Last Updated Apr 27, 2010 12:35 PM EDT
The next time you catch a glimpse of your naked self in the mirror and wonder how you're ever going to divest yourself of that pork belly, here is something to keep in mind: Jesus understands.
Wait! The Vatican has not commandeered this blog, nor do I have any desire to convert you. Rather I'm merely reporting on an enlightening new survey conducted by Brian Wansink, Ph.D., of Cornell University and Craig Wansink, Ph.D., of Virginia Wesleyan College. The brothers recently examined 52 famous paintings of the Last Supper from the past 1,000 years. Using computer analysis, they determined that bread portions had increased by 23 percent, plate size by 66 percent, and the size of the entrees by 69 percent. If it weren't for the flowing robes, who knows how much the apostles and Jesus himself might have also grown? (Are those jowls on Judas?)
All kidding aside, if we assume that art imitates life then this research serves to illustrate the insidious sin of mindless eating. Part of the reason why so many Americans are so fat is because we've lost our perspective on healthful portion size and, in many cases, aren't even aware of how many calories we're ingesting. And as the Wansinks's research shows, our perception of what's normal isn't.
This is the perfect economic time to break this habit. Whether you're trying to reduce your weekly grocery bill or feeling the pinch of higher deductibles on health insurance, you and your entire family can profit â€" monetarily and physiologically â€" from eating less. Here are 3 ingenious, no-brainer ways to finally start doing that:
Downsize your dinner plates. Instead of grabbing the conventional 12-inch-diameter plate at home or at a buffet, reach for a 9- or 10-incher. Even though you'll be able to fit less food on it, your mind will be fooled into thinking there's plenty. Brian Wansink contends that shrinking plate-size by 2 inches (and, of course, not returning for seconds) can reduce calorie consumption by 22 percent. This is equivalent to losing 18 pounds in a year.
Shrink the party bowls. Likewise, the next time your family is watching a sporting event or movie together, serve the snacks in smaller bowls. When Wansink served Chex Mix to participants in another study of his, those presented with one-gallon bowls took 53 percent more (and ate 92 percent of it) than those given the same amount of Chex Mix in two, one-half-gallon bowls.
Cut down the cutlery. A similar psychology applies to utensils. Make it a rule to always eat ice cream with a teaspoon and, although it may sound strange, dessert with a shrimp fork, or your main meal of the day with chopsticks. All of these tricks will slow down the shoveling, help you savor food more and, most important, allow the speed at which your brain registers satiety to match your stomach.