Better Humans
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Better Humans

3 Eating Tips for Eating Less

Ah the holiday season is here. Actually, it’s been here since the end of October when Halloween candy began to arrive in small packages. The season of eating continued as the shelves in our refrigerator were first filled by a Thanksgiving meal and then its leftovers. Finally we have the build up of Christmas cookies.

At our house we have a cookie making day where friends and family come over, our oven gets put through its paces, and cookies cover every inch of the ping pong table. In past years, I would will myself to only a few cookies each day, but by lunch brokered a negotiation between my brain and stomach to only three (okay, four) cookies for each meal. This year I’m using the power of psychology to help me out, and taking three things I learned from Brian Wansink’s Mindless Eating to eat fewer cookies and you can too.

Step 1: Put the cookies in an opaque container, out of sight, and stacked under something. We have an orange plastic container in our pantry with two cans of soup stacked on top. In one of Wansink’s experiments he gave secretaries in an office building a dish of chocolates. Half the glass dishes were clear and half were white. Wansink found that the secretaries with the clear dishes ate 71% more than the ones with the white dishes. Out of sight, out of mind, off the hips.

Step 2: Eat only one kind of cookie each meal/day/week. We love variety. Sweet and Salty. Love and Drama. Milk and cookies. That last one will probably result in more cookies consumed than if you had them without milk. Cookies and milk means we get the crunch and gooyness in the same bite. Knowing we eat more when there is variety can be flipped on its head to help us eat less when there isn’t. Without variety we reach satiety more quickly — and it’s not just for taste but color too. Wansink writes that even variety in the color of M&M’s result in people eating more. Choose one type of dessert this season and you’ll likely eat less.

Step 3: Get the smallest plate you can and one for each cookie. Wansink has found that a lot of our eating indicators come from the environment around us rather than in us. We don’t stop when we are full, we stop when the plate of grandma’s meatball marinara is so clean it can go back in the cupboard. If you choose smaller dishes and put one cookie on each you’ll be doing two things. First, the cookie will appear to be more food on a smaller plate than a larger one. In Mindless Eating the example is ice cream rather than cookies, but the proof is in the (pudding) bowls. People given bigger bowls at an all you can eat ice cream social, ate 31% more than their peers who had bowls half the size. Second, leaving your plates in front of you will be a cue to how much you’ve eaten. Wansink tested this at a Super Bowl party and found that people who sat at tables that weren’t regularly cleared away, ate 28% less because their stacks of dirty dishes reminded them of how much they had already eaten.

Those are your three steps for fewer holiday cookies, or any other food this year. Keep food hidden, eat the same thing, and do so on small plates which you leave on the table. Wansink points out in the book that you probably won’t even notice that you’re eating slightly less.

Happy Holidays, and don’t forget cookies for the big guy, he’s one who’s not watching what he eats.

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