The Side-Plate Diet: New Research On Portion Sizes

Hello friends

As many of you know, I am a keen proponent of losing weight, or keeping weight off, by controlling your portion sizes. You eat normally (though healthily) but use smaller plates to impose control over your food intake. This has worked extraordinarily well for me. I started doing The Side Plate Diet about eleven months ago and it has transformed by body and my relationship to eating.

The BMJ this week reports that

~ Theresa Marteau from the University of Cambridge and colleagues recently published a Cochrane review that found the “most conclusive evidence to date” that people consume more food or drinks from larger size portions or packages, and when using larger items of tableware.

Additionally, they say that reducing portion sizes may mean going back to the noticeably smaller tableware which was being used in the 1950s, and suggest that one change which could make a difference would be,

 ~ Designing tableware to encourage smaller mouthfuls, such as, shallow plates, straight sided glasses, cutlery.

My views and information on plate sizes, if you want to read more, are here. And if you are worried about your weight and would like to try The Side Plate Diet, use the search bar at the right of the blog, and have a look at this.

This new research has some great suggestions and is taking a very sensible and longer-term view about reducing over-consumption and preventing obesity. The most recent statistics showing the problem in the UK of childhood obesity are, frankly, alarming.

The possibility of a new sugar-tax being implemented is also currently at the top of the agenda here, but we have a long way to go.

side plate diet

Using smaller plates is a very easy approach to dieting. It works.

Please share the buzz ~

Annie Bee x

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New Research On The Importance Of Portion Sizes

Some of the news headlines today about a new piece of research (which is in fact a round up of 61 previous studies) are,

 ~ Portion size key in tackling obesity, says study

 ~ Growing portion sizes a major factor in rising UK obesity, study finds

 ~ End to supersizing could reverse obesity trend

 ~ Want To Lose Weight? Buy Smaller Plates!

The Cambridge University led team of researchers says that by simply replacing large sizes of foods and drinks with standard amounts, British consumers could reduce overall calorie intake by up to 16 per cent. Over a year, that could result in weight loss of around two stone. If American adults did the same, they could reduce their intake by 22%-29%.

One of the ways of achieving this, the authors say, is by shifting away from a culture of large dinner plates, wine glasses and “supersize” portions. They found that people offered portions of food or crockery in larger sizes “consistently” consumed more of what they were given.

Add to this the well-documented evidence that portion sizes of packaged foods have increased substantially, and you have a recipe for trouble. My blog post The Side Plate Diet: Portion Distortion from earlier this year cites a number of pieces of research on the subject.

side plate diet portion distortion

Of today’s news, Dr Alison Tedstone, the chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “This study clearly demonstrates that reducing portion sizes is a successful way to cut calories. Given that almost two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese, it’s important to keep an eye on portion sizes when cooking, shopping and eating out to avoid overeating and help maintain a healthy weight.” You can find the full research on the Cochrane Library webiste.

Well you could always try my simple solution, which is to eat all your meals off a side plate. How small will it need to be? Have a read of my Side Plate blog post.

It has worked for me  ~ I am a very healthy weight and I am eating perfectly normal, healthy food; in addition, I am avoiding adding a layer of what I regard as complication, such as calorie counting, fasting, or the cutting out of one food group (for example carbs).

Give it a go. I can highly recommend it. And please share the buzz!

side plate diet

side plate diet

Annie Bee x

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You Cannot Get Fat Without Eating Too Much

happy Sunday

Sundays can be a bit of a mixed bag really. They can be slow and without purpose. They can be full of dread for the week ahead. They can be a day of dashed hope ~ you plan for brunch in the garden and it turns out to be cold and wet as it is here in the ‘burbs today (many degrees below the July norm).

They can also be a day of resolution, particularly when it comes to fitness, health, dieting and wellbeing. All diets start on a Monday – every woman knows that and those decisions for a NEW YOU tend to be formulated on a Sunday. You resolve to change your attitude to all sorts of things on a Sunday – how tidy you keep the kitchen, cooking pancakes from scratch instead of buying them pre-packaged, building a new veg patch in a sunny bit of the garden. But surely more than anything else, losing weight.

One of the most sensible and interesting exponents of diet and health in the UK is Susan Jebb OBE, who is a nutrition scientist, and the Professor of Diet and Population Health at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford; she is also the UK Government’s advisor on obesity. Her many years of research on human metabolism has proved without a doubt that you

………. cannot get fat without eating too much .

Metabolism is a bit of a red herring in her view and energy intake is KEY: she says that ultimately, obesity is about food intake. Other factors (physical exercise, metabolism etc.) play a relatively small role.

