Halloween is like Thanksgiving for candy bars.
Today I was at an amazing company that made Halloween the focus of their day. Costume parties with five categories of winners, a cooking contest and taste test, a catered lunch, a haunted hallway, and a 3:30-5:00 office-to-office trick-or-treating for families who had kids. I gave away toothbrushes and Dollar Store toys to the 80 or so kids who come by with 10-lb trick-or-treat bags: Toys = 78; Toothbrushes = 2.
What this reminds me of is a very cool research study we did that showed that every year American's start gaining more weight from today and for the next two months. The key take-away is that we shouldn't wait until January 1st to make a resolution to lose weight. We should make a Halloween resolution to not gain weight. (Or a November resolution.)
Below are some nice details related about the study.
Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving . . . the summer is almost over but the indulgent holiday season is near. This study we conducted found that many of us spend months getting rid of that excess weight gained during the holiday season. The study showed that according to yearly national weight patterns, it takes American’s nearly 5 months to lose weight gained between Thanksgiving and Easter.
From their analysis of the weight patterns of over 2800 individuals researchers found that, in the US weight patterns begin rising around Thanksgiving, and peak around Christmas and the New Year. It isn’t until after Easter, about a 5 month period, that weight patterns even out with only slight fluctuation between April and November.
The researchers also analyzed yearly weight patters in Germany and Japan. Similar to the US, those in Germany weighted the most around Christmas/New-Year period and those in Japan weight the most during Golden Week in April – a major Japanese holiday. Each country also showed a peak in weight for New Years.
“Everyone gains weight over the holidays — Americans, Germans, Japanese," explains , co-author Brian Wansink, author of Slim By Design, “Instead of making a New Year’s Resolution, the best time to make a resolution to keep the pounds off this holiday season is now!”
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.
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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I'm Brian Wansink, and I've been lucky to work with lots of wonderful researchers to discover insights on how to help people become more effective, happier, and more meaningfully connected with each other.
See what works for you, and share it with others.