Richard G. Petty, MD

It's Not the Food, It's the Size of the Plate

I grew up in a culture where the aftermath of the Great Depression and the Second World War meant that every child was expected to eat everything on their plates. That created a bit of a problem when I first moved to the United States: my conditioning led me to try and eat every morsel of those huge American portions. Fortunately I quickly noticed the impact on my waistline.

I love simple but practical and important experiments. I have just read about some very nice research from the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada that fits the bill. It appears that simply using plates and cereal bowls with markers for proper portion sizes can help obese patients with diabetes lose weight. As a result, some can even decrease their use of glucose-controlling medications, according to a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Between 1960 and 2000, the proportion of U.S. adults who were obese increased from 13.4% to 30.9%. There is clearly an association between type 2 diabetes and obesity although it is not quite as simple as saying that obesity causes diabetes, at least not until the obesity becomes extreme. But we have known for half a century that calorie restriction may improve blood sugar control in diabetics, partially by contributing to weight loss.

The enormous increase in obesity has closely paralleled the explosion of portion sizes of both food and soft drinks.

The researchers conducted a six-month controlled trial of commercially available portion control plates and bowls in 2004. The plates were divided into sections for carbohydrates, proteins, cheese and sauce, with the rest left open for vegetables. The sections approximately totaled an 800-calorie meal for men and a 650-calorie meal for women. The cereal bowl was designed to allow a 200-calorie meal of cereal and milk. The subjects consisted of 130 obese patients with diabetes with an average age 56, half of whom were randomly assigned to use the plate for their largest meal and the bowl when they ate cereal for breakfast. The other half of the participants received usual care, which consisted of dietary assessment and teaching by dieticians.

At the end of the six-months, 122 patients remained in the study. Individuals using the portion-control dishes lost an average of 1.8 percent of their body weight, while those receiving usual care lost an average of 0.1 percent. A significantly larger proportion of those using the dishes – 16.9 percent vs. 4.6 percent – lost at least 5 percent of their body weight.

In addition, at the end of the six months, 26.2% needed a decrease in their diabetes medications compared with 10.8% in the control group.

These results are important: a 5% weight loss has been shown to be clinically significant in terms of decreasing morbidity and mortality associated with obesity-linked disorders.

Simple, straightforward and very practical.

Try it!

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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