How Our Eyes Deceive Our Appetites

Your Gut Is All in Your Head (Sort of)

One of this year’s Ig Nobel awards goes to a researcher who has gotten to the bottom, if you will, of insatiable appetites. (The Ig Nobel awards go to science that is entertaining or odd, though typically the research is still of value.) Brian Wansik, a nutrition professor and the author of “Mindless Eating”, won the award for his explorations into the murky world of soup. Though diet guides often recommend starting a meal with a light soup to help reduce overall calorie consumption while still feeling sated, Dr. Wansik has found that this is not always the case. As it turns out, size matters: it all comes down to the dish in which the soup is served.

Dr. Wansik found that people who were given a secret “bottomless bowl” ate 75% more soup than those eating from standard bowls. Our appetites are dependent upon visual cues, such as how much food is left in the dish, rather than on how full we actually feel.

Moral of the story? Throw out those bottomless bowls, obviously.

We’re kidding! To cut calories, try the following:

– Simply practice being mindful of how much and how fast you are eating.

– Replace all your large bowls with small cup-portioned bowls.

– Replace large pasta bowls and big dishes with small salad bowls and plates. Use those for all your entrees.

– When dining out, immediately split your entree in half and put one portion in a to-go container for tomorrow’s lunch. Or share the dish with your friend or spouse.

– When ordering soups (a smart idea), go for the smallest size and stick to vegetable soups or broth-based soups instead of heavy cream soups like clam chowder.

– Always eat a small salad with dinner before starting in on the main course.

– Always eat a large salad filled with veggies and delicious toppings (but not fried ones!) for lunch.

Further reading:

How to Cheat

8 ‘Health’ Foods That Contain High Fructose Corn Syrup

Sani Eliza Flickr Photo (CC)

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3 thoughts on “How Our Eyes Deceive Our Appetites”

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  1. So true. At home I eat off of the smaller dishes instead of the bigger plates. My portions are smaller but they look much bigger and fill me up the same.

    Great tips.

  2. Is it even POSSIBLE to finish an American sized main course?! I found it very handy to eat out, and get an extra meal for free in my doggy bag, when I spent some time in the US. Pay for one, get two, sort of. (Not to mention how cheap it was to begin with.)

  3. Pelikin: Oh, yes–it’s possible. My wardrobe, with pants sizes from 36-44 hanging in the closet, is ample proof! 🙂 One of the things that has killed me in the past was attending office functions that included an “all you can eat” buffet. I felt obligated to roll myself back to the car on my bloated belly so that I wouldn’t feel cheated. I’m happy to say that I attended such a function a couple of weeks ago and managed to stay pretty Primal in the process and didn’t leave stuffed.