In the Western world, we’re in the privileged position of focussing a lot of worry on over-eating and frankly, how to keep the weight off. A new study led by Dutch ‘designer who works with food’ Marije Vogelzang for her ongoing project Volumes, explores how the presentation of food on a plate can affect how much our brain wants us to consume and therefore deal with our issues with overeating. By experimenting with placing shaped objects between food in a bowl or plate, she found that the brain would register more food than was actually there and in doing so, tell the stomach that it had had enough. The designer, who heads up the Food Design Department at Design Academy Eindhoven, has done this to very pleasing – if slightly strange – colourful effect.
“Food styling is not just vain aesthetics,” Vogelzang says. “Food styling makes people eat with more care and attention. By giving more attention to the presentation of our food we might be able to change our mindless consumption behaviour into a mindful experience.” She has used the example of eating shelled peanuts and leaving the shells on the table while doing so. “We will eat less than if we would take the shells away directly after eating the peanuts. In the words of food psychologist Brian Wansink (Cornell University), “we are not designed to actually keep track of how much we’ve consumed. Most of us seem to rely on the size – the volume – of the food to tell us when we’re full. We usually try to eat the same visible amount of food we’re used to eating.”
Vogelzang made the playful objects by covering stones in food-safe and heat-resistant silicone and in each plate or bowl, has placed the colourful pieces centrally to reduce the available space for food. This way, the idea is that the eater can be in more in touch with signals from the brain telling them when they have eaten enough.
The placement of food is one thing, but very often, says Vogelzang it’s the plates and bowls themselves that have set the bad habits in motion. “For centuries most of the tableware china consisted of plates and bowls. These plates and bowls have grown together with our consumption behaviour in the last centuries. We are adding the next step. Volumes to give body to your food and to keep your body healthy.”