Dr. Day is a cardiologist/electrophysiologist at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah. He graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and completed his residency and fellowships in cardiology and electrophysiology at Stanford University. He is the former president of the Heart Rhythm Society and currently serves as the president of the Utah chapter of the American College of Cardiology.
Lose 18 Pounds a Year with a 10-inch Plate
Do you clean your plate at each meal? If so, then you and I both are part of the 92% of Americans that have this same habit.
Our brains seem to be programmed to clear our plates. Don’t fight it. Rather embrace it, and turn what you have to your advantage. Use a small plate.
My Grandpa Black
Where did this habit of cleaning our plates come from? Perhaps it originated from our parents or grandparents who grew up in times of scarcity and let nothing go to waste.
I remember many conversations as a child with my maternal grandfather who we affectionately called “Grandpa Black.” My Grandpa Black lost his parents and lived on the streets of New York City during the Great Depression. There, as a homeless child, in the worst of the Great Depression he foraged and begged for food to feed himself and his younger sister for whom he was caring.
Grandpa Black lived this nomadic life never knowing where his next meal was coming from for many years. Fortunately, when President Roosevelt introduced the Civilian Conservation Corps program during the depths of the Great Depression, my grandfather enrolled and was assigned to work in Nevada. This got him off the streets of NYC and into a structured environment. There he met my grandmother and they eventually had my mother.
Having endured hunger and starvation through the Great Depression, my mother was raised to never leave a crumb on her plate. That same philosophy carried over to our home growing up.
When we visited Granda Black, he sternly counseled us to never waste our food. Everything that went on our plate should be eaten.
Cleaning My Plate as a Child
As a child I remember sitting at the dinner table, sometimes for hours it seemed, until I cleaned my plate. Usually, it was a vegetable or a fish that kept me there. We were taught to never waste our food.
If 92% of all Americans have the habit of clearing their plates, then I can imagine that most of us were probably raised the same way. Don’t waste your food and clear your plate.
For many of us, our modern life is now filled with an over-abundance rather than scarcity of food.
The 10-inch Plate Turned into the 12-inch Plate
This habit of clearing your plate worked well when we used 10-inch plates in the 1950s. Now 12-inch plates are the norm. Just how we got to a 12-inch plate I am not quite sure.
Unfortunately, along with our plate sizes, our waistlines have also increased dramatically since the 1950s.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, over this period of time, burgers and fries tripled in size! Sodas are now six times bigger than they were in the 1950s.
Overall, we are now eating, on average, 500 more calories than we did a generation or two ago.
How to Lose 18 Pounds with a 10-inch Plate
Just how much more food will you eat with a 12-inch plate? According to the Mindless Eating organization we will eat 22% more. While hormones definitely play a role to whether we feel full or not, surprisingly, psychology has as much to feeling full as hormones do. The psychology here is that our brain registers that we have “cleaned off our plate” so we must be full.
So, how much weight could we lose simply by switching plate sizes?
Let’s calculate this together. Assuming that the typical dinner is 800 calories, this switch from a 12” to 10” plate size could translate into 176 fewer calories per meal, or 64,240 fewer calories over a year. As each pound of fat is worth 3500 calories, that could mean an 18-pound weight loss each year–just by reducing the size of your plate for one meal! If you did this consistently throughout the day for all meals, your weight loss could be much more. Best of all, this 18-pound weight loss comes without hunger as your brain thinks you are full because you cleared your 10-inch plate.
This psychology works not only with plates but with bowls, glasses, spoons, or whatever else we put food in. If it looks “full” our brains are more likely to register that we are full.
The Portion and Plate Size Challenge
To help you lose 18 pounds or more without feeling hungry, the key is to take advantage of how your brain has been conditioned. Since your brain is more likely to think you are full when your plate is cleared off, then keep clearing it off, just with a slight twist.
Give it a try! Here are some tips:
1. Replace your 12-inch plate with a 10-inch plate.
2. Downsize your bowls. The size of a bowl could mean the difference between getting a serving of cereal, or say, 5 servings of cereal without even realizing it.
3. Look for a bowl that has measurement lines. You may be surprised by how much you are actually getting. Many of us have lost track of what a portion size is, or even the ability to tell when we’ve had enough.
4.Use smaller utensils. Smaller utensils are shown to slow down our eating. Slowing down allows us to discern our satiety when it happens, not 500 calories later past the point.
5. Use a smaller glass if you drink anything but water. A tall thin glass makes you feel you are getting more while delivering less. If you drink water, the bigger the glass, the better. More on this in a future blog.
6. When you eat at a restaurant split your meal with a friend or have them plate half of it on a smaller plate and take the other half in a to-go box.
They key is to keep your smaller plate, bowl, or glass “very full” without overeating. Take advantage of they way your brain has been conditioned and lose 18 pounds each year without ever feeling hungry or deprived!
What size plates and bowls do you use in your home? Has the smaller plate movement helped you keep portion sizes in check?
Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.