A recent study took a clever look at visual cues for overeating: Bottomless Bowls: Why Visual Cues of Portion Size May Influence Intake — Wansink et al. 13 (1): 93 — Obesity Research
Subjects were asked to eat soup until they were satiated. Half of the subjects were given normal bowls, while the other half had self-refilling bowls which slowly and imperceptibly refilled as their contents were consumed.”
The diners enjoying soup from the magic bowls consumed 73% more than those who ate from normal bowls, but they didn’t feel more full or think they had eaten more.
The researchers offer the theory that “people use their eyes to count calories and not their stomachs.”
What does this mean for us in the Nutrient Rich world? Should we start manufacturing “trick plates” that are smaller than they look, or which slowly and imperceptibly suck food away from the diner?
Is satiety really an eye thing as much as a stomach thing? Are we so clueless as a species that we can’t manage our caloric intake without tricking ourselves?
A couple of thoughts, not based on any scientific research of my own:
1. I have no reason to believe that satiety (the feeling of fullness that tells us to stop eating) is just based on stretch receptors or nutrient receptors or weight receptors or whatever. Any biological process that is so important to keep in balance probably has multiple inputs. Eyeballing the amount you’re eating, in a world that doesn’t routinely include self-refilling bowls, should correspond nicely to the other satiety mechanisms that are already known to science.
2. Remember the key phrase, “Total Dietary Basis.” Any creature can overeat on a short-term basis, and most do. The real question is not what causes people to overeat at a given meal, but what mechanism has stopped working in humans that reduces appetite when we get heavy.
3. In the Nutrient Rich world, the translation between eyes and calories is not nearly as important as it is in the nutrient poor world. What do I mean? If you consume 73% more Mighty Minestrone, you’re not getting nearly the excess calories as if you were to consume 73% more Cream of Mushroom soup.
So before you go out and buy some optical illusion plates and bowls, consider learning how to eat normally and naturally, and get free of all forms of dietary trickery and manipulation.