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Watching Your Weight? Use a Big Fork

big fork may help portion control

The secret to weight loss may be in your eating utensils.

According to a new study diners who are given larger forks eat significantly less food than those with smaller forks. This revelation may be a key insight into how dieters can better control their portion consumption when given large plates of food.

The study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, was conducted by innovative researchers at the University of Utah who were exploring how portion sizes and consumption patters affect over-eating.

Past research on portion control has demonstrated strong evidence that when given larger portion sizes consumers tend to eat more food than when given smaller portion sizes. However, Arul Mishra and his team of researchers wanted to further explore this phenomenon with respect to actual bite size.

“One factor of the consumption setting has received relatively less attention—the bite size (the amount of food in each mouthful),” wrote Mishra in the study. “It is very important to understand how small versus large bite sizes in a meal would influence the overall quantity of food consumed. Would people still consume less with a smaller versus a larger bite size (in line with past work on portion size), or would this be reversed?”

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The researchers took their question to a popular family-owned Italian restaurant where they disguised themselves as waitstaff. Half of the tables were given large forks and half small forks which held 20% more and 20% less food than the average restaurant fork, respectively. Throughout the course of two days customers' orders were recorded and left-overs were weighed to determine which group would consume more food than the other.

Surprisingly, the results showed that those who had the bigger fork ate significantly less than those with the smaller fork. On average the bigger fork group left nearly 8 ounces of food on their plate untouched while the small fork only left 4.5 ounces.

Why does the big fork make people eat less?

“We suggest that fork size provides the diners with a means to observe their goal progress [to become fully satisfied],” wrote the authors. “The physiological feedback of feeling full, or the satiation signal, comes with a time lag. Hence, in the absence of physiological feedback, diners focus on the visual cue of whether they are making any dent in the amount of food on their plates to assess goal progress.”

In other words the diners using the smaller fork, which result in smaller bites, see less progress of food disappearing on their plate – and therefore consume more bites to reach their goal of feeling full.

Although this study was conducted in a restaurant setting the researchers believe the same principles could be a applied at home. They suggest that dieters should learn their visual cues which trigger them to eat more, in the absence of feeling full.

Journal of Consumer Research
Morgue File (image source)