Thursday, April 26, 2012

Making eating a little bit more difficult

Choosing the larger chocolate bar or supersizing a combo meal at a fast-food joint may increase a person’s sense of importance, according to a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Researchers had participants read one of two articles. The first said that “63 percent of the 1,000 most influential Americans are fit,” while the other said that “63 percent of the 1,000 most influential Americans are overweight.” Participants were then offered the choice between five different sized candies. The people who read the second article, which said most influential Americans are overweight, were more likely to choose the larger candy bar, while people who read the first article were more likely to choose the smaller portion. --Core Performance

What influences are you filling your life with?  Recently, I have read a number of studies that indicate we are much more susceptible to subtle outside influence than we would like to think.  The question this raises for me is:  If our behaviors are so easily influenced, can we make this work for us instead of against us?

I think so.

We don't watch very much TV in my house.  The reason is that the TV is downstairs.  Now -- one set of stairs is not very much of a barrier.  There are comfy couches and a warm and welcoming environment if I go downstairs.  But, because it is not right there in front of my, say in the living room, kitchen or bedroom, it takes more work to just flip the TV on without thinking.  And so, I don't.  It's always a conscious choice to turn it on.

So, could I take that information and make it work to help strengthen my eating behaviors?  Yup.  Same principle applies.  Let's talk about whole foods and potato chips.  Whole foods take work.  An apple needs to be washed (or at least have the cursory wipe on the jeans, right?)  Quick enough to do but it takes work.  And then there's all that chewing!  More work -- which is one of the reasons we don't eat a whole bag of apples while we're sitting in front the of TV.

Potato chips on the other hand need nothing.  Open the bag and you're off to the races.  Eat as many as you want, they don't require much attention once you start.

Same with carrots and M&M's.  Celery and hummus vs. Girl Scout cookies.

It doesn't take very much extra work to make eating seem like a less desirable passtime.

So what to do with this information?  Maybe it's time to stop buying the chips, cookies, M&M's, etc.  Your spouse, kids, guests will be fine without you having them on hand.  Maybe all of you will learn to appreciate the taste of carrots, apples, celery, etc more when you don't have the junk to snack on.

Either way, I bet you'll find you're munching less because it's less rewarding.  And you'll rack up those 9 uneaten bites easier!

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