To prove this point, Wansink masterminded an interesting experiment with a refillable soup bowl that never emptied. (It was refilled via hidden tubing connected to a big soup pot.) Compared to the group who ate from standard bowls, the 30 adults who (unknowingly) ate from the refillable bowls consumed about 73 percent more soup. And believe it or not, they did not rate themselves as feeling any more full. (How can you be full if the bowl still has half the soup in it???) Only two people realized the bowl refilled—one dropped his napkin (and noticed the tubing); the other tried to pick up the bowl (surprise!).
Wansink created another experiment to determine if serving size influences the amount of food a person eats. He arranged for a movie theater to announce “everyone gets free popcorn and soda today because it is “Illinois History Month.” The movie-goers were given five-day old popcorn (yucky). Yet, even though the popcorn tasted bad, the people still ate 35 percent more when they were given a big bucket of popcorn compared to a smaller bucket. They mindlessly ate the stale popcorn slowly (in contrast to a previous experiment in which the movie-goers quickly devoured fresh popcorn).
Based on these and other experiments, Wansink believes a simple way to cut calories (and control weight) is to buy smaller bowls, plates and also glasses. He reports you’ll drink less if you pour your beverage into a tall, thin glass compared to a short fat glass. And you'll eat less pasta if it's served from a small dish rather than a large platter.
Wansink has noticed that mindless eaters fall into categories, those who:
- eat too much at meals
- graze mindlessly throughout the day
- over-eat at restaurants or special occasions,
- mindlessly eat at their desks or in their cars.
If you relate to one or more these areas (and if you want to lose body fat), your goal should be to focus on that bad eating habit. You don't have to change your whole lifestyle. You just might need to cook less dinner so there are no leftovers, or take the candy jar off your desk.
Wansink recommends mindless eaters commit to 28 days of changing their fattening eating habit. Then, after 28 days, they can go on to improve another bad habit (such as drinking less soda or crunching on baby carrots instead of chips). On www.mindlesseating.org, Wansink offers a free chart to help monitor daily success. You might also want to read his book, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. Perhaps it can help you fight fat with less effort than a harder workout.