Fat-Proof Your Life
Portion Sizes Keep Climbing
A report in the International Journal of Obesity examined 52 well-known paintings of Jesus' last supper, comparing portions and dishware. The results: Since 1000 A.D., the size of entrees has grown by 69 percent, bread by 23 percent, and plates by 66 percent.
If you aren't already eating dinner off salad-size plates, make the switch. Then dish out 20 percent less food than you think you need: Cornell researchers found that a 20 percent reduction didn't make people feel any less full. At restaurants, ask the server to box up your leftovers. And if you chose something that won't hold up well the next day, "get over the idea of getting your money's worth," Busis says. "You're paying the same amount whether you finish your food or not. And when you think about the cost of taking in too many calories, it's just not worth it."Health Halos Are Blinding Us
Buying the light version of packaged foods instead of the regular kind could make you heavier. When people were served treats that had a "low fat" sticker on the package, they ate up to 47 percent more than those who were served the same snacks minus the label, a Cornell study showed. In fact, just seeing the phrase "low fat" caused people to consume an extra 89 calories in a sitting. "People think they're being good, so they compensate by eating more," Wansink says. Other health claims -- "gluten-free," "all natural" -- also spur us to justify eating more. "But these foods aren't necessarily healthier," he says.
Weirdly, knowing about the halo effect doesn't make us any less susceptible to it, Wansink notes. So whether you're reaching for rice cakes or Oreos, count out a single serving, then close up the box or bag. "Every time you stick to a reasonable portion instead of overeating, your resistance muscle gets a little stronger and your giving-in one gets a little weaker," Busis says.We Pay for Everything with Plastic
Studies show that we're likelier to splurge on an expensive bag or gadget when we use a credit card, because swiping doesn't feel like spending money. Now a study in the Journal of Consumer Research shows that we also buy less-healthy fare when we pay with credit instead of cash, because our brains trick us into thinking that if it doesn't count financially, it doesn't count caloriewise either.
Busis recommends taking out enough money each Monday for seven days' worth of food. "Doing this can help you become more aware of how you're spending your grocery dollars," she says. And use the cash trick when eating out, too. "If you've budgeted $20 to spend on dinner, you may have to get an appetizer instead of an entree or stick with water instead of ordering wine," Dr. Wheeler says. "When you're more mindful of how much you're spending, you're also more mindful of how much you're eating."
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, September 2013.
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