Why you eat more than you think and what to do about it!

Why you eat more than you think and what to do about it!
11 May

Did you know that if you were given a large packet of pasta to cook, with a large size pasta sauce that you would eat approximately 23% more than another person who was asked to cook the same dinner but had a medium size packet of pasta with a medium size jar of sauce?

That’s approx 150 calories more- with the only difference in each scenario being what size package you were given to cook with. That seems like an unfair amount of extra calories, imagine how many times this happens in a day? And you know what else? Studies suggest you wouldn’t even notice them  if they weren’t on the plate- you would still feel as satisfied with 20% less of that meal on your plate. Stay with me here!

There have been an enormous amount of studies conducted that support these findings. Time after time. (Sorry if you now cant stop singing Cyndi Lauper 🙄 It got stuck in my head too!) Lol.

Seriously though, the bottom line of these numerous studies is this: We all, yes all of us, consume more when eating / consuming / using large packages. Whatever the product. Let me help you visualize this.

  • If you feed your dog from a large dog food bag- chances are you feed the dog more than someone who is feeding their dog the same food but just form a smaller container.
  • Use a large shampoo? Chances are you use more shampoo each time than someone using a smaller bottle of shampoo.
  • Buy  a large popcorn at the  movies- you will eat more than if you purchased the medium

The only exception to this series of research was bleach. Basically people understand that they cant use more than exactly the required amount! Or their clothes will become holy!

It comes down to the visual illusion, when we see a big packet we think its typical, normal and appropriate to mix, serve or cook with more than we would if the package was smaller. Its a consumption norm. And the biggest trap in all of this is you probably think- this doesn’t apply to me. LET ME TELL YOU  -IT APPLIES TO EVERYONE.

Visual illusions are everywhere- your dinner table, kitchen (size of bowls and plates and cups and spoons), your pantry- the placement of items, the size and the kind of packaging. Supermarkets – by bulk and save, restaurants, cafes, bars, everywhere.

This brings me to the vertical and horizontal line – most people think the vertical line is on average about 18-20% longer than the horizontal line.  They are both the same. Its a visual illusion just like the size of that packet you bought  to save money- while your intention might be great, unless you know what to do with those large packets when you get home, chances are you are eating about 20% more each time you eat from them. Remember you wont miss 20% of food from your plate and don’t forget the trap- you think it doesn’t apply to you, because you know what you are eating.

When studies are conducted on this topic, hundreds and thousands of studies in different settings, with tricks and secret bowls that keep refilling from hidden hoses under the tables – no one is exempt-
educated and healthy people in the nutrition field,  still fall into these traps – of mindless eating.
Its called Mindless Eating because we don’t think about what we are eating. We all do it, there is plenty of research on this topic, its incredible and interesting and once you know, its hard to un-know!

Here are some tips to help you become more aware of these hidden visual cues that make us eat more without even realising it!

  1. If you are going to buy bulk, once the product is home re package the product out into the right size containers.
  2. Do not eat out of a packet- put your food into a small bowl and eat from there.
  3. Cook the right amount and if batch cooking portion into containers straight away.
  4. If you buy large packets of processed snack foods repackage into individual serve sizes and put away- up high, behind healthier options- take this one step further and repackage in foil! Out of sight out of mind. Want to go even further- don’t buy it.
  5. Keep healthy nourishing food front and centre- mindlessly eat on veggie sticks not a packet of chips! Your health will thank you.

Mary-Ann Alpeche

Nutrition Coach