In the past, a typical serving of spaghetti for me would be about 160 strands, which equates to 525 calories (I really like pasta). I would grab a healthy handful of spaghetti (perhaps 140 strands), then, fearing I was doing myself a disservice, grab a few more just for good measure.
These days I measure out my spaghetti to around 80 grams (which is around 80 strands). In doing so I save myself from consuming an additional 260 calories. That’s a weekly reduction of 1,820 calories, which is equal to approximately ½lb of fat.
I don’t feel like I’m cheating myself either – I’m just taking my greed out of the equation and measuring out an amount of spaghetti that I know will satisfy me.
In my experience, knowing what amount of food will fill you up and making only that much can lead to weight loss with no perceived reduction in satisfaction and satiety. This is backed up by a compelling soup study (yep, you read that right) conducted by Cornell University. In the study, one group were given a normal bowl of soup to eat, while another group were given an automatically refilling bowl of soup. The outcome was telling:
Participants who were unknowingly eating from self-refilling bowls ate more soup than those eating from normal soup bowls. However, despite consuming 73% more, they did not believe they had consumed more, nor did they perceive themselves as more sated than those eating from normal bowls.
The conclusion was similarly compelling:
These findings are consistent with the notion that the amount of food on a plate or bowl increases intake because it influences consumption norms and expectations and it lessens one’s reliance on self-monitoring. It seems that people use their eyes to count calories and not their stomachs. The importance of having salient, accurate visual cues can play an important role in the prevention of unintentional overeating.
To put it another way, if a huge portion of food is put on your plate, you brain tells you that you should eat it. On the other hand, a smaller portion can fill you up just as much and be just as satisfying (psychologically speaking) without the extra unwanted calorific load.
So to go back to my spaghetti, the first thing I started doing was weighing it. Rather than over-guessing how much I needed, I would weigh out 140 grams. No overcompensation through guesswork. Then, in a twist on the Portion Reduction Method, I would simply weigh out 10 grams less every time I had the meal. Before long I had discovered that 80 grams was in fact more than enough to fill me up, and I still enjoy the meal as much as I ever did. Simple!