New Study Confirms: Smaller Portions Help Us Lose Weight

December 17, 2015
by Steve Holt for Thrive Market
New Study Confirms: Smaller Portions Help Us Lose Weight

One needn’t look further than a monstrous fast-food combo meal, a table at the Cheesecake Factory, or the typical Thanksgiving dinner to know that when it comes to meal portions, Americans’ eyes are sometimes bigger than our stomachs.

Even still, many of us eat past the point of feeling full—a friend used to tell me his Thanksgiving strategy is to “eat through the pain”—simply because it’s there.

Maybe it’s obvious, but if less is there to eat, we eat less. And the less we eat, the less weight we gain. The converse is true as well, according to a new study of American and British consumption patterns. Conducted by researchers at the University of Cambridge, the study of American and British eaters found that we routinely consume larger portions of food and non-alcoholic drinks when they are offered in larger packages or containers, and that reducing portion sizes could decrease the daily energy consumed by 22 to 29 percent among U.S. adults.

“Our findings highlight the important role of environmental influences on food consumption,” said Dr. Gareth Hollands from the Behaviour and Health Research Unit at the University of Cambridge. “Helping people to avoid ‘overserving’ themselves or others with larger portions of food or drink by reducing their size, availability and appeal in shops, restaurants and in the home, is likely to be a good way of helping lots of people to reduce their risk of overeating.”

The study would appear to vindicate former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who, in 2012, proposed banning the sale of sugary drinks over a certain size at shops and restaurants in the city. The proposed ban was praised by many health advocates at the time, including nutrition and food policy expert Marion Nestle of New York University, who said we could take the idea even further:

“If we want Americans to be healthy, we're going to have to take actions like this—and many more—and do so soon. It’s long past time to tax sugar soda, crack down further on what gets sold in schools, tackle abusive marketing practices, demand a redesign of labels, and extend the soda cap, no matter how controversial it may seem.”

But the soda industry fought back hard against the policy, taking out millions of dollars worth of advertisements claiming New Yorkers’ freedoms were being trampled and challenging the limits in court, ultimately winning.

Bloomberg and soda ban supporters may have been onto something, however. When that 48-ounce cup is sitting there next to the soda fountain, we’re more likely to grab it than if it’s not there. As a side note, the “Big Gulp ban” may be back in New York—but only for minors under 18.

Ultimately, it’s up to each of us to regulate the amount of food we eat. Michael Pollan puts it quite nicely: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Photo credit: looseends via Flickr

Print Article

This article is related to: Food, Health, Nutrition, News, Educational

Share This Article

Thrive Gives Stories: “It’s Hard to Find Some of the Essential Foods We Need”

  • TL Spencer

    We need self control, not government control.....

  • Della Robinson-Melton

    Great article ! Eating off a smaller plate gives the appearance your plate is overflowing and going to a smaller size beverage holder is also helpful. Stay hydrated and drink more water. Your digestive system and other organs plump up and perform better and your muscles slide more smoothly. Keep nutritious snacks available and on hand, you're more likely to grab these if they're easily accessible. Treat yourself to a milkshake. You can use frozen fruit and substitute regular milk for coconut milk or unsweetened almond breeze, (the fruit will provide enough sweetness). Toss a spinach or kale leaf in there. Be creative. There is a WIDE variety of frozen fruit options in the freezer section of your grocery store. It is every bit as healthy as fresh and will not spoil. I used to weigh 242lbs and I lost 124 lbs over the course of 2 years, just about 5 years ago. I have gained back only 5lbs per year. I attribute that to all the medications I have been prescribed in my breast cancer recovery. My bones and joints thank me for alleviating the stress with the weight loss. You'll be so pleased with the "new you" because you worked toward it. Walk, walk, walk. At least get to the end of the driveway and every day add another step or two. Take a piece a chalk to mark how far you went. I did once have to hitch a ride with my neighbor back to the house, because I didn't save enough energy to make it back home. Park farther from the store entrance, take the stairs when available. Walking is so much more effective than jogging or running and it a low impact exercise. EAT AND EAT OFTEN. Not eating slows your metabolism and it stores your food because it doesn't know when it will be fed again. EAT, EAT, EAT. your stomach burns a LOT of calories digesting your food. Especially fibrous foods.