If you are thinking about your weight, diet and health this Sunday I urge you to have a look at my previous posts on the side plate diet (see the Search Buzz Subjects bar on the right) and follow my instagram posts (Annie Bee on instagram ) which will help to show how easy it is to follow.

Side Plate Diet breakfast

Side Plate Diet lunch pic

Hope you are having a pleasant and fruitful Sunday.

Annie Bee x

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Sugar? Carbs? Inactivity? What Is Causing The Obesity Crisis?

Everywhere you look these days, there is a vast amount of information on obesity and weight loss. Most of it makes very scary reading.

A few days ago I was listening to the UK’s leading expert on obesity, Susan Jebb OBE, on Radio 4’s The Life Scientific. She is a nutrition scientist, and the Professor of Diet and Population Health at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford; she is also the UK Government’s advisor on obesity in the United Kingdom. One of the headline things I learnt from listening to the interview, is that her many years of research on human metabolism has proved without a doubt that you “cannot get fat without eating too much”. Metabolism is a bit of a red herring in her view and energy intake is KEY: she said that ultimately, obesity is about food intake. Other factors (physical exercise, metabolism etc) play a relatively small role. She did make the very encouraging point though, that a fairly small weight loss  (she gave an example of losing 4kgs which is less than a stone) significantly lowers the risk of diabetes in those predisposed to the disease.

Prof Susan Jebb

Professor Susan Jebb

Obesity and being overweight affects all the organs in the body detrimentally (as well as joints) and is undoubtedly the biggest health threat to the nation.  Another frightening statistic I heard this week was that £1 in every £5 spent by the NHS is as a result of people’s poor lifestyle choices – over-eating, smoking, too much alcohol, drug-taking and inactivity.

One of Prof Jebb’s pieces of research which particularly interests me (in relation to The Side Plate Diet) is entitled, Is plate clearing a risk factor for obesity? A cross-sectional study of self-reported data in US adults. The conclusion was that

….. the tendency to clear one’s plate when eating is associated with increased body weight and may constitute a risk factor for weight gain.

You can read it in full here:

I was on a bit of a research roll at this point, so I also watched the US documentary film, “Fed Up”, about the US food industry. One of the many ideas the film posited was the view that you cannot exercise your way out of being overweight. Physical exercise of course has benefits to your overall health but weight is mainly about the types of food we are eating.The film was jam-packed full of deeply worrying statistics (the growth of Type 2 Diabetes in pre-teens in the US being one) but the main thrust was the very great danger of eating too much sugar, and to some extent, sugar substitutes which have the effect of making you crave more sugary foods. (Note to self: Diet Coke may not be as harmless as it looks).

Sugar , according to the film, is the new tobacco.

Fed Up movie

Today, the following research has made the news, via the British Journal of Sports Medicine

Excess sugar and carbs, not physical inactivity, are behind the surge in obesity.

It’s time to bust the myth that anyone—and that includes athletes—can outrun a bad diet.

Regular exercise is key to staving off serious disease, such as diabetes, heart disease, and dementia, write the authors, but our calorie laden diets now generate more ill-health than physical inactivity, alcohol, and smoking combined. Read more here:

If you still have a sense of humour after reading that round-up, have a look at Homer Simpson main-lining sugar:

Homer Simpson

Happy eating!

Annie Bee x

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The Side-Plate Diet: Portion Distortion

In my first two blogs (see the February archive on the right of this post) I was talking in fairly general terms about portion sizes, plate sizes, obesity and the simplicity of my Side-Plate Diet.

In this piece, I want to discuss Portion Distortion. No matter how healthily you might be eating, if you eat too much and take in too much fuel and fail to burn it, you will put on weight.

Over ten years ago the UK charity, The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) reported that over the previous 20 years food portions got ever bigger. Burgers were 112%  larger than in 1982, pasta servings 480% larger, and chocolate chip cookies 700% bigger. The UK Government has not updated their information on typical portion sizes consumed in the UK for over 20 years.

Dr Jeffrey Prince of the WCRIF said: “Between 1980 and  2003 portion sizes ballooned, and so did people. These two trends occurred simultaneously. Common sense tells you there must be a connection. Most weight loss success stories centre around reduced portion sizes. It’s a simple fact, if you eat less, you’ll lose excess weight”. Since then, things have probably got even worse regarding serving sizes, but the adage ‘eat less, lose weight’ remains true.


Packaging of our food plays an important role. The bigger the package, the more food you’ll pour out of it. When two groups of people were given 1/2 lb or 1 lb bags of M&Ms to eat while watching TV, those given the 1-pound bag ate nearly twice as much. The more you load onto your plate, the more you will eat. There are many studies to back this up (for more in-depth research take a look here: ). The NHS recommends, in their information on dieting, that we should be eating with smaller plates and bowls.

