Why do we overeat?

A lot of people appear to hold the belief that if you eat your food of smaller plates, you will feel fuller for longer. But is this really true?

Articles are constantly being published in attempt to explain the ‘obesity epidemic’ in the Westernised world. 280,000 deaths are attributable to obesity alone in the US per annum, so it makes sense as to why everyone is trying to figure out what it is that is causing the population to eat in excess. If the government made everyone throw out their plates for smaller plates would this help? The easy answer is no.

In fact it seems that a key driving force behind overconsumption is portion size. Our portion sizes have increased over the past few decades, with higher proportions of our plates containing fat, which is less satiating. Hence, people will eat more as they don’t feel as full. Studies have found that people will actually eat 30% more food in when offered a larger portion (vs. a smaller portion, half of its size). OFullSizeRender-2n the whole, individuals also do not seem to notice that they have eaten a significantly larger amount, and do not report greater fullness. Similarly, people don’t seem to rate the differing amounts of foods (100g vs. 500g) as different in their appropriateness of size. This has been found across a multitude of studies that have taken place over the last decade.

Interestingly, those exposed to a larger portion size will also judge larger portions as more appropriate after being given one once
. So it appears there is a sort of ‘carry-on’ effect. If you were to eat more in one sitting, you may be more likely to eat more later on as you see the size as more ‘appropriate’ and ‘manageable’.

Therefore perhaps key to a good and healthy diet and weight maintenance, is ensuring that we eat an appropriate portion size. Educating people that a ‘happy meal’, although it may not seem so inappropriate, is actually nearly ones’ recommended daily calorie intake. Making people aware that what you eat in a restaurant and may buy for yourself to cook at home (e.g. pizza), may actually be an inappropriate portion size that we are so used to seeing, we cannot judge as such.

Research is still inconclusive as to why portion size has such a large effect on our energy intake. However, I hope that from this little snippet of information, you can take away that perhaps something needs to be done in order to stop overconsumption which may result from portion sizes that are ‘too large’.





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