Newswise – At, we know what it’s like to get fat, but we’re here to HELP you, by posting a new chapter of Anne Strieber’s diet book on this website every Monday. What makes people overeat? Researchers discovered that people eat too much when they are served large portions, even of foods they don’t like.

In a university study, when researchers tested this by serving moviegoers stale popcorn in big buckets, people ate 34% more than those given the same stale popcorn in medium-sized containers. Fresh popcorn in large tubs resulted in people eating even more?45% more than those given fresh popcorn in medium-sized containers. This research project also explains why movie theaters don’t bother to give us good, freshly-popped popcorn anymore.

Economist Brian Wansink says, “We’re finding that portion size can influence intake as much as taste. Large packages and containers can lead to overeating foods we do not even find appealing.”

Wansink gave 158 moviegoers either medium (4.2 oz) or large (8.4 oz) tubs of free popcorn that was either fresh or 14 days old. The researchers asked the moviegoers to describe the popcorn after the movie, the 14-day-old popcorn was described with such remarks as “stale” and “it was terrible.” But that didn?t stop them from eating it all.

When the moviegoers were asked if they thought they ate more because of the size of the container, 77% of those given the large tubs said they would have eaten the same amount if given a medium container. “This means that the moviegoers were unaware that the exceptional amount they ate was due to the size of the container,” says Wansink.

Wansink thinks this isn’t because of a clean-your-plate mentality, but because large packages and portions suggest larger consumption norms. “They implicitly suggest what might be construed as a ‘normal’ or ‘appropriate’ amount to consume,” says Wansink. In another experiment, he gave volunteers different-sized bags of M&Ms to eat while watching a videotape; those given larger bags ate twice as much as those with smaller bags.

If you?re trying to get your kids to eat their vegetables, this can work to your advantage. Don’t give them a tiny amount, give them a lot. Wansink says, “While a small bowl of raw carrots might make for a good afternoon snack, a large bowl might be even better.”

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