Mindless eating? That’s crazy!
Eating without thinking (mindless eating) is crazy, but here’s the good news – you can act crazy, without actually being crazy.
If you were watching TV in the 1970s, it’s a sure bet you saw the Alka-Seltzer ad “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”. About 30 years later, Brian Wansink’s 2006 book “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think” provided some insights about why we eat like crazy sometimes. Wansink and the team at the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab discovered what drives our food choices. What they found was both illuminating and disturbing. We have psychological activators and environmental cues that override our onboard physiological satiety sensors. The food industry leveraged those research results and modified product packaging and serving sizes that hyper-sensitized the body’s triggers and supersized our conditioned responses. Here’s fifteen not-so-fun eating facts from the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab about why we sometimes Eat Like Crazy.
Participants who plan to use physical conditioning as their primary tool for weight loss, self-serve themselves 58.9 % more M&M’s and 51.9% more Chex Mix while preparing for their workout.
Children over the age of three and adults of every age, regardless of demographics, eat about 92% of the food they serve themselves, regardless of how healthy the selections are.
Action-related television shows, even when watched with the sound off, increased ad libitum eating by 65% compared to watching thought-provoking interview programs.
If the first person going through a self-serve buffet is simulating being overweight by wearing a “fat suit”, the next people in line serves themselves larger portions and select an unhealthy ratio of more pasta than salad, regardless of the pasta to salad ratio the “obese person” selected.
The more people pay for an “all you can eat” buffet, the more they eat.
People who perceive an eating occasion as a meal (served at noon, tables and chairs, flatware, ceramic plates and a drinking glass) consumed 27.9% more of the same entrées as participants who perceived the occasion as a snack (served at 3:30 pm, waist-high tables without stools, disposable dishes and dinnerware).
7. Size Matters
People overserve themselves when using larger dinnerware and underserve themselves when using smaller dinnerware.
People consume more liquids served in short glasses with a wide opening, than in tall glasses with a narrow opening.
At the movies, participants given popcorn filled with varieties rated unfavorable in non-movie settings, consumed 61% more when given large containers versus small containers.
Fast food calorie estimation by diners is always low, but the error depends on the Meal size being evaluated, not the diner’s body size.
11. Stockpiling Food
Stockpiling food increases consumption, regardless of how convenient it is to prepare.
Participants rated food re-labeled with more evocative descriptive menu names as having greater appeal, taste, and caloric density than the regularly-labeled counterparts.
Eating increases when meals are served under candlelight, especially if accompanied by soft music, good friends, and easy access to additional food and desserts.
A larger perceived variety of food choices in an organized display increases self-serve consumption more than disorganized displays of the same food selections.
The number of larger sizes in supermarkets increased 10-fold from 1970-2000. Jumbo-sized portions in restaurants are 250% bigger than regular-sized portions. Sizes of bowls, glasses and plates used in homes have increased 36% since 1960. In the 2006 edition of “The Joy of Cooking” some entrée serving sizes had increased 42% since the first edition was published in 1931.
Where Can You Go From Here?
Take A Breath – It’s Just Food
You’re in the driver’s seat again. Eating isn’t a race. Tasting your food takes time, so does chewing before swallowing. This is the rest of your life. Let’s not dilly-dally, but let’s not stroke-out either. You can do this.
Let’s start with eating changes that require zero will-power. Use smaller diner plates, serving platters and bowls. If you want to increase the intake of certain liquids (water, milk, etc.) breakout the small glasses with wide openings. If you want to decrease the intake of other liquids (coffee, tea, “adult beverages”), use the tall glasses with skinny openings.
Keep the dining area well-lit during meals. Cut recipes by 20%, no one will notice you didn’t cook as much, especially if you’re using smaller plates and bowls. Fill the plates in the kitchen, and don’t bring the serving containers to the dinner table. If possible, arrange the dinner table so eaters cannot see food in the kitchen. Put all leftovers in covered containers, or aluminum foil, and store them at the rear of the refrigerator or freezer. Put away all snacks before getting ready to workout.
Use common sense when stockpiling extra food. A few weeks is usually all that’s needed to get you through most emergencies. If the end of the world comes early, you’ll run out anyway…and then there’s the neighbors who didn’t plan ahead.
Put all your snacks in small cups or bowls, rather than setting an entire bag open within arm’s reach. If you’re watching action movies, or rival football games, have plenty of fruits and vegetables for snacks. You might get smaller crowds at your house, but you get smaller too. If you are serving lots of entrées, choose chaos over order when setting them out.
If you’re at a self-serve buffet with your tribe, send the skinny folk through the line first. Better yet, find a cheaper buffet. You won’t like it as much, unless they have upgraded the menu descriptions (Succulent Italian Seafood Filet vs. Seafood Filet). If you’re going for a trifecta, look for a cheap buffet with succulent descriptions above each item and small dinner plates.
Release…The Will Power!
You had it at one time. If you can’t find it, borrow someone else’s, until you can roll your own. Look into the mirror and say daily – “I don’t have to clean my plate. I can save it for later, use a smaller plate next time or just take less.”
Don’t try to guess the calorie content of fast foods at the drive-thru. You’ll get it wrong. Ask the faceless person who just said you could order whenever you were ready, what’s the actual calorie content of the incredibly healthy looking sandwich in the picture on the plastic sign staring back at you …or ditch the drive-thru altogether, go inside and read the full menu. If the calorie content isn’t on the menu, you’re not eating there. Don’t supersize anything, ever. It won’t taste as good as it looks and you won’t feel satisfied afterward.
You don’t have to earn the right to eat by restricting your food choices or enduring insanely intense two-a-day workout routines. You have the responsibility to feed body what it requires. You have the option to do that will delicious, mouth-watering meals that engage all your senses and leave long afterglows. Of course that will take more work than hiring someone to prepare food for you from whatever source they want. It may even end up costing you more, because you’re getting larger quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables that may go bad before being used. You may also upgrade to certified organic, which will also increase costs. But you will do better than when you just rolled with the paunches.