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Bottomless Bowls

Why Visual Cues of Portion Size May Influence Intake

Why Visual Cues of Portion Size May Influence Intake

Individuals who ate soup out of self-refilling bowls ate more than those who ate out of normal bowls, but did not feel any more satiated

To avoid overeating, do not rely solely on visual cues, like an empty bowl, to signal when you are full

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Wansink, Brian, James E. Painter, and Jill North (2005). Bottomless Bowls: Why Visual Cues of Portion Size May Influence Intake. Obesity Research, 13(1), 93–100. doi: 10.1038/oby.2005.12

Do Americans tend to eat more than is necessary? The answer seems to be yes! Environmental cues have an impact on how much we eat, and we don't even know it. In a study conducted by professors Brian Wansink, James Painter, and Jill North, participants were seated at a table, four at a time, to eat soup. The participants did not know that two of the four bowls were attached to a tube underneath the table which slowly, and imperceptibly, refilled those bowls. Those eating from the "bottomless" bowls consumed an unbelievable 73% more than those eating from the normal bowls! They also estimated that they consumed 140.5 calories fewer than they actually did. This is a huge underestimate compared to the estimate of the group with normal bowls, who believed they consumed only 32.3 calories fewer than they actually did. However, despite consuming significantly more soup and calories, the group with the bottomless bowls did not feel any more sated than the group with the normal bowls. In fact, afterward, many of the participants admitted that they usually eat until they reach the bottom of the bowl, and often clean their plate when eating at home. So, next time you sit down for a meal, keep in mind that relying on visual cues like an empty bowl might actually lead you to overeat!

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