Skip to main content
FALL 2011
Print Bookmark and Share

Around the Quad

Lighter Lunch = Smaller Waistline

By Stephanie Salato and Susan S. Lang ’72

Tape MeasureIs it possible to lose weight without major dieting and hunger pangs? Yes, with one simple change in eating habits: opting for a smaller lunch, says David Levitsky, professor of nutritional sciences and psychology, and graduate student Carly Pacanowski.

When study volunteers ate a lighter lunch, they were no hungrier than usual, even though they didn’t increase their consumption later in the day or week to make up for the reduction in calories.

Levitsky and Pacanowski’s five-week investigation measured the food intake of volunteers Mondays through Fridays. For the first week, all participants ate whatever they wanted from a buffet. For the next two weeks, half of the participants were given commercially available portion-controlled lunches, but they could eat as much as they wished at other meals. For the final two weeks, the other half of the volunteers ate a portion-controlled lunch.

Over the 10 days of consuming smaller lunches, participants consumed 250 fewer calories per day than usual and lost, on average, 1.1 pounds.

“Over a year, such a regimen would result in losing at least 25 pounds,” says Levitsky. “Our bodies don’t have the mechanisms to detect a small drop in calorie intake, so we don’t compensate for it.”

If we eat less at one meal, we simply eat less—we don’t eat more at another time. So if you substitute a regular meal with a lower-calorie, portion-controlled one (“and there’s no need to spend money on high-protein, liquid meal replacements,” says Levitsky) you won’t notice—but the scales will.