Every week, a local restaurant, El Gato Cantina, hosts $5 margarita night. This restaurant usually attracts a large crowd because of their large margarita variety and delicious, authentic Mexican food.
Coming home after enjoying a night at El Gato, I found myself unsatisfying-ly full and not feeling that well. Why was that?
Over consumption, that’s what. This article, by Wansink, describes the many cues that tell us when we are over eating. I hadn’t realized them at the time, but looking back on my night, there were a few cues that came into play…
Once you are seated at El Gato, you are presented with a never-ending basket full of house made chips and salsa. These are refilled whenever the waiter/waittress sees they are running low. Cue #1 from Wansink: when quantities are refillable, we don’t realize when we eat more. I don’t even remember how many times the basket of chips was refilled, just that there were always chips available. Wansink also says (cue #2 for me) that we are more aware of food when it’s stockpiled and within reach.
My friends and I had eaten a bit of some homemade pizza before going to El Gato, so that we would be full and not order any food. Did that work? No. Just looking at the menu made my mouth water. Mexican may be one of my favorite cuisines. Wansick argues (cue #3) that when we expect food to taste good, it will. Items on the menu with exotic or elaborate descriptions not only sound good, we already assume they taste good. So of course, I ordered some food. And cue #4 of my over consumption for the night: larger portions. “The size of a portion gives us a perceptual consumption clue as to what’s acceptable.” We will eat more when more is available versus smaller portions. No brainer right?
It should be except that many of us partake in over consumption at one point or another. If this over consumption could be in the form of grapes or carrots, then it may not be such a bad thing, but chips and candy it could be. What other cues might there be or how can we be more aware of when this happens?