Extra Pounds Can Sneak Up on You

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: How do we gain weight without being aware of it?

Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH
You, as an adult, are responsible for the food choices you make. But you don't make those choices in a vacuum. You make those food choices in an environment that is deliberately designed to get you to eat more food, not less. To use the most obvious example, everybody eats more calories from larger portions. If you put a large bowl in front… of food, in front of someone, even if they're educated, even if they know they're not supposed to eat very much from that bowl, they will take in more calories from a larger bowl than they will from a smaller bowl. So that there's something that goes below the radar of critical thinking, that encourages people to eat calories without being aware of it. And everyone is influenced by those kinds of things. Even though everyone thinks that they're not influenced by those kinds of things.

: So, how do we stop that from happening?

Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH
Well, If you want to change the environment you have to do some reversal of the changes that have taken place since the early 1980's. I would start with portion size. And that's why those 100 calorie packs are so useful for people. They tell you. You eat everything that's in this bag, it will give you just 100 calories. And as long as you don't eat 10 or 20 of them you're doing just fine. People need, I think, to get a better sense of calories. They need to understand that larger portions have more calories. People sort of intuitively think that if it's in a container it has 100 calories, no matter how big the container is. But that's not so. A container that is eight times larger will have eight times more calories. And people don't have a feel for that, you can't see calories. You can't smell them, taste them, or know when they're there. All you can do is tell when you're full. And most people eat so much food that they have lost the ability to tell when they're full. So we could go back to that. Just eat when you're hungry would be a really good idea.