“Obesity isn't as cool as it used to be, back in the earlier centuries. Before it was a reflection on your gross income, and now it's just plain gross.”
― Jarod Kintz, This Book is Not for Sale
Increased portion sizes have gone unnoticed by consumers unaware of their unhealthy actions and has become the trend because of its gradual incorporation in our eating habits. In just twenty years, significant differences among the sizes of products can be noticed and most often seen to have doubled(1). Not only are increasing portion sizes reaching dine-out style meals where hamburger, french-fry, and soda sizes are two to five times larger than originals, but they are making their way into the homes of our public. Recipes found in newer editions of Joy of Cooking, a popular home cookbook, shows fewer serving sizes coming from identical recipes of older editions. This can be explained to show that larger portion sizes are to be anticipated from the recipes.
With an unlimited meal plan and buffet-style meals, do we students know how big our portions should be? If we are accustomed to being served super-sized portions, we might not realize when we are serving ourselves over-sized portions in our dining halls. In fact, researchers have found that increased portion size is an even greater problem in cafeteria settings like ours, noting a positive association between larger food receptacles and increased consumption(2). A correlational study at Cornell found significant weight gain in freshmen during the first twelve weeks of school and identified that both the “all-you-can-eat” dining hall style and student snacking on “junk-food” were key variables explaining a positive linear relationship with weight gain(3).
An outline of a meal plan might help demonstrate the degree to which portion sizes have grown in our culture. If a person eats a 6-inch bagel and a 16-ounce coffee with sugar and milk for breakfast, two slices of pepperoni pizza and a 20-ounce soda for lunch, and a chicken Caesar salad and a 20-ounce soda for dinner, then that person has consumed about 1,600 calories more than a person twenty years ago would have, eating those same foods at portion sizes that were common at the time(4). The standard portions of common menu items that health professionals recommend, by contrast, are small. A serving of pasta should be a half cup, a serving of lean meat should be 3 ounces (around the size of a deck of cards), and the meat of your hamburger should be 3 ounces as well(5).
Keeping the Cornell study in mind, which implicated junk food and buffet-style eating as major contributors to weight gain, and taking on a macroscopic view, major risk factors contributing to the global obesity epidemic in fact include the growing presence of imported foods and fast foods in other countries and an increase in portion size. Micronesia just might be the perfect example. Around two out of every three Micronesians are obese,...