Will shrinking ice creams help us lose weight?

Ice lolly eaten


Unilever has announced that it will introduce a 250 calories cap on its single serving products such as Magnum ice creams from Spring 2016.

Not everyone is happy.

Objections seem to fall into two types:

  1. We’re being cheated
  2. We’re being nannied

The first objection relates to the drop in price being proportionately small compared with the drop in size of the ice cream.  It’s easy to feel you are being duped when the treat you love has got smaller without dropping in price much, if at all.

The second boils down to the argument that we should be free to eat as much as we like without the state (or in this case global business) interfering. As though we’re being manipulated. Well we are manipulated, all the time, by advertising. And we’ve been brain-washed over the last few decades by the steady growth in portion size of pre-prepared foods into thinking that current portion sizes are OK. Increasing portion sizes don’t seem to have attracted the sort of criticism which follows reducing them.

All sorts of portions are now way out of line with the amounts of food our bodies need. And look where it’s got us. Eating the amount our bodies need has become really difficult for many of us. And although we never technically need sweets or ice creams, most of us buy them. And if we are buying and consuming them, the size of those treats matters.


It wouldn’t matter so much if we could gauge how much to eat and throw the rest away. Then the food giants could sell food in whatever size they wanted without us gaining weight. But deploring waste is woven in to the psyche of people who remember food shortages or who are concerned about scarce global resources. It leads to always finishing what we started eating. I haven’t come across anyone who thinks that wasting food is a good thing. It’s not. But finishing food because it’s there is simply another form of wasting food. And it leads to us overeating.

Much of the response of the food industry to the problem of us overeating has been to adjust what’s in the food to lower calorie versions. But it’s rare to find a reduced calorie alternative that’s as tasty or satisfying as its “real” equivalent. Some alternatives are frankly not worth eating.

Noel Clarke, brand building director for ice cream for Unilever UK & Ireland, said:

‘It was important there be no compromise to taste or quality and that’s exactly what we’ve delivered. Our products will still taste as good as ever.’


I’m delighted to hear this. I’d rather have a smaller version of what I really like any day, because the first mouthfuls of any food are more enjoyable than the rest because of how our taste buds work. This means that the smaller version hit the spot just as well as a larger one would, without the extra calories.

Appetite Retraining is all about learning to eat the amount of food our bodies need by tuning in to our natural hunger and fullness signals. What’s interesting is that when you wait to eat until you’re definitely hungry, you’re more likely to fancy real food rather than processed sugary and fatty foods. But when you really do fancy an ice cream, you simply have it and really enjoy it. And stop when you’re just full.

Follow me on twitter for more about eating in tune with your body @appetite_doctor

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