August 5, 2011

Stopping Mindless Eating

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Dieters who make simple changes in their surroundings can expect to eat healthier without giving it much thought, according to new research.

Brian Wansink, Ph.D., presented his findings at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.
"Most of us have too much chaos going on in our lives to consciously focus on every bite we eat, and then ask ourselves if we're full. The secret is to change your environment so it works for you rather than against you," Wansink was quoted as saying.

One of Wansink's studies included 168 moviegoers who ate either fresh or stale popcorn from different sized containers. He found people ate 45-percent more fresh popcorn from extra-large containers than large ones, and the people who were eating stale popcorn consumed 34-percent more from the extra-large buckets than those eating fresh popcorn. 

"They just don't realize they're doing it," Wansink said. He says this concept also applies to drinking. Wansink's research found people pour about 37-percent more liquid in short, wide glasses than in tall, skinny ones of the same volume.

Wansink says a common myth about dieting is that people know when they are full and stop before they overeat. In one of his studies, researchers brought in 60 people for a free lunch and gave 22-ounce bowls of soup to half, while the other half unknowingly got 22-ounce bowls that were pressure-fed under the table and slowly refilled. Results showed those with the "bottomless bowls" consumed 73-percent more than those with the normal bowls. However, the "bottomless bowl" participants didn't realize they had eaten more.

Wansink says simple steps can help dieters control their weight. These include: eating off smaller plates rather than large dinner plates; keeping unhealthy foods out of sight and moving healthier foods to eye-level in the refrigerator or pantry; and eating food in the kitchen instead of in front of the television.

"These simple strategies are far more likely to succeed than willpower alone. It's easier to change your environment than to change your mind," Wansink concluded.
SOURCE:  119th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association