Scientists are interested in factors that influence how much people eat.
Previous research has shown that the size of plates, even their colour can have an effect. As can background sounds e.g. the sounds of the sea makes fish tastier.
Eating with a fork rather than a spoon (which makes people underestimate their meals), using paper plates or even giving people toys with their meals can make them accept smaller portions.
On of the latest ideas is putting up a mirror in the dining room so you can see a reflection of what you are eating. Given a choice of chocolate cake or a fruit salad those eating in front of a mirror enjoyed the chocolate cake less (those eating fruit salad were unaffected).
Researchers at the University of Florida where the experiment took place said that having a mirror in the room makes diners more careful about their behaviour including watching how much they ate. “A glance in the mirror tells people more than just about their physical appearance. It enables them to view themselves objectively and helps them to judge themselves and their behaviours in the same way they judge others.”
Maybe they also feel more guilty when they are being observed. There was some research which showed that people tucked away in dark corners of restaurants tended to eat more.
Researcher from the University of Texas found that telling people they were eating healthy food encouraged them to eat bigger portions because they found it less filling. This suggests that “low fat” and “low sugar” labels may encourage over-eating.
This research is to be published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research. One of the editors, Professor Brian Wansink from Cornell University is also releasing the results of a survey on what makes slender people different from overweight ones.
Half of people who are not overweight try to eat vegetables for supper every day, 34% eat salads for lunch and 30% would choose vegetables as part of their last meal on earth (what – no ice-cream?). And a quarter avoid chocolate altogether.
That sounds pretty boring to me but don’t forget the stats mean that the other half of people who are not overweight don’t do those things.
And before you start making New Year resolutions about losing weight, it’s also a time to remind you that diets only work for 10% of people, juicing takes the fibre out of the fruit and veg so nutrients aren’t absorbed effectively, removing whole categories of food from your diet is just a fad and can be unhealthy, and the only sure way to lose weight is eat less and exercise more.
And don’t forget that when you eat out you are being psychologically manipulated from the moment you walk in the door. Read here to find out how.