Portion control may be the key in losing weight and changes in eating like using smaller plates and utensils may be more helpful than we think. By manipulating our belief about how filling the food will be, the mind could be “tricked” into making us feel full, suggests a research to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB).

Study results were consistent with the belief that portion control is all a matter of perception. Test participants reported that they were satisfied for longer periods of time when they consumed food that they thought had larger portion sizes.

In an experiment, half of the subjects were shown a small portion of the ingredients and half were shown a larger portion. The ‘expected satiety’ was recorded and the rating was compared before and after consumption. Same quantity of food was given to all participants yet participants who were shown the large portion reported significantly greater fullness.

The researchers suggest that memory about how satisfying previous meals were also plays an important role in governing appetite and satiety. After eating, how long the food staved off hunger was affected by how satisfying the participants thought of previous meals.

“The extent to which a food that can alleviate hunger is not determined solely by its physical size, energy content, and so on. Instead, it is influenced by prior experience with a food, which affects our beliefs and expectations about satiation. This has an immediate effect on the portion sizes that we select and an effect on the hunger that we experience after eating,” said Dr. Brunstrom from University of Bristol UK who led the study.

How the ‘actual’ and ‘perceived’ amount of food people thought they consumed plays a role in post-meal hunger and fullness, the researchers installed a hidden pump beneath a soup bowl and changed the amount of soup without the participants’ knowledge. The rating recorded three hours after the meal showed what predicted the feeling of fullness was the perceived amount of soup in the bowl, not the actual amount of soup consumed.

Food labels may affect how people think satisfying certain food will be. Labels that appear food to be less satisfying might lead people to eat more afterwards. Dr. Brunstrom advises that emphasizing the satiating properties of a food might keep people from eating more.

Other tips on controlling portion sizes:

- Include high volume vegetables to meals

- Do not eat straight out of the box

- Place food on small plates