Researchers from the University of Utah, US, used a popular Italian restaurant to assess the link between bite size - the amount of food on your fork or spoon - and how much food was eaten. To do that, they used two different sizes of fork - that way, the diners with larger forks would, in theory, end up with more on their forks. In practice, using bigger forks made people eat less overall. The researchers theorise that the larger fork enabled diners to observe their progress towards a specific goal: to satiate their hunger. Clearing their plate more quickly provided a visual clue that they were getting to their goal - being full more quickly.
To test this theory, the researchers then varied the quantities of food. Even when the initial quantity of food was greater, those with small forks still ate more than those with large forks. Interestingly, when the servings were small, fork size didn't appear to change the quantity eaten at all.
The researchers conclude that rather than relying on feelings of fullness, people use other external cues - such as fork size or perhaps the size of each mouthful - to figure out how much they should eat. Perhaps having big mouthfuls makes a person feel as though they're eating more than they are, which will in turn result in the person eating less.
If you'd like to use other mind tricks on yourself to keep yourself from overeating, try serving your food on blue dishes instead of red, yellow or white. According to researchers from the University of Winnipeg blue seems to work as an appetite suppressant. If you can't find a blue dish, use a blue tablecloth - that appears to have the same effect.
First published July 21, 2011