Mindless eating solutions for everyday life

An article today in IDEA Fitness Journal, which is taken from a book by William Morrow 2014 of the same title as this blog, demonstrated some remarkably simple techniques for reducing calorie intake without thinking about the actual food. You don’t have to rely on will power to eat less, just change the eating environment. It struck me that his ideas are so easy to do, and very effective. They are based on the idea that if we subtly change our homes, workplaces, restaurant dining and grocery shopping we will mindlessly eat LESS instead of more. The suggestions are all based on studies carried out in homes and restaurants across America.

Here are some of his points in summary to help you rearrange your life to be slim by design.

Plate colour ~ If your plate is the same colour as your food, you will eat 18% more. When you’re eating at home choose plates that contrast with the colour of your food. Since white starches are the biggest diet busters, using darker plates is smart. Conversely, this would work in a positive way with green salad on a green plate.

What does a slim person’s kitchen look like?

If we know that, we could set up our kitchens in a similar way. When crisps are on the counter, you’re going to eat them more often than if you keep them in a cupboard. In studies the most dangerous food on show was cereal – even one box visible in the kitchen led to those people being 21 pounds heavier than people who don’t have it on show. The boxes have lots of phrases on them like ‘whole grain’ and ‘low fat food’ making us under-estimate the calories and over-eat the contents to reward ourselves for being so healthy.

First seen, first eaten ~ Studies show that you are three times more likely to eat the first food you see in your cupboard than the fifth one. Rearrange your fridge and cupboards so the first foods you see are the best for you. Set up a designated cupboard for ‘treat’ foods, that is helpfully difficult to reach or the farthest away.

Bulk buying may seem like a good idea at the time, but once the foods are at home and your cupboards are crammed with it, you will eat them twice as fast and in greater quantities than you normally would. One solution is to repackage the foods into smaller quantities when you get home, but better not to bulk buy in the first place.

Wine glass shapes ~ It seems that we focus on the height of what we pour rather than the width, so we pour 12% less wine into taller white wine glasses than into wider red wine glasses. Also, when we look down at a glass it looks fuller than when we look at it from the same level as the liquid. So, we pour 12% less when the glass is on a table compared to when holding it.

Family style seconds and thirds ~ The author quoted studies that found people who serve their food at the kitchen counter ate 19% less total food compared to people serving themselves at the table from several serving bowls. Having to walk another few metres to get seconds is enough for people to ask themselves “am I really that hungry?” and then reply “no”. Another idea is to put lids on the food – this also cuts down on seconds. (In one study simply putting a lid on the sweets dish cut down how many sweets people ate by a third.)

These changes are easy to make, and the danger of not doing it is that automatic behaviours take over in our busy lives so that we make the same mindless eating mistakes we’ve always made.

Restaurant table position and size ~ Preliminary research results suggest that when people sit at a well-lit part of a restaurant such as by a window, they order healthier foods. Sitting at a table in a dark area led to heavier foods being consumed, and more of it. People sat nearer the bar ordered more drinks, people sat nearer a TV screen ordered more fried food. You could say that sitting at well-lit tables near a window means you eat better, or that people who eat better like to sit by a window; that sitting in a dark, quiet area at the back of a restaurant makes you order more dessert, or do heavy dessert-eaters gravitate to those areas? Either way, says the author, “If you want to be skinny, do what skinny people do”.

All of these points are definitely food for thought. I especially like the wine glass idea.

Lisa 🙂 Good luck trying some of these tips.

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