Previous Annie Bee  posts which cover this topic, in case you missed them, are here:

By only eating off side-plates like I do (for me, 3 a day means I am slowly losing the weight I need to without feeling weak and feeble – clearly the number of side plates will change depending on your gender, age, size etc and I am NOT advocating doing this diet if you do not need to lose weight in a sensible manner) this problem with portion distortion is largely solved for you. NB: I use 7 inch side-plates – make sure you get the size right. There are challenges around ensuring you still get enough fruit and veg, and keeping your food intake healthy and balanced but as long as you don’t snack (I literally now don’t so much as pick up an extra cherry tomato while walking past the fruit bowl) this diet works.

Other bits of diet advice which seem to be universal are: Eat slowly. Put your cutlery down between bites. Don’t eat in front of the TV.

Look out very soon for more in-depth information on the Side-Plate Diet  and let me know if you are giving it a go. I would love to receive some photos too.


There are some more pics you might like here

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Annie Bee x

The Side-Plate Diet: The Background

Most of us who are even slightly overweight are aware that, although no doubt a  complex area from a medical/nutrition point of view, our weight comes down to Calories In, Calories Out. As a neighbour of mine pointed out once, when I had exclaimed about her marvellous weight-loss (and rather put me in my place), “it’s not rocket science”.

Indeed it is not, and yet why do so many of us struggle with our weight? And I do not just mean middle-aged women like me; obesity (the description of which, on the NHS website, is  ‘somebody who is very overweight, with a lot of body fat. It’s a common problem, estimated to affect around one in every four adults and around one in every five children aged 10 to 11 in the UK’) is one of the biggest problems facing the long-term health of the population in the UK today.

The Guardian recently reported, “The UK has higher levels of obesity and overweight people than anywhere in western Europe except for Iceland and Malta, according to an authoritative global study that raises fresh concerns about the likely health consequences”. And from The Lancet: ” Because of the established health risks and substantial increases in prevalence, obesity has become a major global health challenge. Not only is obesity increasing, but no national success stories have been reported in the past 33 years. Urgent global action and leadership is needed to help countries to more effectively intervene.”

We know that the Calories Out bit is to do with burning the fuel which is our food; also not a simple issue (we are all different with different abilities, different metabolisms and definitely different levels of motivation) but essentially we all know we need to be ACTIVE. (The additional health benefits impact on our chances of getting cancer, dementia and a whole host of problems).

For the purposes of this piece, it is the Calories In bit which I want to share some ideas with you about. We are bombarded with information on healthy eating, diets, fitness regimes, super-foods etc. I went onto Amazon UK and found there were in excess of 131,000  diet books to be had  – it is mind-boggling to think how much more information is out there on the internet about the subject. How may different diets can you name? How many have you been on? Has the weight-loss been maintained? (If the answer to that last question is ‘yes’, well done). Has a diet you have been on left you feeling weak and pathetic rather than strong and healthy?

To make things simple I have devised the Side-Plate Diet: no calorie counting, no eating different things from the rest of the family, no need for bizarre ingredients (unless that is what makes you tick), but rather finding the “Golden Mean” –  the desirable middle  ground between the extremes of deficiency (not enough food) and excess (over-eating).  Healthy eating but with portion control at the forefront of the approach. I came across one diet (which no doubt has its avid followers and no doubt works for some people) which seems to use little ladles of different colours in which foods must be weighed, added up before being turned into a meal (not to mention you have to buy these cute little ladles). By limiting yourself to a set number of side-plates per day, being sensible (yes, I know, a Mars Bar fits very nicely onto a side-plate – the occasional treat is OK but this is a diet), and sticking to nutritious, balanced foods, you avoid the danger of over-eating and, very importantly (a problem for so many of us and certainly me) snacking.

Research has long highlighted  that people who keep a record of what they eat and drink and how active they are – known to health professionals as ‘self-monitoring’ have more weight-loss success. With the Side-Plate Diet I would urge you to keep a photo diary every day: unless you are a Luddite, chances are you, or somebody who lives in your house, will have access to a digital camera (preferably on your mobile phone). By taking pictures of the plates, you can see just how well you are doing but also analyse whether you are still managing to get enough fruit and veg, what the level of carbs are (it is easy to think that a piece of toast fits well onto a side plate and make that the basis of your meals) but also share what you are eating with others (including me). If taking pics is a problem, write it down.

My next piece will be “What Exactly Is A Side-Plate” – you probably think that sounds mad, but let me tell you, size matters! Also coming soon: Being Active, Portion Distortion, Calories Out.

Thanks for reading.

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