A Simple Change for Eating Less AND Feeling Amazingly Full

Eat Smaller Portions and Enjoy Each Bite. 

Americans have lost sight of what a portion should be. In the 1950’s our dinner plate size was 9” and now it is a staggering 12”. Our norms of what we should eat have gotten bigger, and so have our waistlines. Choosing smaller plates and bowls, allow us to naturally eat less. Also, if we slow down our eating, our stomachs have enough time to communicate to our brains that we are satisfied. There are also theories that we need to notice the smell and taste of our food to feel satisfied. Eating more slowly and mindfully allow us to be satisfied with smaller meals. This is part 1 of Shift #6 in The 15 Shifts to Becoming a Real Loser Series.

After helping hundreds of people lose weight as a health coach, I started to wonder what things my successful weight loss clients had in common. I noticed that there were 15 shifts they made in their thinking and behavior that allowed them to lose weight and keep it off without dieting. I wrote The 15 Shifts to Becoming a Real Loser series to create a road map for my readers and weight loss clients. I have been explaining each shift, so you too can incorporate them into your life and lose weight without dieting.

 

Shift #6  Eat Smaller Portions & Enjoy Each Bite

Everyone knows that to lose weight, you have to eat less. But, no one actually wants to eat less.  No one wants to be hungry. That is what is so amazingly awesome about Shift #6.  The strategies of using smaller plates and eating more slowly trick your brain and your stomach to eat less without noticing.  When you use small plates, you eat less, but you will rate yourself as just as satisfied as if you ate a bigger portion off a bigger plate.  

But wait.  It gets even better. Taking your time to eat and paying attention to your meal is so powerful that not only will it help you to eat less, BUT you will be so satisfied with your meal that you will think that you ate even more, and you’ll eat less at future meals too.  

This shift will be broken down into two different blog posts. This is part 1. (Click here if you want to jump to Part 2--Why eating slowly is one of the most powerful shifts you can make for weight loss.)

 

Downsize your Plates to Downsize your Waist

First, let me explain why I urge my clients to downsize--downsize their plates, bowls, silverware, cups, and serving ware. By switching to petite versions of dinnerware, you will be cued to eat less without using up any of your precious reserves of willpower. And, miraculously you will feel just as full as if you ate the jumbo sized meal.

It all boils down to what I am going to call Treva’s AXIOM— The smaller your dinnerware, the smaller the portion served. The smaller the portion, the less you will eat.

You see, people believe that whatever portion they are served is an appropriate portion size. Portion size is of the utmost importance to your weight because 92% of people will eat whatever portion they serve themselves. And plate size is a visual cue that suggests what is an appropriate or normal portion to eat. 

However, our standard dinner plate size is no longer representative of what a typical portion should be. Over the past several decades our dinner plates keep getting larger and larger.

When I surveyed Ebay to look at dinner plate sizes over the years, I saw this…In the 1930’s the plates were roughly 9”. In the 1950’s, plate size was 9 1/2"- 10”. In the 1980’s 10” -11” was pretty standard. Fast forward to the 2000’s and you will find plates that are 10 1/2" to 12”—Big enough to be serving platters on our grandmothers' tables.

Brain Wansink, author of the book Mindless Eating says, “If you spoon four ounces of mashed potatoes onto a 12- inch plate, it will look like a lot less than if you had spooned it out onto an 8- inch plate.  Even if you intended to limit your portion size, the larger plate would likely influence you to serve yourself more.  And since we all tend to finish what we serve ourselves, we would probably end up eating it all.”

“Big dishes and big spoons are big trouble. As the size of the dishes increases, so does the amount we scoop into them.  They cause us to serve ourselves more because they make the food look so small.”

 

How you Decide How Much Food to Eat

When you are deciding how much to eat, your brain does some tricky mental gymnastics, looks at the food, determines how filling it is, and estimates how much to put on your plate to satisfy you.   

 
Your brain is looking at the volume of the food—how much space it takes up to decide if that is enough food to satisfy you. 

When your plate is small, a small amount of food looks like a lot more volume. The amazing thing is that people will rate themselves as just as satisfied if they ate the smaller portion on a small plate versus if they ate the larger portion on a larger plate. Your brain is tricked, but so is your stomach. It’s an optical illusion, that if you don’t get right, will cause you to eat more unknowingly and gain weight.  

After I read this research, years ago I downsized my dinner plates from the standard 10 1/4” dinner plate to the 8 1/2” lunch plate.  Now my family eats off of the lunch plates except for my teenage swimmer son.  He eats several servings of the 10 1/4” plates.  

 

Dinner Plate Optical Illusion

Let’s do a comparison.  

Here’s my dinner served on my  11 1/2” Lenox Dinner plate.

Dinner on  a  10 1/4” Corelle Dinner plate.

Dinner on an 8 1/2” Corelle Lunch plate. 

Which one of these dinners would fill you up?  Remember your brain is deciding how much to eat based on what volume of this food it thinks would be satisfying. 

Yep, you guessed it.  These plates hold exactly the same amount of food. 

But the amount of food is not equal to your brain.  And that is what matters.  

 
Your brain decides what is going to fill it up even before the meal starts.

So let’s help our brain be more satisfied with eating less by using smaller plates. 

 

Cues to Eat More from Large Silverware and Large Serving Ware

But, large dinner plates aren’t the only thing that cue us to eat more.   

Large silverware, large serving spoons, and even large serving bowls and platters, serve as subconscious signals to eat more.

In a research study pretending to be an ice cream party for graduate students, students were either given medium size bowls or extra large bowls.  Those who had jumbo bowls scooped up an extra 31% more ice cream.  Some of the ice cream tubs had large ice cream scoops versus small ice cream scoops.  The students who had large bowls and large scoops ended up with a whooping 57% more ice cream than those who had smaller bowls and smaller scoops. 

So not only have I downsized my dinner plates, I bought smaller silverware in packs at Costco.

I use my large spoons for serving meals instead of serving spoons. 

I also encourage smaller portions at meals by putting a 1/3 cup in whatever starchy side I am serving at dinner.

I also have numerous small ramekins that I bought at World Market and thrift stores for serving ice cream, yogurt, or fruit. I try to match the actual serving size with the serving bowl.

 

Reset your Portion Size Norms

The answer to our large portion size woes is to reset our norms.

 
What we see as normal, becomes what we unconsciously start moving towards.  No willpower required. 

All the downsizing of dishwater and silverware has helped to reset my and my families idea of what a portion size should be. 

Changing portion size norms causes you to move from the willpower space of eating less to the automatic.  It becomes just what you do.

When Europeans visit America, they are astounded at our portion sizes.  They honestly don’t want more food.  They are even put off by our ginormous portion sizes. 

The goal is not for you to eat smaller portions because you are making yourself do it, you will do it because that is what you honestly prefer.

It will take some practice, but eventually you will no longer desire large portions—just by practicing eating small, satisfying portions on small plates, with small silverware, served off of small platters with small serving spoons.  

And that is the beauty of downsizing—Treva’s Axiom with a small important addition at the end. 

The smaller your dinnerware, the smaller the portion served. The smaller the portion, the less you will eat—but still be satisfied.

Until next time,

 
 
 

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Hi, I’m Treva, your weight loss coach! I'm a dietitian, personal trainer, and health coach who helps women who want to lose weight, but are done with the deprivation and disappointment of traditional dieting. I help you develop a weight loss habit plan that is personalized for your body, your preferences, and your lifestyle. Want Help Losing Weight?