If you're anything like me, the limit does not exist when it comes to portion sizes. Coupled with the fact that I'm an alarmingly fast eater, it's not uncommon for me to end a festive or celebratory meal with a stomachache. Unsurprisingly, a New York Magazine article on exercising portion control recently piqued my interest. In it, writer Cari Romm speaks of a new study published in The Journal of Marketing Research that found a link between smaller portion sizes and what I like to call mindful eating.
Known as focusing on the sensory experience of enjoying a meal, mindful eating asks you to think about the smell, taste, texture, and even sound of your meal before grabbing a plate and digging in. The study, headed by University of British Columbia's Yann Cornil and INSEAD business school's Pierre Chandon, found that engaging in this practice actually caused participants to choose smaller portions and enjoy their meals more overall.
The duo had around 1000 adults and children of American and French descent view photos of different "indulgent" meals, instructing them to envision all the ways in which they could use their senses to interact with the food (aside from tasting it). Afterward, the participants were led to a table displaying six slices of cake, all of varying sizes, and asked to select a slice to eat and rate how much they expected to enjoy it. Those who had mentally engaged with their food beforehand were more likely to grab a smaller slice and expected themselves to enjoy it more.
"While most food ads, especially those for fast food restaurants, suggest that consuming more food will bring more pleasure, research on the physiology of eating suggests the exact opposite," said the researchers. "Sensory pleasure peaks at the first few mouthfuls and declines with each additional mouthful." Keep that in mind next time you're making yourself a plate!
Have you ever practiced mindful eating before? Tell us about your experience.