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5 Tips for Eating Less Without Feeling Deprived

Mindless Eating Popcorn ExperimentBy Linda Gabriel

I am a BIG fan of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink.  A Stanford Ph.D., Wansink is the director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. He’s spent a lifetime studying what most of us never even notice: the hidden environmental cues that determine how much and why people eat. Most of the time it’s all too easy to mindlessly overeat. Even 100 to 200 extra calories a day can add up to a significant weight gain over time. The solution? Set up your environment to avoid mindless eating traps.

Here’s an excerpt from blurb on the back of this fascinating book:

“Using ingenious, fun, and sometimes downright fiendishly clever experiments like the “bottomless soup bowl,” Wansink takes us on a fascinating tour of the secret dynamics behind our dietary habits. How does packaging influence how much we eat? Which movies make us eat faster? How does music or the color of the room influence how much we eat? How can we recognize the “hidden persuaders” used by restaurants and supermarkets to get us to mindlessly eat? ”

Here are 5 easy tips from Mindless Eating to help fool your subconscious into mindlessly eating less without feeling deprived:

1. Out of sight = out of mouth

Every time you see food, it’s a signal to the mind to eat. Reduce the visual cues and you will eat less and not even notice. For example, don’t keep clear candy dishes or cookie jars in view. In general it’s best to keep tempting food items out of sight and out of reach. Wansink’s research shows that simply putting candy in a covered opaque dish instead of a clear or open dish significantly reduced calorie consumption that would otherwise add up to several pounds gained per year.  If there’s a candy dish at work, put the candy dish as far away from your workspace as possible.

2. Don’t serve meals “family style”

Fill your plate in the kitchen instead. Reloading your plate from a handy serving platter makes it too easy to eat more than you realize. Wansink’s videos of people eating family style consistently proved they were eating much more than they thought they had consumed. The one exception? Vegetables.

3. Serve meals on smaller plates – but not too small

Slightly smaller dinner plates fool the eye into thinking portions are bigger. Wansink’s research has shown if you downsize too much, you start to compensate and may go back for seconds. Best plate size?  Around 9.5 inches, the size of a frisbee.

4. Never eat snacks directly out of a large container

Wansink’s researchers discovered that the amount people eat is strongly determined by the size of the container.  Even free stale popcorn he served at a movie theater. If people got the jumbo size, they ate it all. The lesson? No matter how bad the popcorn, the mind doesn’t feel like it’s finished until the container is empty.  This is especially true if you’re munching while watching a movie or television. Order the smaller size at the movies. If you buy jumbo size packages of snacks at a warehouse store, divide them into individual servings and store them out of sight. Even if you go for a second helping, you are likely to eat far less than if  you eat directly out of the bag.

5. Serve drinks in tall skinny glasses

“People generally estimate tall glasses as holding more liquid than wide ones of the same volume,” says Wansink. Even seasoned bartenders consistently underestimate the volume of alcohol poured into a wide glass vs a tall glass. The tall glass fools the eye – and the stomach – into thinking you are drinking more when you’re actually drinking less.

“The best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on.” — Brian Wansink

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