Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The 9 Inch Plate Diet

Fitness Special: The Nine-Inch Plate Diet
An author has figured out why Americans are so fat. And he's on a mission to change our eating habits—one (small) plate at a time.
By Kirsten Matthew

Photos: Courtesy The 9 Inch Diet

Alex Bogusky doesn't think bigger is better. He believes we should think small—especially if we want to stay trim. The idea that if you eat less, you weigh less is hardly a new concept, but it's one that Alex has packaged into a tidy little eating plan and book, The 9-Inch Diet, that hits stores this week.

His "eureka" moment came after buying a 1940s lake house. The co-chairman of Crispin Porter + Bogusky, an ad agency, discovered the old kitchen cabinets wouldn't fit his dinner plates. So he did some research and found out that in the past 30 years, plates have gone from 8.5 inches in diameter to 12 inches.

Those plates get piled high with food in homes across the country and that, Alex says, is the reason why so many of us are packing on the pounds. His remedy is simple: It doesn't matter what you eat, just eat 9 inches of it—not 12. And when it comes to snacks, Alex says, stick to healthy ones and don't eat too many. The same goes for booze: "Nothing more than a glass of wine with dinner," he advises.
The 45-year-old admits that eating out is the biggest challenge to his plan. "Of all the things restaurants have to provide—staff, furniture, ambience—food is the cheapest," he says. "That dynamic has forced them to give us too much. And we've followed with our portions at home."

Next to Japan, we eat at restaurants more than any other nation in the world—4.2 times a week to be exact. And folks in the Big Apple dine out even more often: According to the Department of Health, New Yorkers get at least a third of their calorie intake away from home.

The obesity rate in Italy and France is almost 70 percent lower than in the U.S. That's because "their standard plate size is still 10 inches," says Alex, compared with our 12.

To fix that, Alex, who lives in Boulder, Colo., but is a regular visitor to NYC (his dad grew up in the Bronx), suggests we throw out our crockery and start over. Within a week of eating on smaller plates, he claims, our stomachs and brains will be sated by smaller servings.

But what about those of us who eat out for every meal? "No diet is going to work if you do that," Alex explains. But if you do, you should start thinking creatively about how to avoid overeating. Order off the kids' menu, for example. "It's a great tip!" the author exclaims. "Don't be embarrassed about it." Or order a regular meal, then eat only the part that fits on a salad plate. "If the server won't bring you one, spread out your hand. That's the area your food should fit into," says Alex, who has lost 15 pounds by following his own plan for the past four years.

His favorite tip? Stuff a paper plate in your bag (typically they are 9 inches in diameter) so you always have a guide. "If you're dedicated, it's not that weird," says Alex.
"I like the idea of carrying something around with you," he says of his paper plate tip. "It's just strange enough to catch on. Someone needs to come up with a line of plates that travel," he adds. "Maybe I'll do a collaboration with Kate Spade."