studying your zagat's
October 21, 2003 11:30 AM

I have to say this is one of the more clever ways to approach comparative studies of portion size: some guy compares the Boston Zagat's guide to the Parisian one. And, shock, restaurants in Paris are described as serving much smaller dishes than restaurants in Boston.

Is anyone else thinking "well, DUH" here?

It seems obvious to anyone who eats out that not only are restaurants in American serving huge amounts of food, but the amounts have been steadily increasing over time. You can't even get a small french fry order at McDonald's without ordering a Happy Meal anymore (and McDonald's is no worse an offendor than anyone else). It's been years since I could successfully consume more than half of my food at dinner out, and I've established elsewhere that I still believe I eat (ate) too much.

Would limiting portion sizes prevent people from getting fat? Well, maybe and maybe not. It could keep some people from getting fatter by adopting the wildly vacillating dietary and exercise habits that are so popular. But then, I'm sure many of those people would still go on their starvation diets, though they might get accustomed to less of a wild swing if they ate less in general. Would they still get fat? Maybe more slowly, but yes. Would there still be fat people who actually ate perfectly reasonable amounts of food and were otherwise quite healthy? Or thin people who ate too much? Of course.

Fat or unfat aside, the whole portion size thing is emblematic of American culture - generous, unrestrained, free, and further evidence of our consumption of more than we need. And our guilt over overeating is all about our fear and awe that we consume too much overall - it is no coincidence that dieters reward themselves with new clothes, new cars, new whatevers. Which brings me back, as so many things do, to the fact that what we audibly worry about is just disguising the deeper concern - we worry about portion sizes instead of the things we think we can't control, like oil consumption, the rest of the world, etc.

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