Your eyes tell you to eat more than you should

April 8, 2009 in Nutrition Topics in the News, Weight Management

Your eyes tell you to eat more than you should

If you find yourself tipping the scales, your eyes - not your stomach - may be to blame, according to a new report in the Journal of Consumer Research.

It's called "the buffet effect": when faced with a variety of food choices, your eyes trick you into underestimating the portion sizes of each item, creating a tendency to overeat by about 10 per cent.

The increase may not seem that significant on its own, but as the consumer researchers note, that over the course of a year this effect could lead to 20 pounds of weight gain.

In this study, volunteers were given two candy dishes of identical volumes but different colours; one had a mix of red and blue while the other had just red candy.  

People perceived the dish containing a mix of red and blue candy as being about 10 per cent less full than the one filled entirely with red candy.

This has to do with the fact that when you look at a single item, it looks like one big shape, whereas when there are multiple colours, it breaks up that whole, explains the study author.

This misperception was evident in four lab studies using different colours and shapes, suggesting that a vast variety of food will cause people to underestimate serving sizes.

To curb the "buffet effect" try taking only two items at a time when presented with lots of options for indulgence. Also, be the last person to start eating and try to be slowest eater at the table.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.