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Feature Articles: Weight Control


Why Do We Eat Too Much?          

Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD,
Nutrition and Health Education Specialist
Barton County, University of Missouri Extension



A large percentage of us eat more than we should on Thanksgiving and some of us are actually miserable because of the amount of food we eat. Many of us will continue to overeat throughout the holiday season. Nobody likes to feel miserable and very few people are trying to gain weight so why do we continue to overeat?


According to research conducted by Dr. Brian Wansink of Cornell University, most of us are eating a lot more than we think. Most people think they are controlling the amount of food they eat based on their own hunger cues. Dr Wansink’s research reveals that it is our environment that has more influence on the amount of food we eat.


In one study, people attending a movie received free popcorn that was actually five days old and stale. Some people received medium containers of popcorn and some received large containers of popcorn. A majority of the popcorn eaters stated that the popcorn was “stale”, “soggy”, or “terrible” but the people receiving the large bucket of popcorn still ate 34% more than the people who got the smaller container of popcorn. When moviegoers received fresh popcorn, the people with the large containers ate 42% more than people receiving medium containers.


In another study conducted by Dr Wainsink and reported on the ABC news show 20/20, the larger the plate, the more we pile on. Study participants received a plate and were allowed to serve themselves. Researchers then sneezed on the plate and told participants to fix another plate. The second plate was larger than the first. Participants put 25% more food on the larger plate. This tells us that the size of the plate influences the amount of food we choose to take. As we learned earlier, the more we have, the more we will eat. Incidentally, the average plate size we used 25 years ago was nine inches. Today most plates are about 11 inches. Over a period of one year (or even a holiday season) the extra calories placed on those plates can make a significant difference in the calories we consume.


It’s not surprising that we eat more food during the holidays. A wide variety of food is more plentiful during the holiday season and that availability makes us eat more. You can enjoy that variety of foods but to prevent overeating and weight gain, think small. Use a smaller plate at meals. When you have eaten the food on that plate, don’t take more unless you are sure that you are actually still hungry. You’ll feel better at the end of the day and at the end of the holiday season.




Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009








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