Weight Loss and Plate Size

Does the size of our plate affect how much we eat? It may seem silly and a little like fooling yourself but there have now been multiple studies which conclude that the surprising answer is yes.

If you are looking for creative ways to help your family lose weight, consider replacing your dinner plates with smaller dishes. Experts have shown that a simple change from twelve inch plates down to ten inch plates for your main meal reduces the average calories per plate by over twenty percent. This could help the average consumer lose as much as 20 pounds over the course of a year.

If this sounds too simple to be real, you are not alone. Americans have been chasing ever larger portions served on even larger plates for generations. We have been conditioned to measure the value of food by the amount of food we are served and feeling full after a meal.

Everyone knows a young, athletic person who takes obvious pride in the amount of food he or she can consume in a single sitting. As long as they remain active and their metabolism remains high, they may even get away with this behavior until the rapid growth of youth tapers off. Most of us probably also know an older version of that same athlete who has continued their quest for calories beyond the tipping point.

I was one of those young athletes, spending several hours each day swimming, biking and running for years. I was burning thousands of calories a day in physical activity so naturally I ate large portions several times each day to keep up with the demand. Before long I was conditioned to think that these huge portions were normal so when my exercise levels dropped off with age, it took quite a while before it really sunk in that I would have to take a more conscious part in monitoring my calorie intake. Sometimes I am a bit slow but the end result is that my weight crept up gradually over several years while I paid little attention.

A routine trip to the doctor one year finallyave me a wakeup call when the doctor translated the number on the scale as overweight. My wife and I started looking for ways to take charge of our calories without all of the fuss of calorie counting. We found that using smaller plates make a small but welcome difference which, combined with more exercise, helped us turn from regular weight gain to gradual weight loss.

You can read more about the plate size studies on the USDA web site or even watch a video they prepared on the subject. There is also a movement starting in 2009 trying to reduce plate sizes in the home and in restaurants. It is a little early to tell how successful this is going to be but they have set a goal of reaching 10 million people within a year. I hope this and similar efforts can make a difference for our increasingly overweight society.