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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