Can you trick yourself into eating better?
You can easily set up your kitchen (and some habits) that lead to eat better or less. But since you will know what’s going on, you won’t have to feel tricked.
Quartz used this catchy title for a catchy story on my Cornell Food and Brand Lab colleague, Aner Tal. It’s about 3 minutes long and has a lot of eye-opening tips and insights. What’s unusual is how Aner describes why these work in a suave James Bond style and how Quartz cleverly illustrates them. Too cool for school.
Here’s some of what they mentioned:
1. Use lighter plates
2. Use smaller plates
3. Cut your food into pieces
4. Don’t watch TV when you eat
5. No scary movies
6. Don’t shop when you’re hungry
7. Deprivation always backfires
Some of these might sound pretty basic, but it’s Aner's description of how they work and Quartz's funny illustrations that really make them pop.
Aner flew out to visit me from Israel a while back, and we were talking about how people react after they hear about some of these discoveries.
Some people hear about suggestions like these and say to themselves “That would never happen to me,” so they don’t try to do anything different, and nothing changes in their life. Other people say to themselves, “Yeah, that makes sense” but they never do it, so, again, nothing changes in their life.
No one is going to hear about 7 discoveries and make 7 changes in their life. It’s too much. But you can make 1 or 2 of them. After they become habits, you can always come back to the table for another course.
A lot of people don’t look or act their age. We all know 40-year-olds who act a curmudgeonly 60, but we also know people who look and act much, MUCH younger than they actually are. They do it without crazy plastic surgery, crystal meth energy vitamins, Dorian Gray mirrors, or vampire rituals.
We visited some friends like this in Cleveland a couple weeks back. Even though they’re past retirement age, they look and act 25 years younger. They look it – they’re trim and fit. They act it – they’re engaged, curious, interested, funny, and excited about new things.
One night I learned more about their secret sauce. We were at a basketball game, and my friend brought back a bunch of concession food to eat and drink. As he passed them out, he said, “It’s one of the 4 Splurge Days.”
I channeled my inner Homer Simpson and mumbled, “Can’t talk . . . eating.” After I recovered from my nacho binge, I asked what he meant. He explained that when you’re thinking about what to eat when, it’s too easy to think of reasons why you can splurge any day you want. To prevent that, he and his wife have 4 Splurge Days a year.
Wow. Some diets give you one “cheat day” every week. It’s the one day a week where – if you’ve been a good boy or girl – you can eat whatever you want. This sounds great because it means only six more days until you can put on the sweat pants and head back to the buffet.
But 4 Splurge Days a year is extreme.
My friend’s view was that a weekly cheat day or splurge day is the same as 52 splurge days a year. Before long, however, 52 splurge days a year can easily turn into 62 and then into 162. At that point, you can think of a reason why you could splurge on any occasion: “I had a bad day; I had a good day; it’s Friday; it will be a Friday,” and so on.
They call this the Tyranny of the Moment. Any moment of any day, we can come up with a reason why we can do whatever it is we want to do. There is only one thing that is strong enough to defeat the Tyranny of the Moment.
My friend’s 4 Splurge Day rule built a habit of not overeating. It might seem extreme, but it also might help explain why he and his wife look and act so really extremely young.
If only I hadn’t used my 4 Days up last week.
You missed last night’s “Cookies and Carols,” which is the $6 cover-charge fundraiser for our local school band and chorus. They pass 160 trays of cookies up and down the middle-school auditorium rows until the kids run out of songs to sing. This is also timed to when parents feel like they're getting diabetes.
Cookies and Carols is about kids -- and cookies. Normal kids sing and play music. But the cool kids get to take it to the next level. Because they’re too cool for music school, they get to dress like an elf and be a Cookie Monitor Elf.
At Cookie and Carol night, the guy behind me was on a diet. I had a certain sense about this. My intuition was based on 30 years of careful investigation, detailed analyses, and because every time a Cookie Monitor Elf passed him a platter of cookies, he said, “I’m on a diet.”
Yes, this is the season of weight gain. But this is a horrible month to be on a diet. You ruin the JOY for you and the joy to the world. So, what’s a person to do when cookie trays are a passin’ and Christmas Carols are a pumpin’?
We've been running a 4 year study (the Healthy Weight Registry) to discover what perpetually skinny people do to stay perpetually skinny. One thing we've asked them is what they do during the holidays that the rest of us don't do. They do a lot of crazy cool things they need testing, but one that's relevant to us cookie lovers is this: When they were at a holiday party and they tried something they didn't absolutely LOVE, they simply didn’t eat the rest of it. They either didn't take it or they didn't finish it. They left it.
• That no-bake brownie-mix brownie? They left it.
• That gluten-free Avocado Cupcake? They left it.
• That Thumbprint cookie with the real thumbprint? They left it.
When we first read this "Leave it if you don't love it" idea, my researchers and I were all trying to finish up our Avocado Cupcakes so we could be the first to say "That's nothing new. That's totally obvious."
There's never been a cookie in the world that isn't worth choking down, but there might only be 2 out of 10 that are really worth LOVING.
"Leave it if you don't love it." Sorry, Lefty.
When I got back from Cookies and Carols, I had a message from Marcus Sidhu at N1Fitness telling me a podcast chat with me was just posted earlier that that day (links below). It has some ideas about some other things you might want to consider this season to enjoy the cookies and carols while you forget about your diet.
Podcast URL - https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/n1-fitness-podcast/id1303218443?mt=2
Direct Download Episode URL - http://traffic.libsyn.com/n1fitness/Episode_39_-_Mindless_Eating_w__Brian_Wansink.m4a
Permalink Episode URL - http://n1fitness.libsyn.com/39-mindless-eating-w-brian-wansink
All or nothing.
That's the mindset that a lot of people have when it comes to a lot of things. It's either all good or all bad. It's either all wonderful or all horrible. It's either all healthy or it's all junk food.
This is also what seems to sabotage a lot of our best intentions toward eating better. We think we're going to start our new health kick and eat only kale and tofu (all), but after our willpower caves in to a chocolate muffin, we throw up our hands and say, "What the Heck," and we fall off the bandwagon (nothing).
Tonight is Halloween and this all or nothing thinking is at a peak. Little Twix and Snickers bars, little bags of M&Ms and Skittles. It's easy to say "What the Heck," and eat until they're gone. In one of our studies we analyzed weight gain and showed for Americans it steadily starts rising from about now until January.
Here's something you can do tonight. Put a bowl of fruit out on your counter as an antidote to the candy that will be probably be sitting there for the next week. It least the candy will have some competition. It seems to be working for the police.
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