On Monday I made reference to work done by a Cornell University psychology researcher Brian Wansink. His work uncovers the main reason why we overeat; we tend to eat with our eyes and respond to "food cues".
For instance, one example in which we eat with our eyes might be, "I can still eat if my plate still has food!"
In a bottomless soup experiment that discretely refilled a soup bowl, subjects consumed as much as 73%-101% more soup than a control group that was presented with a finite amount of soup. The variable group reported afterward that they didn't really feel full despite having consumed more soup. This was when Wansink realized there was more to eating than just being hungry or full.
Another example is the "My family made me do it!" excuse. Family can be interchangeable with friends, proximity, environment, etc. Every single one of us eats how much we eat largely because of what is around us. We overeat not because of hunger but because of family, friends, the packaging and plating of our food, the names and numbers, labels and lights, colors and candles, shapes and smells, distractions and distances, cupboards and containers, and so on. This list is almost as endless as it is subtle. So beware of people who have candy in or on their desk. Wansink found that those who did "reported weighing 15.4 pounds more than those who didn’t."
How else can you avoid these pitfalls? What can you do to prevent overeating over the holidays and in everyday life?
1. Start by just recognizing that the presence of friends, family, and environmental stimulation may cause you to eat mindlessly.
2. Be mindful of the portion and the quality of the food you select. Keep your choices to 2 or 3 items.
3. Keep temptation hidden or far away from you. If it's not out (visible and easy to reach), it won't be in your stomach. Instead, keep fruit and healthier fare between you and your temptation. Make it difficult to get to that particular snack, either by placing it out of sight or far away. Put a simple obstacle between you and your food nemesis. It is effective as illustrated in the Google example below.
In an experiment conducted by Google, M&Ms were moved from baskets to bowls with lids. The seemingly minor hindrance reduced the number of M&Ms consumed in Google's New York office by 3 million pieces a month. This gives a whole new meaning to "put a lid on it!"
With that, I want to wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving from Roy Alexander Fitness.
If you are interested in reading more about the study cited above, check out Wansink's book, "Slim by Design: Mindless eating solutions for everyday life".