WHY DO WE OVEREAT?

Brian Wasnik, Professor at Cornell University did research on why we overeat and how external cues influence us. Here are some revealing facts:

·LARGE BAGS. For moviegoers: when people were given a larger bucket they ate anywhere from 34 to 45 percent more, depending on the freshness of the popcorn.
·DISTANCE. Secretaries who had Hershey Kisses sitting directly at their desk ate about 9 candies each day. If the candy was placed six feet away from the desk, they only ate about four pieces.

·NAMES. Some cafes revealed that if they called their “Italian pasta” “Succulent Tuscany Pasta” sales jumped 27 percent. Same goes for “chocolate cake” and “Belgian Black Forest Cake”. If you see a fancy name, you will be led to believe that tastes better.

·ENTERTAINING. When you entertain, make sure that the first thing your guests eat is your best thing that you cooked. It has a powerful halo effect on everything else you will serve.

·EXPECTATION. People perceive a brownie or any other foods served on fancy china to be remarkably better, than served on napkins or paper plates. Next time you have people over for dinner, put out the nice china, pretty tablecloth and candles and people will think the dinner is amazing.

·FAMILY STYLE. If you leave food on the table, as in family style people will eat more.

·SPEED. If you are paired with a person who eats fast, you will eat about 50 percent more during your meal, than if you were sitting across somebody who eats slowly.

·REFILLABLE BOWLS. People were given unknowingly refillable soup bowls and ate 73 percent more than others. Their explanation was, “how can I be full? I have half a bowl of soup left.”

·ORGANIC. If people are given food labeled “organic” they estimate the caloric content to be 15 to 20 percent lower than nonorganic food.

·LOW FAT. If you give people a food that they think is low-fat, they eat 21 to 46 percent more calories. Their explanation is that if you eat something that isn’t as good as the real thing, you deserve a little bit more.

·EXERCISE. People who exercise frequently consume more calories, in particular from dessert, because they feel they deserve a treat.

·EXCUSES. People seem to always find a rationale to eat more. We are influenced by thoughts like, “I wanted to start my weight loss program today, but today was a difficult day”, or “today is a day to celebrate”, or “it’s Friday”…..or whatever.

·DRINKING. You will serve 20 percent more beverage in a short, wide glass than a tall one.

·BUFFET. People ate significantly less at a buffet if the food was covered.

HOW NOT TO OVEREAT

  • ·Use smaller bowls
  • Use smaller dinner plates
  • Package things in smaller containers, especially if you shop in bulk
  • Store foods that are healthier in front and center of your cupboards, so it’s the first thing you see
  • Don’t serve family style
  • Use smaller spoons
  • Use 100 calorie packs instead of eating out of large bags
  • Put your fruit bowl on your counter instead of in the refrigerator

95 percent of the population has a hard time with “mindful eating”. Our lives are way too chaotic to accommodate that. Screaming kids running around our homes, endless to-do lists, thoughts about work, and other distractions make it difficult to stay in control. The solution is to set up your environment to eat less, by ridding your closets and refrigerators of junk food.

References: Nutrition Action Healthletter, May 2011

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