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with Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Dishing Yourself into a Smaller Size

The day after Barbara Walter’s infamous Monica Lewinsky interview 10 years ago, I found myself at the White House surrounded by a large group of the most highly decorated women athletes in history. I was covering the preview of Billy Jean King’s documentary “Dare to Compete” on the history of women and sports, hosted by First Lady Hilary Clinton. I will never forget that gathering of luminaries, from Billie Jean to Chris Everett and Nadia Comaneci.

But there was one particular memory I treasured from that event. During the hour prior to the screening, we were milling around talking and munching on a very enticing selection of finger foods. When it was my turn to make my choices, I grabbed a dinner plate and found myself standing next to 6’5″ basketball super star Lisa Leslie and her 6’3″ mother Christine. We chatted and laughed as I noted that at 5’9″, I finally experienced what it felt like to be the short one!

Then I noticed that Lisa was holding a small plate and was very carefully selecting what to eat. I kidded her saying “Heck, at your height you could eat anything”, and she quickly replied, “No, you’re wrong. Just because I’m tall and active doesn’t mean I can eat anything I want. I had to learn that the hard way. So, I watch my weight by watching my plate.” She’s right. And now I’m going to teach you how to dish yourself into a smaller size using Lisa’s words of wisdom.

In my books I teach you how to pay attention to the quality, quantity and frequency of eating. Let’s look closer at how much you’re eating. Even though you may be consuming healthy foods, if you eat too much, you still gain weight. At the end of the day, a calorie is a calorie. So, an easy way to cut your calories is to cut the size of your plate.

Let’s look at the plates we’re filling at meal time. Here are the facts. In the 1960′s a dinner plate size was 9 inches and fit about 800 calories of food. By the late 1980′s, it was up to 10 inches adding another 200 calories for a total of 1000 calories. By 2000, the newly enlarged 11 inch dinner plate held 1,600 calories and today’s 12 inch packed plate can handle almost 1,900 calories. We’ve doubled the number of calories you can fit on that plate. Now you see the problem with going back for seconds and thirds. Just do the math.

So here’s a homework assignment for everyone. Rummage around in your china cabinet and see if you can find your grandmother’s dinner ware. Or hit an antique store or even a flea market and grab just one 9 inch dinner plate. At your next meal, whip out that 9 incher and place it next to your usual dinner plate. Fill up the smaller one with a healthy and balanced selection of veggies, lean protein and whole grains. Now place those foods onto your 12 incher. What a difference. Memorize what this looks like so that when you’re eating out you know you’re your new normal portion should look like. This will also teach you to be much more mindful of portion sizes. This exercise will help you pay much more attention to how much you eat all day long. Hey, and don’t even think about piling your 9 inch plate a mile high. That’s plate abuse!

While you’re home you might want to just use 9 inch plates if you’ve got them. By doing so, you’ll be cutting your calories in half. Or, if you’re going to use the 12 inchers, you may be dismayed by what appears to be a much smaller meal lost on that larger plate. Don’t worry. All you have to do is fill it up with more watery veggies (e.g. not heavy starches), like string beans, asparagus, broccoli or just salad mixed greens. Science has shown that when you have a plate of food in front of you, your mind, not your stomach, is controlling your perception of fullness and satisfaction. So, load up, but just do it smartly.

Like Lisa, you too can watch your weight by watching your plate. Dish it up and you’ll be zipping it up in no time.

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Posted by: Pamela Peeke, MD at 3:28 pm

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