Monday, August 27, 2007

Tricking ourselves into eating less....

The story below, aired on the CBC news last week, and I found it to be somewhat eyebrow raising. A food researcher from Cornell University points out many interesting facts about research he has done on eating and over eating. Basically he concludes that we eat way more than we need to... SURPRISE SURPRISE!

It's a bit long, but I really found that the researcher's comments and remarks hit home... especially towards the end of the piece. All I know after reading this, is that it scares me... one donut a day ... is an extra 28 pounds at the end of year... if that is not enough to scare you, I don't know what it!

The entire piece is excellent... but I have highlighted the areas that I found most interesting if you don't feel like reading the whole thing.

CBC: Maybe this has happened to you; have you ever wolfed down something, then wondered why did I eat that? Well, it turns out there are plenty of reasons why we consume the food we do. Unfortunately hunger or common sense isn't always in that mix. Bad news for anyone thinking of shedding a few pounds. However, in this food fight, there are ways to win. Here's Kelly Crowe once again with "What we eat, why we eat."

REPORTER: Guess how many times a day you make a decision about eating; at meal time, a snack here and there, a couple dozen times at most? Not even close. Each of us makes more than 200 decisions every day about what to put in our mouths. It's a scientifically-proven fact, and Brian Wansink is the scientist who proved it. He's a food researcher at Cornell University in New York.

BRIAN WANSINK (Food Researcher Cornell University): They're often decisions that we're just really unaware of. We have been influenced by, say, the people we're with or the plate size we're using or the variety of food that we're given, and the problem is we don't realize these things are influencing us so, at the end of the day, much of what we've eaten ends up being determined largely by what's been around us in our environment, not necessarily our own conscious, specific decisions.

REPORTER: Things that affect those eating decisions, well, like the size of a plate. A serving of pasta on a small plate looks like a normal amount. On a larger plate, it doesn't look like as much so the natural instinct is to serve up more, and if you have company, you can eat up to twice as much as you would if you were eating alone, and those are just a couple of the environmental cues that cause us to unconsciously eat more than we think, between 20 and 50 per cent more.

WANSINK: Every one of us believes we are too smart to be influenced by the variety of food at a buffet or the size of a serving bowl, the shape of a glass. That's what makes these things so dangerous.

REPORTER: This is Brian Wansink's own video taken during one of his eating experiments, a Superbowl party designed to measure how much people will eat from an unlimited buffet of food. As you can see, they keep on eating because that's what everyone else is doing. The
same thing happens in a movie theatre.

WANSINK: What happens is there's all these cues around us that suggest it's time to eat. In the case of the movie like this, you're sitting down at the movie. It's part of the script. You eat popcorn when you're at a movie. The people around you are eating. So that's another cue to start eating. You've got a big bucket of popcorn on your lap. That's yet another signal to start eating. It's because we're not paying that much attention, you do what comes natural which is, in this case, eat.

REPORTER: Wansink did a study to prove that people will eat popcorn at a movie even if they're full and even if they don't like the popcorn.

WANSINK: So we went to a movie theatre, took people who had just finished eating lunch and gave them popcorn that was 14 days old. It was terrible. It didn't even have a crunch to it. What we found is that if we gave them large popcorn containers versus medium popcorn containers, the typical person ate 35 per cent more popcorn during the movie even though they hated the popcorn.

REPORTER: The size of the package can affect how much people eat. In a study using M & M candies, the researchers discovered people ate twice as many from a big bag as from a smaller bag.

WANSINK: We eat with our eyes.

REPORTER: That means people decide they've eaten enough when the package or the plate or the bowl is empty. And science has proven if the bowl doesn't empty, people just keep on eating.

WANSINK: So we devised these refillable soup bowls where tubes came up in to the soup bowls from underneath the table. Were filled in to a six-quart vat of soup. So as people ate, the soup level would go down a little bit, but imperceptibly it would start rising again. They could eat up to six quarts of soup and would never hit the bottom. What we found is compared to people who ate out of normal bowls, these people ate 63 per cent more soup in just 20 minutes.

REPORTER: Twenty minutes. That's how long it takes for the stomach to tell the brain it's full. Many people eat their entire meal in less than 20 minutes.

WANSINK: What happens is there's a delay in our body's ability to detect how full we are. So the faster we end up eating food, the more we can eat before our body can really register that we've eaten. If you're a very fast eater, it can take up to 20 minutes before your body can tell you how much you've eaten, and in 20 minutes there's an immense number of calories that you can eat.

REPORTER: And the calorie is the key. A calorie is a unit of food energy.

WANSINK: The average person needs in the range of 2,000 calories a day just to maintain weight. If you go 100 calories above that every single day for a year, you've gained 10 pounds at the end of the year.

REPORTER: It's the simple math of calories. The Cornell researchers have calculated that if someone eats just three extra jellybeans a day, they will put on more than a pound in one year. That same person would be over 10 pounds heavier in ten years all because of a few extra jellybeans. Drink just one more can of pop a day, that's 15 pounds at the end of one year. One more large latte? 26 pounds at the end of the year. One extra doughnut a day, 28 pounds at the end of the year. Because it only takes 3,500 calories to make one pound of fat. That's just six large orders of fries. That's eight banana muffins, and it doesn't matter whether you eat them in a day or in a year. If you don't burn it off, it's fat. Trouble is, most people have no idea how much work they have to do. to burn off just one of those muffins you'd have to run for more than half an hour and, to make it worse, most people then reward themselves with even more food.

WANSINK: One thing we find out is typically when people start exercise programs, oddly enough they start gaining weight right away, not losing weight right away. One of the reasons we found this happens is that once a person goes out and, let's say, runs a couple miles, they come back and two things happen. First of all, they estimate they burned a whole lot more calories than they did. The second thing is they come back and they say, man, that was a big workout. I really deserve something. I really deserve to sort of compensate for all that effort i put out. So that 2 miles that they ran ended up being about 200 calories, but in reality what they do to compensate is they end up eating 400 calories worth of food to kind of reward themselves for the 200 calories they burned up running.

REPORTER: The good news is if you reverse all of this, you can lose weight. Eat three fewer jelly beans a day, you lose more than one pound in a year. One less can of pop a day? 15 pounds will vanish at the end of a year. And one less doughnut a day, 28 pounds will disappear in a year.

WANSINK: We gain weight at the rate of two or three pounds a year. That ends up being probably the best way to lose weight is at the rate of 20 or 30 pounds a year because that way we're not going to feel deprived. That way things won't backfire. That way we're not going to mindlessly eat to the point where we say after ten years, man, how did i get this way?

REPORTER: Another trick, if the food is out of sight, it's out of mind.

WANSINK: We did a study with secretaries where we put candies in a candy dish on their desk. They ended up eating twice as much that was on their desk than if it was just six feet away from their desk. Simply moving something a little bit farther away or a little bit out of our sight line or a little bit out of our traffic pattern ends up tremendously decreasing how much we eat.

REPORTER: From Wansink's lab, an unflattering image has emerged of a society of human robots mindlessly munching through life, responding to external cues that have little relationship to hunger or the need for food. The good news is the robot can be reprogrammed to eat less by fooling the eye with smaller plates, smaller spoons, smaller glasses, by eating more slowly, by reducing the number of food choices. In other words, by tricking ourselves in to eating less.

What do you think.... can you relate to any of the research findings?

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