Why we eat more than we think

There are many reasons for obesity, but one of the most important is that we eat more than we think we eat.

I am going to share a story about someone I know.  We will call her "Molly".  Molly comes to visit me from time to time and is often obsessed about her weight.  She has been overweight most of her life, as it is genetic in her family.  Molly will often comment to me about how she is "trying to be good" or that her pants are a little looser on her than they used to be.  However, in the many years that I have known her, she looks the same. 

It didn’t take long for me to figure out why;  she eats much more than she thinks she does.  When she spends the day with me, I see her eat throughout the day munching on fruit, crackers, cheese, etc…  She will also eat very large quantities.  However, she does it in passing;  passing through the kitchen she grabs a little something, as she makes my kids a sandwich she "passes" the pantry again.  Grabbing a piece of fruit here and there off of my kids’ plates or as she opens the fridge for something for them she grabs a little "taste" for herself.  Then when meal time arrives she’ll say "wow..I am just not hungry these days…I don’t know how I can have these weight problems when I never have an appetite.."  She will then have a light meal.  By dinner time, she will comment again on how she really isn’t hungry, but will force herself to eat.  She then will have 3 or 4 helpings of dinner.  At the end of the day she will again comment " Wow..all I had today was some cheese and fruit and some pasta for dinner..I did good today, I didn’t eat that much.."

While Molly may think she barely ate,  she actually ate well more than she needed to meet her caloric needs.  As a society we have become so accustomed to eating what we want, when we want, we often don’t think about how much we are eating, what are portions should be and if we are eating balanced diets or not.  Some reasons for this are things like abundance and easy access to cheap foods (which are usually loaded with fat and calories), soda is more available than water and when we eat out our plates are getting larger.

There was an interesting study done at the University of Illinois in regards to eating habits.  Here are some of the results:

1.  People going to the movies were given medium and large size popcorn buckets that were 14 days old.  The popcorn tasted terrible and was stale.  However, the people who got the larger buckets ate 31 percent more than the people who got medium size buckets.  At the end of the movie, the people were asked how much they ate and they reported eating the same amounts.  This demonstrated two things:  people eat just for the "act" of eating and it also showed that people don’t really realize the quantities they actually consume.

2.  The study showed that no matter what the item; M&M’s, nuts, crackers, etc… If you give people a bigger bag, they will eat more.

3.  People in a restaurant were given soup in refillable bowls.  These bowls were refilled by drilling holes in the table and feeding a tube up through to the bowl from a large soup pot in the next room.  Four people were brought to a table; two were eating out of the bowls that were refilled by the tubes, very slowly, and the other two ate out of regular bowls.  Women with the refillable bowls ate 30 percent more and men ate 40 percent more than the ones who ate out of regular bowls.  But when they were asked afterwards how much they had eaten, they estimated the same number of ounces and calories as people eating from the normal bowls.

This was an indepth study and I could rewrite it, but this would be a very, very long blog if I did.

The point:  If you are struggling with your weight, write down what you eat and measure it.  Don’t eat anything without verifying the quantity first.  You will be amazed at what you learn.

About Kimberly Dawson, M.S.

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