I had a few minutes before a meeting last week. As I got off the freeway, I spotted a Barnes and Noble bookstore. I went in and browsed. Since it was January and New Year’s resolution season, diet books were prominently displayed in the middle of the store. One of these caught my eye, The 9-Inch “Diet”: Exposing the Big Conspiracy in America by Alex Bogusky and Chuck Porter. The book was written by a man who bought a lake house built in the 1940s. He was putting things away in the kitchen and discovered that his plates would not fit into the cupboard. He did some research and found out that the average size of a dinner plate in the 1940s was 9 inches. These days, the size of an average dinner plate is closer to 12 inches. Using this fact as his inspiration, he decided to try using 9 inch dinner plates himself. He discovered that he was satisfied with much less food when he ate off of these 9 inch plates. He soon found himself losing weight, and that was the inspiration for the book.
This information about the 9 inch plates is not new to me. Brian Wansink wrote about it in his book, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. Brian Wansink researches the eating habits of average Americans. His research led to the discovery that people will eat less when food is served in smaller dishes or containers.
We Americans seem to be in love with the idea that bigger is better. Americans eat out more than people in other countries with the exception of Japan. Restaurants have accustomed us to expecting large servings. Our plates have grown over the years, and so have our appetites and waistlines.
Large dishes seem to be a uniquely American phenomenon. I went to a Chinese house goods store in Los Angeles some time ago and noticed that the dishes that they sold were much smaller than I was used to seeing in a typical American store. I don’t often see Chinese people with a weight problem. After seeing their dishes, it’s no wonder why.
I’ve been using smaller dishes more and more myself. I have a large set of Corelle, much of which was purchased open stock. My set includes what they call luncheon plates. I measured them, and discovered that they are just about 9 inches wide. They are perfect for following a 9 inch plate diet. I also have in my set the small 10 ounce bowls. I find that the smaller size is perfect for the smaller portions I prefer. Of course, even the dinner plates in my set aren’t terribly big. They measure 10 1/4 inches across. That is quite a bit smaller than the 12 inches commonly found in stores today. In addition to my Corelle, I also have little sauce dishes. These work well for serving out nuts and dried fruit. I can vouch for the fact that eating from smaller dishes leads to eating less. It’s certainly working out that way for me.