January 17, 2009

Numbers Game: Answer

The surface area of an average dinner plate in the United States increased 36 percent from 1960 to 2005.

Source:
Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink.

This is particularly problematic for "visual eaters" for whom the amount of food on a plate plays a role in their psychological satiety, as well as for those individuals cutting calories.

A lower-calorie eating plan in and of itself is a big enough enough adjustment for most people; seeing large plates with small amounts of food on them certainly doesn't help matters.

I know from my own experience, for example, that a single scoop of ice cream looks paltry in a soup bowl, but just right when served in a coffee cup.


The times when I have scooped ice cream into a soup bowl, I always end up piling on another scoop because that bowl seems empty!


Take a look at the image accompanying this post. Doesn't the plate on the left make you feel somewhat less satisfied than the one on the right?

Imagine the following. You are on a buffet line, filling your plate with food.

Isn't it very probable that since a larger plate holds more food, you are more likely to pile more food on it than if you were provided with a smaller plate?

And, going off of Brian Wansink's research that it is very easy to lose track of calories when large amounts of food are sitting in front of us, isn't it also very probable that the use of a larger plate is very likely to result in a higher caloric intake?

I certainly think so.


Just one more factor to consider when thinking about weight management.

7 comments:

T said...

I love using restaurant style small bread plates for my kids' meals.

I find that even using regular sized plates for them only encourages me (or whoever is giving them food) to put way too much on their plates.

Also, I use tiny little bowls and put things in them such as chickpeas, sliced green peppers, kidney beans, and cold red quinoa...my kids LOVE eating that way...everything is small, looks fun, and they are eating healthy.

Anonymous said...

I was fortunate to inherit my grandmother's Limoges china purchased around 1920...those dinner plates are much smaller than dinner plates sold today! For around 10 years now, I've been eating my dinner on a sandwich plate...it has really helped me scale back my portions!

Matt Stone said...

Andy,

I'm confused. I eat until I'm full, when I'm hungry, every day. If I eat a big portion off of a big plate, I'm less hungry later.

I don't think about calories. I just eat food based on what my body tells me.

And sometimes I really eat a lot. The other day I had a whole pint of heavy whipping cream and 2 sticks of butter!

But my waist-size is the same as it was my Freshman year of high school (17 years ago). I am one of the leanest people I know, and I exercise very little. I have much less body fat now than when I was primarily a raw-food vegan that ate small portions of fish on occasion.

Is it possible that appetite and metabolism are regulated just like oxygen regulation? I mean, I can try to lower my oxygen level, but then I just pant and pant and pant like a dog until I get back to equilibrium.

Should I really be keeping close track of my calories?

Andy Bellatti said...

Matt,

I don't see what you are so confused about.

"I eat until I'm full, when I'm hungry, every day."

So? Are you trying to say that, therefore, you should be overweight? The fact that you are able to recognize your fullness puts you at an advantage over most people.

It is completely possible to eat until you are full and not gain weight.

Weight loss is NOT about being hungry all the time.

"And sometimes I really eat a lot. The other day I had a whole pint of heavy whipping cream and 2 sticks of butter!"

Assuming this is true (in what context are you eating two sticks of butter, exactly?), it doesn't have much significance.

Remember, in nutrition you are looking at general diet patterns.

Some days you may eat more than others, but unless your "high calorie" days become commonplace, it is doubtful you would see a significant effect on your weight.

If that were the case, then one day of reducing calories would be sufficient for weight loss.

"I am one of the leanest people I know, and I exercise very little."

Leanness does not necessarily come from exercise. There are plenty of people who are lean and do not exercise.

"I have much less body fat now than when I was primarily a raw-food vegan that ate small portions of fish on occasion."

Yes, that's possible. Going raw does not guarantee lower body fat. It is possible to still consume too many calories on a raw food diet (particularly if, for instance, you consumed a high quantity of nuts, nut butters, olive oil, and avocados on a day to day basis.)

"Should I really be keeping close track of my calories?"

It seems to me like you already are, seeing as how you make a log of everything you eat. I'm not sure I understand your question.

If what you are asking, in a facetious manner, is whether calories have anything to do with weight management, then the answer is "yes."

If you, like Gary Taubes (who I have a feeling you are a fan of), think that is hogwash, then answer this question:

If you were to consume no more than 500 calories a day for 2 months, wouldn't you reasonably predict that you would LOSE weight?

If, in your mind, calories and weight management are not related, then eating 500 calories a day would not affect the numbers on the scale, right?

Matt Stone said...

