The American College of Cardiology recently estimated that 90% of weight loss is achieved by reducing food intake, while just 10% is achieved by increasing physical activity. This means in theory, you could stow the yoga mat, shutter that ten-speed, and still drop 90% of your desired weight simply by eating less. So why don’t we all do this instinctively?
The American College of Cardiology estimated that 90% of weight loss is achieved by reducing food intake, while just 10% is achieved by increasing physical activity.
One likely culprit is the way your food is served. The Journal of the American Medical Association has found that American portion sizes have increased significantly since the 1970’s. In fact, the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University found that American portions today exceed the FDA’s serving size guidelines by a whopping 200 calories more per day. (By way of comparison, our portions now dwarf their French counterparts by about 25%.)
The World Health Organization has linked these staggering portion sizes with the expansion of the American waistline.
A key to eating less is portion control. Smaller portions contain fewer calories, and eating fewer calories is one of the better ways to get lean. Consequently a number of solutions have been devised to encourage better portion control, including restrictive diets and calorie counting. But interestingly, one of the most helpful approaches has also been one the simplest: use smaller plates.
A study in the journal Appetite found that people clean their plates an astonishing 91% of the time, no matter how much food is offered, even if they are no longer hungry.
Why plates? Because our plates have gotten out of hand.
Plate sizes have been rising in the U.S. over the last 50 years: the average plate in the 1960’s was 9 inches. Today it is 12. (France, ever the throwback, measures in at just 10 inches.)
You may think all this expanding china has had little effect on your eating habits, but think again: a study in the journal Appetite found that people clean their plates an astonishing 91% of the time, no matter how much food is offered, even if they are no longer hungry.
The National Institutes of Health recommend replacing larger plates with smaller plates to eat less. “People eat what’s put in front of them,” they say. “Try serving food on smaller plates if you’d like to eat less.”
The evidence in support of portion controlled plates is strong:
Even the Archives of Internal Medicine has gone on the record, saying that because the number of calories consumed at a meal are a function of the serving size offered, the results of switching plates can be dramatic.
Despite the huge drop in calories associated with smaller plates, subjects were still satisfied and didn’t miss the extra food..
So the data look good and the science is sound, but is it viable? Countless weight loss strategies have been proposed and discarded over the years because they have a tendency to become difficult in the long term. Simply put, most diets are essentially an exercise in misery. What does the evidence tell us about portion control through smaller plates? Good things.
Despite the huge drop in calories associated with smaller plates, a study at the University of Pennsylvania found that subjects were still satisfied and didn’t miss the extra food. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that subjects were often unaware that they had eaten more when given larger portions.
Based on a recent study in Appetite, the data suggest that switching from a 12-inch plate to a 9-inch plate may help reduce caloric intake by up to 48%, or up to 275-350 fewer calories per meal. This calorie cut may translate to roughly 14-18 pounds over 3 months if the plate is used two meals per day.
Of course, not all plates of food are created equal. Energy-dense foods like cheeseburgers contain far more calories per volume than low energy-density foods like vegetables. Because eating low-energy-dense foods leads to feeling fuller on fewer calories, you may get even better results by managing your food groups in a smart way:
While developing our plate size, design and methodology, Slim & Sage has benefited from the generous advice of Stanford University's Thomas N. Robinson, MD, MPH, the Irving Schulman Endowed Professor of Children's Health and Professor of Pediatrics and of Medicine at Stanford University, Director of Solutions Science and Director of the Center for Healthy Weight at Stanford and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. Dr. Robinson's research on solutions to help prevent and control weight gain and the impacts of plate design on perceived portion sizes has greatly informed our Slim & Sage approaches.