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Smaller Plates Don't Mean Less Food for Overweight Girls

Update Date: Mar 27, 2015 05:21 PM EDT

Diet hacks like eating on smaller plates don't always work, according to researchers.

New research reveals that this is particularly true for overweight teens.

"It has been assumed that overweight or obese consumers are more likely than others to underestimate the size of a food serving and accordingly overeat--particularly when the food is presented on a large dinner plate or in a large container," psychiatry professor Lance Bauer said in a news release. "For this reason and others, it is frequently recommended that these consumers use smaller plates to defeat the illusion."

After measuring attentiveness and perception of a constant portion size relative to different plate sizes, researchers found that overweight girls were significantly less attentive than normal weight girls to visual cues of different plate sizes.

"The study found that, on average, overweight or obese adolescent girls were less attentive than normal weight girls to visual cues of different types," Bauer explained. "This finding suggests that changing the size of their dinnerware may be less effective than we thought. It also suggests that presenting them with detailed charts summarizing diet rules or calorie counts might also be less effective than we would like."

"The study's results imply that diet education for overweight or obese adolescents should be clear, simple, repeated, and interesting," Bauer concluded. "The next step might involve incorporating information about an overweight or obese child's cognitive abilities in his or her weight loss treatment. In diet education, one size might not fit all."

The latest study involved 162 girls between the ages of 14 and 18.

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