What’s your Plate Size - a Disguise or a Surprise
What’s your Plate Size - a Disguise or a Surprise | Photography: Theindependent

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What’s your Plate Size - a Disguise or a Surprise

Apr 05, 2019

Does eating less help you shed those extra pounds? Yes. How about eating from a smaller plate? Hmm... May be? Not sure? A research claims that eating from a smaller plate leads to eating less and eating less makes you lose weight (if you don’t stack your food vertically ????). Before agreeing to that blindly, let’s dive in deeper and do our part of the investigation to check if it’s a fact or fiction.

Let’s do a small experiment here. 

Make 2 shaded circles of the “same” size. Add an outer concentric ring to one of them.
Make 2 shaded circles of the “same” size. Add an outer concentric ring to one of them.

Experiment 1:

Make 2 shaded circles of the “same” size. Add an outer concentric ring to one of them. What do you see now?

The shaded circle with the ring may appear bigger now although the shaded regions are of the same size. 

The shaded circle nearer to the ring will appear bigger now.
The shaded circle nearer to the ring will appear bigger now.

Experiment 2:

Adding a twist - make 2 shaded circles of the “same” size. Add concentric rings to both – one nearer to the shaded circle and another farther from the shaded portion. What happens now?

The shaded circle nearer to the ring will appear bigger now.

How is this possible? Known as Delboeuf illusion, this optical illusion tricks the brain on relative size perception. The brain gets confused on object sizes relative to the context. Similar theory is applied to eating from different plate sizes.

Same quantity of food when placed on a bigger plate and a smaller plate tricks the brain into eating more or eating less. The food on smaller plate seems be more in quantity and hence satiates the brain, passing signals that its enough to satisfy the hunger. But the same food on a larger plate seems to be less and increases food craving.

People on dieting exercises sometimes end up eating more because they are deprived of food.
People on dieting exercises sometimes end up eating more because they are deprived of food.

This theory has been used in determining the plate and portion sizing in dieting exercises. Recently, a study published in the ‘International Journal of Obesity’ said that the participants overestimated food portion size on plates with wider and coloured rims when compared to thinner rims. Letting your plate size control your portion leads you to let illusion control your mind.

While all these seem so convincing and logical, a team conducted research questioning the relation between this illusion and portion size. The sample consisted of two teams: 

Group A - people who had eaten an hour before the research was conducted

Group B – People who did not eat for almost 3 hours before the experiment

They were then shown pizzas on serving trays along with pictures of uneatable stuff like black concentric circles, tire hubcaps and then asked to compare their sizes. Group B who hadn't eaten for 3 hours guessed the sizes more exactly than group A. This proves that illusions cannot trick our brain when it comes to hunger and food.

People on dieting exercises sometimes end up eating more because they are deprived of food. Nutrition experts say that it’s difficult to change a natural habit but a positive attitude by replacing words - cut down/ limit/ reduce with relish/ appreciate could help in bringing the routine in place. Hence mind magics don’t really help in eating less or losing weight but balanced diet and a determined mind do.

An excerpt from the health expert Kathleen Alleaume
An excerpt from the health expert Kathleen Alleaume

An excerpt from the health expert Kathleen Alleaume 

Portion sizes have changed in the last 20-30 years. And what we think is quite normal now, is totally distorted. We are going through a portion distortion. There is a difference between portion and serving. Looking at portion, it’s the amount of food you will be eating in one given sitting. For example, the snack you are going to have or the meal you are going to eat. But a serving is the recommended amount of food or a measured amount of food.

The suggested servings for the five food groups are –

(Each item of food represents 1 serving for that item. Example: 3 crisp breads is one serving)

1. Grains – 1 slice of bread, 3 crisp breads, 1/3 cup of cooked oats/cereals, a cup of cooked pasta

2. Veggies – one tomato, half a potato, half avocado, a cup of leafy greens

3. Dairy - 2 slices of cheese, half cup yoghurt, a cup of milk

4. Fruits – one apple, a cup of berries, one orang, 4 pieces of dried fruit

5. Meat (in raw state) – 120g of fish, 2 eggs, 65g of cooked meat (Include nuts here)

Other discretionary food – 4 squares of dark chocolate, 2 cookies, 1 standard serve of alcohol, a can of soft drinks

Suggested serving per day:

6 serves of grains

5 serves of veggies

2-3 serves of dairy

2 serves of fruits

1-2 serves of meat

1 serves of discretionary food items

So, if you are looking at managing your weight, its important that you look at managing your portions and managing your serves that way. Eating the right and balanced food determines your weight rather than eating from a smaller plate.