Research shows that the portion on our plate is 50% bigger than it was just 20 years ago. A scary statistic in its own right, but scarier when you think about the size of an average plateful in 2036! But be honest, which one of these is you? Do you pile your plate high – or go for modest helpings? Clear your plate clean afterwards – or leave just a little to show you’ve had your fill?
Chances are it’s less to do with your actual hunger and more about your habits.
The fact is that most of us today are eating a great deal more than our parents or grandparents ever did. Not only are our average meal or snack servings now a whopping 50% larger than 20 years ago, but the rise of convenience and processed foods – with all that added sugar and fat – means the food we eat now often packs a much higher calorie punch.
Of course, our modern tendency to pig out isn’t helped by the fact that we’re surrounded by temptation. Fast food on every corner, chips with everything, and cakes, cookies and chocolate prominently on display – whether we are in the coffee shop, supermarket, or queuing for the till at leading newsagents…
What’s more, the ready availability of junk food means unhealthy choices are much easier and cheaper to make than healthy ones. Enough to stretch our willpower to breaking point!
A new study at Exeter University using computer modelling found there seems to be no evolutionary mechanism to help us resist the lure of sweet, fatty and unhealthy food or prevent us piling on the pounds. That’s because in the past, being overweight did not pose a big threat to survival compared to the dangers of being underweight.
So our subconscious controls against becoming overweight are weak and easily overcome by the immediate rewards of tasty food – particularly in the winter when food in the natural world is scarce.
The more we overeat, the more our bodies expect as our stomach stretches to accommodate these mega-portions of food. So if we don’t watch it, bigger and bigger portions become the norm.
But the good news is that by reducing your portion size, you can shrink the size of your stomach to some degree – and train yourself to expect and want less food.
• Words Dr Sally Norton (UK health expert and NHS weight loss surgeon), Founder of www.vavistalife.com