When I was growing up, the elders would tell children who were being greedy, "Your eyes are bigger than your stomach." I sometimes recite that phrase while my sons pile stuff onto their plates or inquire about their next meal while eating.
It's not just children. Plenty of American adults are afflicted by this condition and may not even know it. For younger people, they've grown up with larger portions — or portion distortion—while others have happily adjusted to the significant increase in serving sizes.
With the industrialization of food, companies can make more of it, and food-like substances, at a lower cost. This is why you can get a bag of burgers for $5.
Along with larger portions, came the more undesirable things, such as excess calories and fat.
Just think about these comparisons: Twenty years ago, a portion of spaghetti and meatballs was 500 calories. It's 1,025 today. Also 20 years ago, a chicken Caesar salad had 390 calories versus 790 today. Portions of bagels, muffins, cookies, French fries, pizza, hamburgers, coffee and soda also grew about twice their sizes in the past two decades.
At most restaurants these days, you could fit two, maybe three, servings of food onto one platter-sized plate. While at a hibachi/sushi restaurant, I noticed that the child's plate was probably the portion that we adults should be eating.
And at buffets, the establishment expects your eyes to be bigger than your stomach. Who cares if you've already had enough food to suffice for a day? At a buffet, you can have all you can eat for a bargain.
But it isn't a bargain, because we are rewiring our brains to want more, which could mean more weight gain, more chronic illness, more money and more unnecessary suffering. All the while, we're not slowing down long enough to receive signals from our brain that tell us we're full. Health experts say it takes about 20 minutes to get those signals, hence the importance of not scarfing down a meal.
A primary reason we eat more than we need is our unhealthy relationship with food. We often associate it with celebration, milestones, dating and holidays.
There is also a poor understanding of basic nutrition. Our body can and should function with a lot less food than what we get when we eat out.
The stomach is only about the size of a fist. That holds one to two liters of food comfortably, but we can squeeze up to four liters in it.
The next time you're out, think about how much you really need to eat — how much you need to put into that fist. Can you save some of what is on the plate for another full meal?
Don't let your eyes (and society's misconstrued idea of a serving size) guide you on the choices for your nutritional needs.