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Big Forks, Little Waistlines

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I recently moved into a new house and had the joy of decorating the place from scratch. From couches to bed linens, mirrors to silverware, I’ve been quite the busy girl filling my new home with all the essentials and the luxuries no home should go without.

But had I previously read a study conducted by researchers from the Journal of Consumer Research, in all my newly acquired goods, I may have made at least one slightly larger purchase.

According to a study titled “The Influence of Bite Size on Quantity of Food Consumed: A Field Study,” researchers found that people consumed less food at mealtime when they eat with a larger fork.

For the study, researchers assigned diners to either a “large fork” or a “small fork” -- both 20 percent larger or smaller than a standard fork -- over the course of two lunches and two dinners at an Italian restaurant.

“The researchers weighed the plates before they went out to diners and when they came back. After controlling for factors such as lunch versus dinner, whether alcohol was consumed, and initial plate weight, people with small forks left less on their plates (4.4 ounces) than people with big forks (7.9 ounces),” according to an article published on The Wall Street Journal website.

Overall, researchers found that diners who used large forks ate less than those who were given smaller forks, even when other variables were accounted for.

“The reason for the discrepancy, the study authors suggested, is that people who eat out have a well-defined goal of satisfying their hunger. This makes them more willing to invest energy and resources to meet that goal, such as making menu selections, eating and paying the check,” according to an article on USA Today.

"The fork size provided the diners with a means to observe their goal progress," the investigators explained in a journal news release. "The physiological feedback of feeling full, or the satiation signal, comes with a time lag. In its absence, diners focus on the visual cue of whether they are making any dent on the food on their plate to assess goal progress."

The researchers did note that when small portions of food were served, fork size had no effect on the variation of how much people consumed. It was only when the portion sizes were large that people with larger forks ate less than people with smaller forks.

Considering how portion sizes in the U.S. are, by rule of thumb, growing larger and larger each year, it may do you a service to consider your fork size the next time you eat out. Or, if it’s an option, even try requesting a larger fork.

The study didn’t correlate fork size to at-home dining, but it certainly makes me wish I would have bought larger forks, if but for my own mini experiment.

Big Fork Could Be Key to Small Waistline, Study Says. USA Today. Web. 16 Aug. 2011.

Small Forks, Big Bellies. The Wall Street Journal. Web. 17 Aug. 2011. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903918104576500681661753292.html

Diet Detective Column: Latest Findings on Forks, Fitness. News-Sentinel.com. Web. 17 Aug. 2011.

Reviewed August 18, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith

Bailey Mosier is a freelance journalist living in Orlando, Florida. She received a Masters of Journalism from Arizona State University, played D-I golf, has been editor of a Scottsdale-based golf magazine and currently contributes to GolfChannel.com. She aims to live an active, healthy lifestyle full of sunshine and smiles.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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