of on the table, you will eat less. One study found a 35 percent reduced intake when food was out of reach. There was a slightly stronger impact on men.
9. Beware of the influence of labeling
Did you know that something labeled “organic” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s low calorie or even healthy?
Look for organic products whenever you can to avoid dangerous chemicals like Monsanto’s Roundup chemical; however, it is easy to let an organic label confuse you. For example, organic cookies are still full of sugar.
In one study, researchers found that not only did people eat more things labeled organic (regardless of the health of the food), but many subjects would even give up their other weight loss efforts, such as exercising, after eating. something labeled organic.
Don’t let the influence of labeling fool you: train your brain to know the real nutritional content of foods, even when they are organic. Keep reaping the benefits of exercise and other healthy lifestyle practices.
10. Use small plates and crockery
You may have seen this recommendation before, but an easy way to eat less is to use a smaller plate and smaller dinnerware.
You simply cannot put the same amount of food on a small plate as a large one, and your brain is happier to see a “full” plate, even if it actually has less food.
Between the years 1980 and 2000, the average dinner plate size in the United States increased by a staggering 44 percent, indicating that we have become accustomed to larger serving sizes overall.
In one study, less than half of the people served the same food on multiple plates, even noticing that the size of the dishes was different.
In another test, subjects ate more than one snack when they became interested in noticing that the spoon was larger. You are also more likely to drink more than one drink from a tall container than a short, wide one.
So this one is simple: Take into account the size of the plates, cups, and dinnerware you are using, and adjust accordingly (and implement the other tips above) to avoid overeating.
Serving size precautions
Counting calories usually forces you to focus on the wrong thing. Eating nutrient-dense foods is much more important than simply knowing that you have 1,839 calories in a day.
However, there are concerns that come up with portion sizes and how they may be impacting the obesity epidemic, especially when it comes to high-calorie and nutrient-deficient foods.
Rather than being obsessed with calories, your focus should remain consuming as much nutrient-dense foods as you can, while also being mindful of your intake.
Final thoughts on serving sizes
Portion sizes have increased dramatically since the 1970s and continue to increase, along with the average weight of an American citizen.
There are several ways you can trick your brain into eating less food.
- Pay attention to the portions.
- Look at the nutritional facts.
- Eat in lighted areas.
- Eat snacks carefully.
- Begin meal planning.
- Eat a high-protein snack before eating out.
- Add more vegetables to your plate, and eat them first.
- Place fillers and seconds out of arm’s reach.
- Beware of the influence of labeling.
- Use smaller plates and dishes.
Even with these tips, I don’t recommend obsessing over calories. Instead, focus on the nutrient density of what you’re eating and add super foods and other high-quality items to your plate.
The nutrients found in these types of foods will actually help your body stay healthy, not just maintain weight.