by The One on One Team

Overeating is a situation that many of us fall victim to. We are intelligent people capable of determining when enough is enough, yet we still over indulge. So why does this happen? According to Brian Wansink, the John S. Dyson Professor of Marketing in the Applied Economics Management Department of Cornell University, external cues from our environment have a powerful effect on our decisions with food.

Larger plates and dishes, fancy food and restaurant names, food proximity and availability, perception of intense exercise, etc. are all stimuli for overeating. In fact, in one study, Wansink and his team observed subjects eating soup from a normal bowl and from a refillable bowl (subjects did not know the bowls were refilled as they ate). Remarkably, those eating from the refillable bowls ate 73 percent more soup than the other subjects! On top of that, they did not rate themselves as being “more full” than the group who ate from the normal bowls! Wansink also found that foods labeled as healthier (i.e. “less fat”, “fat free”, “low calorie”, etc.) triggered overeating.

So what can we do about this? Wansink suggests that we not rely on willpower and education alone. Instead we should also address and modify our environment appropriately. For example, make sure the first things you see in your cupboards and refrigerator are your best food options. Also, package food items into smaller containers and get rid of the big bowls and plates and replace them with smaller ones.

These are just a few suggestions to try. The key is to understand and respect the power that external environmental cues have on overeating and to look for ways to change your environment.

Stay tuned for more information on this in our next edition of “In Touch.”


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