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Why Do We Eat in Excess?

Por Carola Sixto -

If we’re supposed to eat when we’re hungry, why is it we keep on eating even when we have no appetite? This is a daily question for those waging a battle against overweight, but also for the experts.

Large Plate, Large Serving

For some psychologists, the explanation lies in the brain. “We are a nation of “automatic” eaters.” We do so many things during the day, that when we eat we just chew, and chew, and chew, and eat, and eat, and eat,” explained Dr. Brian Wansink, a scientist specialized in behavior at the Cornell Food and Brand Laboratory, who explains that a great part of the population eats without being conscious of what they’re doing.

According to the research, the larger the plate, the more food people get served. This leads people to eat 25 to 28% more than they should.
He cites the following example: if you serve six ounces of pasta on an 8” plate, the serving will seem normal. However, if the same amount of pasta is served on a larger plate, the meal will look like a starter, thus leading to eat more.

Moreover, there are situations that lead to eating almost without realizing it. For example, those who watch television during dinner tend to eat 40% more.

Another of Dr. Wansink’s findings refers to beverages: when we serve drinks in short, wide glasses, we drink about 76% more than if the glass is long and thin. This happens because of another optical illusion known as “vertical-horizontal illusion,” which leads us to center our attention in height instead of width, so we tend to serve ourselves more in short (and wide) glasses because we imagine their capacity is lower.

Everything Goes Through the Eyes

The investigation lead by Dr. Wansink proved the popular belief that “everything goes through the eyes.” This has unhealthy consequences when it comes to food, since we may end up eating more than we should.

The stomach notices satiety until 20 minutes after finishing a meal. Therefore, the expert shares some advice to implement the next time you attend a buffet: people who serve everything on a plate before sitting down, including dessert, eat 14% less than those who serve less and then get a second or third round. This happens when you’re invited to a party where you serve yourself.
If you don’t go to buffets often and are one of those who usually eat at home, implement plan “b”: instead of using a large plate, begin by using dessert dishes. You’ll eat around 30% less!


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