Andy,

I'm just pointing out (plea-ing actually) that the weight management dilemma is not so simple. I mean sure, anyone could eat less calories and lose weight, but that's a problem if it induces a predictable set of consequences, one being, as obesity researchers call it, "rebound hyperphagia." What good is losing weight through calorie restriction and exercising more if doing so makes your body naturally rebel and overcompensate for it later?

The vast majority thinks they need to "eat less and exercise more," but their physiology is stronger than their supposed willpower - whatever that is. People are struggling Andy, and this strategy is not working out. It's causing a national eating disorder and actually contributing to, not solving, the obesity crisis.

In fact, telltale symptoms of those with obesity are reduced thyroid, and raised cortisol, and restricting calories has been shown to worsen both of those underlying conditions, not improve them. Plus, thyroid hormone controls the utilization of fatty acids for fuel (lipolysis), and the lower it goes the more inefficiently one burns the fat that is trapped on their bodies. There is also much indication that reduced thyroid efficiency is the key underlying factor in the manifestation of many degenerative diseases, particularly heart disease (see Broda Barnes, Stephen Langer, Mark Starr, etc.)

I bring this up because I lived low-calorie/high exercise and am much leaner and more muscular now on high-calorie/low exercise, which has also cleared up many health problems - mostly attributable to the fact that I eat only fresh, unpackaged, unprocessed foods. Sugar intake = 3T total since September.

Andy, I appreciate your enthusiasm for good health, but do not be stubborn. There are people all over the world that are breaking your rules of good health and having excellent results, particularly by consuming large quantities of saturated fat to displace other foods. From an etiological perspective, it is obvious that calorie consumption, exercise, saturated fat consumption, and cholesterol consumption have little, if any correlation to escalating disease trends.

It points squarely at refined sugar, flour, and vegetable oils. Cut those out, and live more healthfully, regardless of whether the diet is "mostly plants" or mostly animals. Then all of the supposed rules and associations that modern studies have found with animal protein, animal fat, and other staples of the human diet since of the beginning of time go out the window.

I promise you that is true. Please don't think of those that espouse such ideas to be quacks, idiots, and arch-rivals of the "food heals" movement. They are not. We are not. I am not. Accept that there are numerous dietary strategies to restore proper body chemistry, digestive health, and treat and prevent illness of all kinds. Including eating meals like my breakfast today...

Green onions and jalapeno fried in 2T bacon grease
6 farm fresh eggs
6 ounces grass fed tri-tip steak
3T raw, grassfed butter

Plan exercise for the day: 40 minutes walking round trip to and from the library.

Andy Bellatti said...

Matt,

Let me take your argument piece by piece.

"What good is losing weight through calorie restriction and exercising more if doing so makes your body naturally rebel and overcompensate for it later?"

For someone who takes such issue with generalizations and sweeping statements, you sure don't appear to mind making plenty of your own.

Yes, if people cut calories drastically very quickly, the body does naturally rebel.

However, a slow and steady approach to weight loss (think 20 pounds over the course of a year, rather than 8 weeks) generally does not make the body rebel and overcompensate for it.

"the weight management dilemma is not so simple."

The reason why it's not so simple is because the emotional factor is, in my opinion, often left out of it.

Most nutrition counseling sessions do not revolve solely around WHAT people are eating, but the WHY, HOW, WHEN, and WHERE.

Food can be comforting. It can be a friend. It can soothe. It is no surprise, then, that many people who displace a lot of emotion in food have a hard time with weight management.

It also doesn't help that confusing messages like "eat as many calories as you want, just don't eat any bread!" are out there.

I would be interested in hearing, Matt, how you explain the weight loss that has been achieved by people who still ate bread, rice, and pasta.

By your standards, that wouldn't really be feasible, right?

"People are struggling Andy, and this strategy is not working out. It's causing a national eating disorder and actually contributing to, not solving, the obesity crisis."

People are struggling because the food environment has gotten harder to navigate. When portions increase -- and smaller ones are no longer available -- it is no surprise that caloric intake increases.

People are also struggling because the basic message of "eat less and move more" is being fogged up by hype, whether it's low-carb, all-raw, "no red fruits after 6:14 PM" or whatever you want to call it.

"In fact, telltale symptoms of those with obesity are reduced thyroid, and raised cortisol, and restricting calories has been shown to worsen both of those underlying conditions, not improve them"

Again, too vague of a statement. Yes, drastically cutting calories very quickly can have a negative effect on metabolism and thyroid performance. However, I don't know about many cases where a slow and steady, consistent approach to weight loss resulted in reduced thyroid.

In fact, losing weight in and of itself reduces risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and many cancers, so I am not too sure about this weight loss/disease link you are referring to.

