At a very special holiday feast yesterday, one super-health-conscious guest chose a small plate for his buffet serving rather than the elegant-size plates of the rest of us. It was, he maintained, a matter of not having seen the table around the corner where the elegant-sizes were laid out, but he did manage to mention something about smaller portions being sufficient…
So. Now that you are, perhaps, stuffed with stuffed turkey, this space is pleased to pass along a novel idea passed along several days ago by Washington Post writer Jennifer LaRue Huget:
The holiday season brings with it an overabundance of advice on how to avoid gaining weight in the face of all those festive meals, cocktail parties and plates of cookies brought in by co-workers. Depending on whose advice you’re inclined to heed, you can cut back on carbs, mind the glycemic index of the foods before you, fill up on fat or count every calorie.
Or maybe you could just use smaller plates.
That’s the premise of “The 9-Inch ‘Diet’ ” (PowerHouse), a book published last November by a pair of advertising executives that makes a strong visual and verbal argument that much of America’s weight problem stems not from eating the wrong foods but from eating too much.
Alex Bogusky, who wrote the book with Chuck Porter, is best known for his work on the “Truth” anti-tobacco ad campaign. He starts the book with a simple tale. Having just bought a lakeside cottage built in the 1940s, he and his wife went out to stock up on dinnerware. But the plates they bought (regular ones from somewhere like Target) didn’t fit, no matter which way he tried to jam them in the cupboards. Slowly it dawned on him that those cupboards had been built with much smaller plates in mind. Further research revealed that while most dinner plates today measure 12 inches, in the middle of the past century the standard was nine inches.
And so a “diet” was born. (Bogusky notes that it’s not a diet at all — and thank goodness, as most diets don’t work in the long run, he observes.) Bogusky replaced his plates with vintage nine-inchers, and he and his family adjusted their serving sizes accordingly. “Research has proven,” Bogusky told me in an e-mail, “the mind is a much bigger trigger for how and when we feel satisfied and full than anybody had formerly realized. More so than the stomach.” As a result, he says, he’s eating considerably less food at every meal.
And you can, too.
“The 9-Inch ‘Diet’ ” is a fun read, chock-full of images that show how the continual super-sizing of American food-serving vessels has led to our consuming ever-increasing portions. Obviously, the diet is just a way of exercising portion control. But it’s an elegant and adaptable way.
Huget explains the subtleties of this system: you take smaller portions, which means you select and cook foods that will work (forget the 12-oz steaks and indivisible barbecued ribs…), and explains why, as the book in question has been around for a year, she is now bringing it up:
…I know it works, and I knew so even before reading the book. Last Thanksgiving, feeling sentimental, I dug out of my attic my Grandma LaRue’s 1950s-era dinnerware, including her nine-inch plates, in a pattern my husband and I have long referred to as “Hideousware.” They looked kind of Thanksgiving-y, so we used them at our celebration. The plates were indeed tiny. And we all ate less than usual — without really noticing.
I have to admit, I noticed what my very fit and healthy friend was consuming on his 9-inch plate. Maybe a little bit less than I had on my elegant one. But if one were also to pass on the offering of seconds, and then not sneak extra bites when helping clean up, or pick friends whose dinners aren’t as delicious as my friend Liz’ … There may be another diet book here.
Meanwhile, you might want to stimulate the economy by getting a new set of 9-inch plates before the next holiday season.