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One Small Change

Smaller Spoon, Slimmer Body


I just got back from a four-day retreat in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. It was held on an idyllic organic farm, where each day for lunch we were served food so fresh and plentiful that I’m going to have to back away from the keyboard right now because I don’t want to risk drooling on it.

But in the face of this tempting harvest, I stood strong. In keeping with my One Small Change vow, I ate only from 10-inch plates and 6-inch bowls. I explained to the hostess that I was trying to determine if a month of downsizing my dinnerware, while making no other dietary changes, could help me slow my eating and control my weight. And although it pained me to take so little from the daily buffet, the strategy worked: I ate less. And my scale attests: So far this month, I’m down 3 pounds.

So why, I got to thinking, should I stop here? If smaller dinnerware can produce such noteworthy results, why not switch to smaller utensils and glasses as well? Brian Wansink, Ph.D., a Cornell University professor and the author of Mindless Eating, has researched both.

In a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and cited on his website, Wansink measured how much ice cream individuals took and consumed when arbitrarily given different-size bowls and spoons. Those given small bowls ate 31 percent less ice cream than those with large bowls. Likewise, those given 2-ounce spoons ate 14.5 percent less than those with 3-ounce spoons. Those who used small bowls and small spoons ate a remarkable percent less ice cream overall.

Wansink’s glassware findings were similar. In a separate set of studies, he determined that adults poured and drank 19 percent more juice in short, wide glasses than in tall, skinny ones. Similarly, bartenders dispensed 31 percent more liquor in tumbler glasses than in slender highball types.

The most interesting part of all this science is that the individuals who ate and drank less actually believed they had more. The smaller size of their bowls, spoons and glasses created an illusion of plenty that led to feelings of satisfaction rather than deprivation. It was dieting without that demoralizing dieting feeling.

Personally, I’ve found that eating with a tiny fork and spoon is a lot like using chopsticks, only without the fumbling. It dramatically slows your shoveling, which enables your brain to more accurately read stomach fullness and also helps you be more mindful of your food. Sure I may look ridiculous using them, but no more so than I will in 52-inch jeans if I continue eating like I have been. While smaller plates, bowls and glasses reduce portion-size, smaller utensils change the way we eat, which in many respects is even more fundamental and important.

Indeed, I’ve found that using a tasting spoon or one you’d use to stir espresso is a particularly effective weapon against over-indulging in ice cream. Whether it’s a dish from your local creamery or a carton from the refrigerator, try using the smallest spoon available and see if you aren’t satisfied with less. In fact, it’s probably yet another reason why Europeans are so slim; they eat their gelato with spoons the size of their pinkies. Try it the next time there’s a Rocky Road ahead.

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About The Author

Joe Kita – Joe Kita is a noted writer, editor, motivational speaker and teacher. He authors the blog "One Small Change" for CorePerformance.com.

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Tags: Health, Dessert, Weight Loss, Food