2012-01-26

All The Food You Eat Is Why You're Fat

But it’s not your fault. The human brain isn’t very good at not eating as much food as possible. So when companies give you so much food, you’re going to gorge yourself. Time for some lessons in proper portions.

People are greedy little animals. With thousands of years of evolutionary memory of times of near-starvation, our brains are instinctively programmed to cram as many calories down our gullets as possible when given the chance, because winter is coming. But we’re no longer in the paleolithic age, having to ration our mammoth jerky until the next big hunt. We have food whenever we want it.

Sadly, our brains don’t know that. One study--which sat people in front a bowl of tomato soup that could never become empty--found that people didn’t notice that they weren’t making a dent in their dinner and that they ate 15 ounces of soup (as opposed to nine for people with bowls that emptied at a normal rate). And even more sadly, restaurants and packaged food companies are eager to fulfill that ancient desire to gorge, giving us as much food as we possibly can eat. A new infographic from Massive Health shows exactly how much more we’re being tricked into eating.

It’s a (deep fried) chicken and (buttery) egg situation, but as obesity rates have soared in this country, so too have portion sizes. Are our bigger portions making us fat or do our fat bodies crave more food? Either way, a good way to stop being overweight is to eat smaller portions. Just take a look at the difference between the average sizes of various foodstuffs between 1977 and now.

Everything is much, much larger. And then you still eat it all. Say you have a 500 gram pizza. Studies show you’ll eat about 335 grams before being full. Mmm, 335 delicious grams of pizza. The perfect amount.

But say that same pizza is twice as big. You’re not just going to still eat 335 grams of it, even though that would completely satisfy you. No, you will eat 434 grams. You just can’t help yourself. There is a lot of pizza and you have to eat as much as possible.

Since it’s not your fault (mostly), one trick is to be careful about the size of the food you put on your plate, and knowing how much you should eat. A better sense of portion control might be why Europeans can eat the buttery, oily food they eat and not get so fat (though this, too, is changing). One serving of meat should be the size of a deck of playing cards, and one serving of cheese should be the size of a 9-volt battery.

If you were ever served portions that small at a restaurant, you might ask for your money back. Those just aren’t the portions to which we’re accustomed. But it might be a good idea to start getting accustomed to it quickly. You can see the whole infographic below (click to zoom) or online here:

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16 Comments

  • Marie Horodecki

    Ok maybe i!'m late, but we are educated to think that quantity is better than quality, and for lot of people, eating a lot is a kind of security and palliative to the emptiness and insecurity of life.
    In the other and, we comercialize more and more soft, sweet, products, that are known to be the better combination to make people eat more and more, and industry to sell more and more ...

  • Mike Pearson

    Growth is fundamental to our economic paradigm. Companies are measured quarterly on their increased sales. It is easier to sell more to an existing customer, than establish a new customer. Therefore our economic paradigm encourages food companies to make us eat more. You can't change the outcome unless you take a system view and change the paradigm.

  • Allen

    "People are greedy little animals. With thousands of years of
    evolutionary memory of times of near-starvation, our brains are
    instinctively programmed to cram as many calories down our gullets as
    possible when given the chance"... Really? Prove it.

  • Timothy Danielson

    That is simple. there are actually several way. Im sure everyone has heard about "starving kids in Africa" as a child. And eating it doesn't make the unfortunate starve less. What it does is make a person stop calling us 'wasteful' when in truth too much food was served. How many kids haven't said in response 'well send it to Africa then!'

    And for those like me who have undergone MASSIVE weight losses in life, (one from extreme poverty, the other for being in a coma and loosing 25% of my body mass in 3 months time,) Even a person own body get confused (for nearly a year my body skipped hunger. So I had to learn to force myself to eat. This made it impossible to gauge how much I should eat.) And psychologically, as I was reagining all the muscle I lost, learning to walk again, becoming strong enough to stand outside a wheelchair, etc. I 'believed' it was all going to muscle as that is what i lost. I was out of the US Army for 1 year prior to my coma. I had made exercise a habit as I went to the gym about 4-5 times a week and did both aerobic and weights.

    Our bodies DO hold onto weight. It IS a survival mechanism. It IS a well document biological FACT. The fact has been know for quite a long time. Do I need to reteach you biology? If so lets arrange a time, I have some doctors and medical professionals in my family and we can sit down and they can educate you again and answer your question if you are willing.

  • Lard123


    People are fat because of the majority of their calories come from carbohydrates in the form of grains and sugar. This food group distorts the feeling of satiation and blood sugar thus creating a vicious cycle 

    Fat does NOT make you fat. 

    Pasta, bread, and corn chips make you fat. Just ask anyone in the farming business.

  • Nick Eberle

    It amazes me sometimes how little people know about actual food as something that is fuel to your body. I eat on average over well over 2500 calories a day, high carbohydrates, high protein, high fiber, even a good amount of fats (almost no mono-saturated fats and if you don't know what that is you need to learn more about nutrition)

    I average 180, my body fat percentage is around 11 so you can read that as have a visible but not defined six pack. Like I said before over 2500 calories a day often times as much as 3000 calories. By pound I eat about 2-3x what I see others eat but have less fat than even really skinny guys.

    Healthy carbs are good and will not make you fat, oats whole grain brown rice, whole wheat. Good fats in moderation help you burn fat, nuts, avocados, olive oil. Proteins and proper exercise allow you to use those extra calories to develop new healthy muscle. If you don't eat a lot of processed sugars, and unhealthy fats your metabolize can do what it is supposed to do and supply your body with a steady supply of energy 24/7 without, bursts of energy or crashes and without storing extra calories as fat.

    If you don't want to eat healthy foods for your body you better just eat a low calorie diet and drink coffee twice a day like the rest of the world. But know that calorie counting is something perpetuated by the food industry and if you think of foods as just something you eat with no thought of nutrition. The fact that you can get 76 carbs from 3.5 oz of corn syrup and for me to get that same number of carbs I eat an huge bowl full of brown rice you would do well to realize that all foods are not created equal.

    A very notable side note. If you eat refined sugars and especially artificial sweeteners you overload your metabolism and over time it will slow. If you eat healthy foods there is almost no limit to how much food you can eat without your metabolism slowing.

  • Shreddingpounds

    Sorry Michelle, it doesn't really work that way.Although the diet companies would have you believe otherwise, there's only 1 thing that makes you fat: Eating more calories than you burn.Period. That's it. If you consume less calories than your daily requirements you could literally eat Twinkies all day and STILL lose weight. Check this out.
    http://www.npr.org/2010/11/12/.... Conversely, eat too many grilled chicken breasts and you'll gain weight. 

    Carbs. are not the enemy. Europeans love carbs just as much as we do, but on a whole aren't as fat. Why? Portion sizes. We loved Carbs. just as much in the 50's & 60's but were on average thinner. And back then people ate white bread not whole wheat. They used sugar & not artificial sweetners. We keep making our food healthier and keep getting fatter. The reason people are fat is that they still refuse to adhere to smaller portions.

  • eatingLess

    Nice. I must say - the usability on that larger (zoomed) view of the infographic is just... terrible.

  • peterlopez

    I agree. While yesterday I was enthusiastic about the redesign... the zoom/magnifying glass thing is just terrible!