Plate size, meal size, fat shaming and food waste

When Alie Ward recently posted this photo on twitter asking “How can I get these plates from @Macys banned in all 50 states?”, her tweet had 6,700 replies, 5,900 retweets and 49,700 likes. That’s a lot of activity. I’ve scrolled down the first 50 replies and they are a mix of praising Alie Ward for calling out fat shaming and potentially triggering people with eating disorders, and attacking her for being offended, lacking a sense of humour and imposing this on people who would like to buy the plates.

Brian Ries reported the story, which is essentially about fat shaming, for CNN:

Portion-control plates are A Thing

I hadn’t realised just how much of a thing portion-size plates had become until I read the tweet and the CNN piece, and googled “portion size plate” which came up with over 90 million results. Ninety. Million. Presumably they’ve taken off because eating and drinking vessels have increased in size over recent decades, along with what we see as normal portion sizes. Eating more than our bodies need day-in, day-out, leads to weight gain, so it makes sense to reduce our portions back down to the amount our bodies need, and a plate with a slogan or one made of moulded melamine might help.

I recently went to a Fine Art degree show at University of the Arts London where this lovely ceramic plate caught my eye. It’s one of the ‘Stop Food Waste’ inaugaural collection of six 10 inch dinner plates for new concept “Provocative Porcelain” by the Big Tomato Company. The Big Tomato Company’s website explains that the “How hungry are you?” dinner plate by Yue Pan aims to remind people to consider the portion they require for a meal, in order to reduce food waste from over-taking and over-cooking.


The point that Big Tomato make is that not only is eating more than we need bad for our waistlines – it’s bad for the planet. I think that with all the (important) focus on food waste through the production chain from farm to fork, what sometimes gets left out is the waste that happens when we swallow food that we don’t need.

I know the libertarian argument that we should be free to eat what and how much we eat. Well, yes, but if we think that by eating much more than our bodies need we are simply expressing freedom of will, we have not factored in the fact that by eating more we are spending more and that if Jacques Peretti’s excellent BBC2 documentary series “The Men Who Made us Fat” and David Kessler’s excellent book “The End of Overeating” are anything to go by, Big Food is spending very Big Bucks on encouraging us to over-consume, to ensure that we over-spend on food.

So what do you think of a plate that nudges you to think about the size of what you’re eating?

Getting the amount our bodies need in an environment of excessive supply takes thought/effort. Plates that help us gauge what we need so that

  • We eat just what our bodies need and stop the regular over-consumption that leads to weight gain
  • We waste less food

are potentially helpful in nudging us in the right direction, towards a healthy-sized portion.  But you might prefer an App, like the one developed by The Gastric Guru, which allows you to use your phone, with any plate, to gauge amounts. Or you might prefer to judge by training your eye to know how much is just right for you.

Your Plate or Mine?

What a healthy-sized portion means for you may be different from what it means for me. Our dinner plates at home are quite big. When I sit down to eat with my family we all eat the same food, but while my husband and (adult and still growing) children eat from the dinner plates, I choose a side plate. I’ve done this ever since I started work on Appetite Retraining, because it helps me focus on the amount of food I’m serving myself. Whilst my family don’t need to reduce their portion sizes, it was a revelation to me when I embarked on retraining my own appetite that I was eating more than I needed every evening without thinking. And on this subject, when I began retraining my own appetite I was keenly aware that my daughter was in her mid-teens and I didn’t want to give her any negative messages around eating. When she asked why I was eating off a smaller plate, I explained that in my 50s my body had slowed down and I now needed less food than the rest of the family. She seemed OK with this and it hasn’t been an issue since, but it’s something you may find yourself thinking about if you regularly eat with someone who’s struggling with their weight and eating. On the other hand, focusing on the idea of what our bodies need and on eating all our favourite foods is a healthy message to be sharing.

So what did Macy’s do in response to Alie Ward’s tweet?

They apologised for “missing the mark” on this product and removed the plates from sale.

The President of Pourtions, the makers of the plates said, “We feel very strongly about the positive, light hearted message conveyed by our glasses & plates. The response today has been overwhelmingly positive, including more interest in Pourtions & sales today than ever before”. As the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad publicity!

Related articles

Plate-clearing: vice or virtue?

I eat too much but don’t want to cut down, what can I do?

Help! Can somebody remind me how to eat less? 

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