Self-Control and Portion Size

My wife told me about something she used to do. When she ordered food at a restaurant, she asked for a box at the same time, had half of the food set aside. It wasn’t off limits. It was just in a box. But it created this stopping point halfway through the meal that allowed her to check in with herself.

Tonight, I tried the “ancient grains wheat-free crust” from Papa John’s. It is of necessity a small pizza (the only size this crust comes in), and the entire thing — with my favorite ingredients of pineapple and jalapeno — was about 900 calories. So it honestly wasn’t that excessive to eat the whole thing in a sitting, even if I’d also had a couple tangellos right before.

But I wasn’t hungry for all of it. I ate it because it was staring me in the face, and it looked tasty, and I had yet to give my body enough time to recognize the calories it had already taken in. Probably I would have had 4 of the 6 slices instead if I’d really been checking in.

This seems to be a human tendency. Or maybe it’s just an American tendency. But it’s something, anyway. There was this really weird study where they had people “taste test” a soup. The control group just at from a full bowl of soup. The other group, though, ate from a bowl that was connected to an automatic re-filler hidden under the table. It kept re-filling it as they ate. Those in the experimental group ate 73% more, but didn’t realize it. Instead, they just commented on how filling the soup was.

Point being, I want to give myself more of a chance to let my appetite rather than my portion size determine how much I eat. I think I’ll use my wife’s strategy of pre-emptively boxing my food. If I’d kept half the pizza in the box and set it aside, I imagine I would have had a far more appropriate amount — and would have enjoyed the final slices more, too.

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