Friday, April 30, 2010

Sometimes Size Does Matter

Take a quick look at these two plates. Which plate has around 450 calories?

Surprise! Both plates have exactly the same amount of food. Okay, maybe it’s not a surprise, maybe you’re well aware that plate size influences how much we eat, but did you know that plate sizes are slowly increasing? The two plates above are my ‘good china.’ The plate on the left is a salad plate, something that used to be called a luncheon plate back when people thought you should eat less at lunch. It measures eight inches across, about the same size as my grandmother’s dinner plates. Today’s dinner plates are between eleven and twelve inches. As plate size slowly creeps up, so do portion sizes.

As writers we know the actual size of something doesn’t matter much compared to how it is perceived. An object can loom large or shrink into nothing when our hero fears it or needs to find it respectively. Unfortunately, your dinner plate uses the same magic trick on your feeling of fullness after a meal. Visual cues help us to gauge how full we are; if you eat off a larger plate you’ll eat more before you feel full.

A study published in Obesity Research asked subjects to rate how satisfied they were and estimate how much they had eaten after consuming a bowl of soup. However, some subjects were given ‘bottomless’ soup bowls that refilled via a pump hidden under the table. It turned out that if a subject’s bowl never emptied they ate 73% more soup. More importantly, after eating they didn’t rate themselves as more satisfied nor did they believe they had eaten more than subjects with a normal bowl.

How can a healthy writer cope? First, try eating off of smaller plates and bowls. You’re likely to eat less without even realizing it. I’ve found using bowls and serving dishes marked with the size to be helpful as well. I know I’ve eaten half a cup when half of the one cup container is empty, instead of just guessing. I have cheap Ziploc containers and durable Pyrex, both do a great job.
Second, stop and look at your food. When all the right words are flowing from my finger tips, I often eat with my eyes on the monitor and one hand typing. It’s great for my daily word count but it means I’m not visually processing how much I’m eating. Similarly, take your food out of its bag or package. It’s a lot easier to know you’ve had ten M&Ms if you counted them out and put them in glass dish instead of snatching a handful or two from the bag as you stand over the sink.

How big are your plates? Do you think plate size matters? Do you eat while typing too? Let me know in the comments below.

Curious to read that study? It’s here: Bottomless Bowls: Why Visual Cues of Portion Size May Influence Intake

Want to make the dish you see pictured above? It’s here: Balsamic Glazed Pork Chops with Red Pepper Grits


When she’s not cooking, buying, or dreaming about food, Rachel Kleinsorge writes steamy paranormal mystery romances. She is currently waiting for the call from her agent, the amazing Carolyn Grayson, while working on her next novel.


Michelle Butler on April 30, 2010 at 10:04 AM said...

Figuring out ways to be aware of exactly how much you are eating is very helpful. One of the things that helps me a lot is that I tend to divide whatever I've just made into individual portions and store them that way in the freezer/refridgerator. That means I know I'm getting one serving of it when I eat it later for lunch or dinner.

Sally Kilpatrick on April 30, 2010 at 1:26 PM said...

I have read this before, but I didn't believe it until I realized that I was losing a little weight on Monday nights. Well, on Monday nights I often eat with the parents-in-law (because my mother-in-law is a saint!). She serves a salad with supper each night and she uses smaller plates that came from Ikea.

After making that discovery, I decided I would buy some smaller plates because it really does trick your mind into thinking that you've eaten more than you have. (Either that or I've just been looking for an excuse to go to Ikea)

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) on April 30, 2010 at 3:02 PM said...

Isn't it wild how we can trick our brains into thinking differently? Maybe I'll start eating off saucers. :)

Michelle Butler on May 1, 2010 at 11:14 AM said...

The saucers crack me up. I've been wracking my brain trying to come up with something that tops saucers, and to my sadness, I can't. Little girls' tea party dishes?

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