Friday, November 07, 2008

Your Brain on Portions and Pleasure

This report speaks directly to the message we are trying to get across: that overweight and obesity is about more than just molecule micromanagment.

To love your food and reintroduce pleasurable eating, can lead to neural changes that can help reduce overconsumption.

In this study, they used chocolate milkshakes, actually, to test the pleasure centers in the brain. It turns out that the subjects who had less activity in this area (while eating the milkshake) were more likely to overconsume and become overweight.

If you look at this link, you'll see that the researchers have great data, but interpret their results backwards (I believe). They say that the pleasure center neurochemical, dopamine, may cause consumption -- either too much or too little.

But I think these brain changes are not the cause of disordered eating, but the effect of disordered eating. They simply reflect the fact that these people already eat for the wrong reasons -- their consumption is not about food and pleasure, it's about filling some other need.

What does this have to do with portions?
Mindless eating leads to "passive overconsumption". If you are eating in the car, while walking back to your desk, or playing video games, you tend to overeat. This, obviously, leads to overweight.

A big part of our Mediterranean approach is to include the eating behaviors that lead to more appreciation of your food, and so more control over pacing, and so more control over portions in the process.

Your goal is to eat all you want ... but just want less. This can only be accomplished with the combination of health food selection (a la the Mediterranean food pyramid) along with new healthy eating behaviors that limit overconsumption.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Pace Controls Portions

It is important to say it again: Pace Controls Portions.

This simple principle can be found in the healthy habits of the
Mediterranean people, and has been replicated in this study published in the British Medical Journal.

Over 3,000 Japanese volunteers (aged from 30 to 69) were
asked about about their eating behaviors. About half of the men and a little more than half of the women said they ate until full. About 45 percent of the men and 36 percent of the women said they ate quickly.

The Result?
Those who ate until full and ate quickly were three times more likely to be fat than people who did not, the researchers found.

The Mediterranean diet is more than just the food pyramind. It is more than just the assembly of foods you can eat because, if you overconsume your foods -- whether they are modified food products (low fat, low carb, etc), you will gain weight.

The reason our Mediterranean approach works, then, is because it combines healthy foods with the healthy behaviors that limit their consumption.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Bottomless Bowls

WHY is it that larger portions = larger consumption.

This GREAT article, from Dr. Brian Wansink, used self-refilling bowls to see how portions create consumption.

I love psychologists because they're so sneaky. They gave one group of subjects soup bowls that, slowly and imperceptibly, refilled as their contents were consumed.

The people who were unknowingly eating from self-refilling bowls ate more soup than those eating from normal soup bowls. Here's the kicker -- even though they ate a whopping 73% more soup, they did not believe they had consumed more, nor did they perceive themselves as more sated than those eating from normal bowls.

If you see it, you will eat it. More food in front of you = more consumption.

Unintentional Portion Distortion: How do you head this off?
  • Serve your food on smaller plates.
  • Start small, and plan on going back if you are still hungry.
  • At restaurants, ask for the To-Go box with the meal.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Today is election day. I am standing in line 30 minutes early, having been made to bo frightened by the stories of long lines and marathon 6 hour delays in Florida and in other sites.

How will this election affect our health? More importantly, how will it impact our Culture of Health?

We know a lot about the McCain and Obama healthcare plans, but that is different than the change we need in our own weight and health.

15 more minutes to open the polls.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Editorial: Portion Distortion

How did it happen?
How did the sense that “volume equals value” become so much a part of our way of thinking that it has made us the world leaders in overweight, diabetes, and all the other health problems that ride on its coattails.

How did we get here?
Can we not have the presence of mind to keep from eating an entire pizza at a sitting, an entire sleeve of cookies, or an entire pie?

Maybe the reason why is as simple as our listening to clever marketers. They say 39 cents justifies twice the volume (the actor on the screen is so thin and beautiful).

Maybe the reason why is as simple as performing the right dietary calculations (if we just micromanage carbs or calories, points or proteins, we’ll be okay again).

Maybe the reason why is as simple as a nation that has drifted from the importance of the family table, moving toward a search for more important things.

Maybe the reason why is as simple as the fact that we’re filling some other yawning internal need ... with food.

Maybe, in this way, our culture tends to encourage overconsumption, then punish us for the results of it, which can lead to more emotional eating.

Maybe maybe maybe.
In the end, the reason WHY matters less than what we do about it. We need a solution that solves the portion distortion problem. This approach must lead to a set of behaviors that constrain consumption.
  • Practice eating small at the bite.
  • Practice taking your time at every meal.
  • Practice mindful eating (not in the car, for example).

When you practice these healthy eating behaviors, you find that the amount you are hungry for drops, and your portions naturally decrease.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Portions Then and Now

Over the past few decades, we have seen portion sizes go through the roof.

It's no surprise that our increasing weight problems have mirrored these increases in portion size.

In the 1970s, for example, around 47% of Americans were overweight or obese; now 66 percent of us are. Likewise, the number of obese people has doubled, from 15% to 30%. percent.

We used to eat burgers, but weren't overweight.
We used to drink coffee, but didn't drink out of a Venti Bucket 'o caramel frappuccino.

Of course, there are many aspects to our weight and health problems, but one of the main aspects are these increasing portion sizes.

These portion comparisons, adapted from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s (NHLBI) Portion Distortion Quiz, give a visual representation of what sizes used to be compared to what they are today.

3-inch diameter (140 calories)
5 to 6 inches (350 calories or more)

1 oz. bag (150 calories)
1.75 oz. "Grab Bag"(about 260 calories)

2 cups(280 calories withoutsauce or fat)
4 cups. or more(560 calories or more without sauce or fat)

French Fries
2 ounces(210 calories)
5 ounces(540 calories)

Dinner Plate
10-inch diameter
12-1/2 inch diameter

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