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Did you know that leaving the bones from your chicken wings in front of you could cause you to eat less or that having M&Ms with 6 colors instead of 4 makes you subconsciously eat more? While studying nutrition in college, I came across Brian Wansink and became fascinated with his food psychology studies at Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab. Check out his books, Mindless Eating or Slim by Design for more information on how our environment can cause weight gain. OR, better yet, how we can leverage it to help with weight loss.
Check out 5 surprising ways your environment could be making you gain weight and how to fix them:
1. Dish & cup size. According to a study of campers, those who ate out of larger bowls ate 16% more than those who ate out of smaller bowls AND reported eating less. In addition, the study found that when kids were given either a short and wide 22 oz glass vs. a tall and skinny 22 oz glass, they poured over 75% more in the short, wide glass. This does not just apply to kids either. According to Wansink, Professional bartenders were asked to pour a shot (1.5 oz) into a highball (tall) glass and a wide tumbler; they poured over 25% more in the wide tumbler.Fix it: switch to smaller plates/bowls and tall, skinny glasses and cut calories without even thinking! But if you are looking for a stronger drink, order one in a tumbler 😉
2. Exercising mindset. In a study, adults were led on the same 2km walk, but some were told it was a “scenic walk” while the others were told it was an “exercise walk.” The result? Those who went on the “exercise walk” ate twice as much as those who went on the same “scenic walk.”Fix it: find exercise that you enjoy, whether that is watching your favorite TV show while doing cardio at the gym, going on a hike, or working out with a friend.
3. Low Fat Foods aren’t always better. The Food & Brand Lab did three studies that found that labeling a snack as “low fat” made people consume 84 calories more. This may not seem like a lot but eating ~80 calories more per day would contribute to a ~9lb weight gain in a year! Fix it: low fat snacks are not the secret to weight loss. Portion control is more important.
4. Is bigger better? Sometimes we can get drawn into buying foods in bulk in the hopes of saving money, but Wansink explains that may not be helping out weight: when given bulk packages of foods, people ate about twice as much in the first week! Fix it: choose carefully which food products you buy in bulk. Buy fruit, produce, or “inconvenient” items in bulk, but steer clear of snack items like chips or pretzels that you may overeat.
5. Proximity matters. Secretaries were asked to put bowls of Hershey Kisses either on their desk or six feet away. Those with it on their desk ate twice as many. Going back to the low fat example, these small changes contribute to significant weight gain over time. Fix it: keep healthy foods convenient (put a fruit bowl out on your counter) and treats “out of sight, out of mind.”
Try out these 5 easy ways to lose weight without thinking by hacking your environment. I can’t wait to hear what worked for you!