RSSYour unconscious mind is supersizing you

Posted on Mon, 27 Jul 09

Your unconscious mind is supersizing you

Did you know that within a few decades dinner plate size has increased by almost 40%, the availability of larger serving sizes has increased 10-fold and that the volume of serving sizes in restaurants can differ in calories as much as 250%?  Portion distortion, the tendency to overeat due to underestimating food serving size, has a strong influence on food intake and has been implicated as a major factor in the rising prevalence of overweight and obesity [1-2].

“Mindful eating,” the awareness of reasons why one eats including environmental, physical and emotional triggers such as boredom, anxiety, food advertising and portion size plays an important role in body weight control. Brian Wansink from Cornell University, one of the worlds leading experts on mindful eating, suggests some simple practical solutions for reducing serving sizes and preventing overeating [1]:

  • When shopping buy smaller sizes or divide large food items into single serve portions.

  • If eating out at a restaurant order two entrees instead of a main meal, share meals between two people or have half of the plate packed to take home.

  • At home replace larger tableware with smaller plates, bowls and glasses and keep unhealthy food in cupboards and out of sight.

Reducing portion size however may only be half of the story. In contrast to downsizing portion size a research group have been exploring whether increasing food intake can improve weight loss. The group have found that, in contrast to standard low-fat diets, increasing intake of low-energy-dense foods such as watery soups, fruits and vegetables results in superior weight loss while reducing hunger and improving satiety [3].

In a comparison of two diets, one advising increased servings of low-energy-dense foods and the other advising to reduce all serving sizes, it was found that women who were advised to eat more low-energy-dense foods ate more fruits and vegetables, naturally decreased their calorie intake and experienced 40% greater weight loss [4].

Reducing the energy-density of your diet can be as simple as using more vegetables in cooking and salads, using lean cuts of meat and trimming excess fat as well as consuming watery dishes such as broth based soups [5]. Building these habits into your lifestyle while reducing portion sizes of unhealthy and high-energy-foods such as pasta, potatoes, breads, fatty meats and cheeses, restaurant meals, sweetened fruit juices and soda can improve your weight and help prevent weight gain.


1. Wansink B, van Ittersum K. Portion size me: downsizing our consumption norms. J Am Diet Assoc. 2007 Jul;107(7):1103-6.

2. Ledikwe JH, Ello-Martin JA, Rolls BJ. Portion sizes and the obesity epidemic. J Nutr. 2005 Apr;135(4):905-9.

3. Ello-Martin JA, Roe LS, Ledikwe JH, Beach AM, Rolls BJ. Dietary energy density in the treatment of obesity: a year-long trial comparing 2 weight-loss diets. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jun;85(6):1465-77.

4. Ello-Martin JA, Ledikwe JH, Rolls BJ. The influence of food portion size and energy density on energy intake: implications for weight management. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jul;82(1 Suppl):236S-241S.

5. Rolls BJ, Drewnowski A, Ledikwe JH. Changing the energy density of the diet as a strategy for weight management. J Am Diet Assoc. 2005 May;105(5 Suppl 1):S98-103.

Tags: Overweight, Obesity, Mindful Eating

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