"Andy, I appreciate your enthusiasm for good health, but do not be stubborn."

I am not being stubborn. I understand that there are areas of nutrition that are still new and that we are ALWAYS learning new things. Nutrigenomics, for example, will open a door of new discoveries in the field.

However, there is basic knowledge that I don't see any reason to refute or doubt.

I don't see how you can say "weight management is not so simple" when it is a GIVEN that if I cut down your caloric intake to 500 calories a day for 2 months, I, you, and everyone else would understandably predict that you would LOSE -- not gain -- weight. That, to me, is a pretty simple concept. What is so complicated?

"There are people all over the world that are breaking your rules of good health and having excellent results."

Hmmm. My basic rules of good health are: "eat fruits and vegetables every day, minimize your intake of heavily processed foods, be physically active, eat most of your grains in their "whole" variety, maintain a healthy weight, and seek out heart-healthy fats."

So you're saying there are people shunning fruits and vegetables, eating a heavily processed diet, not watching their weight, and consuming boatloads of trans and saturated fats that have "excellent results"?

I would be interested in seeing your data.

"It is obvious that calorie consumption, exercise, saturated fat consumption, and cholesterol consumption have little, if any correlation to escalating disease trends."

Obvious does not seem like the right word. If anything, that is counter-intuitive.

So are you advocating a sedentary lifestyle along with excess calories? The same lifestyle that has led to the current obesity epidemic??

"I promise you that is true."

How?

As for your refined sugar and obesity link, I think you are misinterpreting the information.

The issue is that sugar is simply empty calories. Hence, it is entirely possible to tack on hundreds of sugar calories to your day and not have them make you feel any fuller.

Consequently, it is very possible to down 600 calories of soda and feel hungry 15 minutes later.

AKA: Consume an excess of calories.

"Plan exercise for the day: 40 minutes walking round trip to and from the library."

How is this part of your argument against my recommendations? If you read my blog, you will see that I talk about "physical activity," which can mean anything from lifting weights at the gym to taking a 15 minute walk in your neighborhood.

A 40 minute walk is a lot more physical activity than the average person in this country gets.

If you ask people who once lost weight what caused them to gain weight back, you will hear one of two responses:

"I stopped exercising" and/or "I got careless about what I was eating and ate more calories."

Alas, you have your school of thoughts and I have mine.

At this point, I find it best to agree to disagree.

Thank you for participating in Small Bites.

Bruce K said...

I think a bigger problem is mixing a lot of food together or eating "chow diets", like junk food, restaurant food, or fast food. It's much easier to overeat a mix with sugar, flour, and oil than it is to eat pure oil, pure flour, or pure sugar, by themselves. Seth Roberts has talked a lot about this in his research. He found that drinking "sugar water" or "fructose water" BY ITSELF (a few hours before and after meals) suppressed his appetite and made him lose weight effortlessly. What causes problems is adding sugar to food, which strengthens the conditions to eat that food. Nobody would ever get fat by eating dry sugar by itself. Sucrose and fructose suppress appetite when eaten by themselves and many studies have proven this. The problem is when sugar is added to ice cream, cookies, doughnuts, soda, coffee, and other foods. Nobody ever got fat by eating dry white sugar.

"When subjects drank the fructose preload, they subsequently ate fewer overall calories and fewer grams of fat than when they drank any of the other preloads."
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2178391

"When the preload contained fructose alone as the sole source of carbohydrate, subjects ate significantly fewer calories and less fat than when the preload contained glucose alone. When starch was added to the fructose preload, there was no significant reduction in calorie and fat intake."
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1799283?

And here's another good study showing a chow diet is more fattening than feeding each ingredient separately and letting the animal choose his own macronutrient ratio. The reason people are fat is that they eat in restaurants, eat processed prepared foods, and so on. No particular ingredient is to blame. The problem is tha the food tastes the same every time and it's completely standardized.

"Food intake and body weight gain of male adult Wistar rats were examined in two groups of animals. One group (n = 14) was allowed to select its diet from separate sources of protein (casein, 3.1 kcal/g), fat (lard and sunflower oil, 7.9 kcal/g) and carbohydrate (CHO, starch and sucrose, 3.3 kcal/g). Another group (n = 10) received a nutritionally complete diet (3.3 kcal/g). After 2 weeks of adaptation to the diets, body weights and meal patterns were recorded for at least 4 days. The total caloric intake was nearly identical for the two groups of rats.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1615061

Here's a good paper by Seth Roberts that talks about "what makes food fattening?" He has a lot of unique ideas.

http://www.sethroberts.net/about/whatmakesfoodfattening.pdf