Outsmarting Your Willpower - Balance MF
Understanding nutrition is important, but researcher Brian Wansink, PhD, and author of Slim by Design, believes it’s much more effective to change our eating environment. Here are 10 ways to make your world a little skinnier. 

by Anne Marie O’Connor

Imagine dropping pounds effortlessly, without worrying about counting calories, thinking about carbs versus fats versus protein or weighing every morsel. What if you could lose weight without feeing like you’re denying yourself a candy bar after lunch or some chips while watching TV at night—because you forgot you even wanted them? What if you could just eat whatever was within arms’ reach?

While we’re often advised to eat mindfully, most of us are too busy to always prepare a salad and end up grabbing a burger and fries; instead of making a bowl of oatmeal with nuts and berries, we’ll pick up an egg-and-sausage burrito at the drive-through in the morning.

“Mindful eating is great,” says Brian Wansink, PhD, a professor of marketing, the director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University and the author of Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions (William Morrow, 2014). But, he admits, it’s also a lot of work, especially when you’re living a busy life and don’t have a lot of time to spend thinking about every food choice.

“For 90 percent of us, the solution to mindless eating is not mindful eating—our lives are just too crazy, and our willpower’s just too wimpy,” says Wansink. “Each of us makes more than 200 nearly subconscious food choices every day—soup or salad? A little or a lot? Finish it or leave it? We’re nudged more by our eating environment and things like 100-calorie packs than by our deliberate choices.”

Having studied people’s eating habits for more than 20 years, Wansink has concluded that “the key is to make a few changes in our food radius [the places where we spend the most time, including work and home], so we can mindlessly eat better.

“Once you’ve made the right changes to your eating environment,” he points out, “you’ll start eating better without thinking about it. You can make healthy choices even when your brain’s on autopilot.”

By implementing these 10 tips, the culmination of years of research that he’s compiled in Slim by Design, you can start losing weight effortlessly.

1Keep food out of sight (and out of mind). Except for produce.

It doesn’t take a scientist to know that leaving potato chips out on the kitchen table makes it a lot more likely they’ll be devoured in short order. (One of Wansink’s studies found that women who kept chips on the counter weighed eight more pounds than women who didn’t.)

But as irresistible as chips are, there’s an even more dangerous food to keep out: breakfast cereal. In Wansink’s study, women who stored it on the counter weighed a whopping 21 more pounds than women who didn’t. So why was cereal even more of a problem than chips? Wansink believes that it’s because that while everyone knows chips are a diet disaster, cereal has a “health halo,” especially when the box is covered with claims like “whole grain” and “good source of protein.” The moral: Keep everything but fruits and vegetables behind closed doors.

2Don’t make your kitchen a hangout.

Wansink reports that when people made their kitchen less lounging-friendly—by moving out things like comfy chairs, TVs and iPads—they spent 18 fewer minutes a day there, making them less likely to mindlessly munch on sugary and salty snacks.

3Pick your plate’s color wisely.

It sounds wacky, but it’s true—the color of your dishes can subtly affect how much you eat. In one of Wansink’s studies, he found that people who served food on a dish that was the same color as what they were eating downed 18 percent more. Having pasta with marinara for dinner? Don’t serve it on a red plate. And don’t put linguine with clam sauce in a white bowl.

4Use “skinny” dishes.

The size of your plate matters, too. A two-ounce serving of pasta will look huge on a 10-inch plate, but tiny on a 12-inch one. Which means we’ll probably serve ourselves more to “fill” the plate, or feel we deserve seconds since we only ate a “tiny” portion the first round.

5Shrink your drink.

Is your daily glass of wine starting to look like a Big Gulp? Enjoy your libation without feeling like you’re denying yourself by serving all types of vino in white wine glasses. They’re taller than red wine glasses, so the glass will look fuller. (This trick works better when you’re sitting down and looking at it from eye level.)

6See red.

In studies, participants poured themselves about 9 percent less wine when they were drinking a Bordeaux or Pinot Noir than a Chardonnay. The reason? You can see red wine in the glass more clearly, so it looks like you’re drinking more.

7Avoid the fat clubs.

Yes, the keg-sized jar of peanut butter for $5 or the 48-pack of mini quiches for a buck may be mouthwatering deals. But even though you may be saving money, you may be enlarging your waistline. “Once you get the forklift home, those bargains turn into a burden for your cupboards—and your diet,” says Wansink. In studies, he found that people who filled their cupboards (and pantries, and garages, and basements) with warehouse-store purchases ate half of what they bought in the first week—and ate it twice as fast as they normally would. Still stuck on Costco? Try repackaging your bounty into single-sized servings, advises Wansink.

8Make your pantry the “inconvenience” store.

Wansink doesn’t believe in denying ourselves our favorite treats, but he does advise dieters to make it less convenient to eat mindlessly.

By moving the pantry away from the kitchen (by relocating it to the garage or the basement, for instance), you’ll be less likely to grab a snack every time the thought crosses your mind. In his studies, he’s found that if you have to make a trek to get something to eat, you’re more likely to think twice before mindlessly devouring a handful of nuts or cookies.

9Avoid the Mother Hubbard syndrome.

Just because your cupboard is bare doesn’t mean it’s diet-friendly, or that you’ll never overindulge. It sounds counterintuitive, but Wansink found that if there’s nothing in the house to eat, you’ll probably order in or get takeout. He discovered that people who do order rarely phone in just a snack, no matter how hungry they are; instead they get a whole meal. So even if you would have been satisfied with a 140-calorie yogurt, you’ll end up ordering—and eating—a 500-calorie tuna sandwich. If you hate to cook, at least stock up on healthy, easy-to-prepare foods like yogurt, eggs, fat-free milk, string cheese, sliced turkey, canned soup and pre-cut vegetables and fruit.

10Serve meals Downton Abbey-style.

Take a cue from the Earl of Grantham’s household and don’t allow the serving dishes to be set on the table. (No butler? We don’t have one, either. Leave the serving bowls and platters in the kitchen.) Wansink found that people ate 23 percent less when food was dished up directly from the stovetop or the counter onto plates, and then brought to the table. (This also made diners reconsider whether they really wanted seconds, not just mindlessly help themselves.)

Original Article: http://www.pilatesstyle.com/2014/articles/outsmarting-your-willpower

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