You too would eat stale popcorn.
Did you just read the above statement and think: Stale popcorn? Not me.
Under the right circumstances, you most probably would be eating this popcorn right alongside your fellow nay-sayers. This is the way of mindless eating.
But before we get to the bigger issue of mindless eating, let’s talk about this popcorn.
Brian Wansink, PhD, directs the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and undertook the popcorn study.
He took movie house popcorn and stored it for five days, until it was good and stale (but still safe to eat). He then handed out this popcorn for free to anyone who purchased a ticket for an early matinee showing of the film “Payback” at certain Chicago area cinemas. The popcorn came in two sizes: medium and large, and were randomly distributed.
At the end of the film, moviegoers completed short surveys and handed them in with their popcorn containers.
Researchers weighed each container to determine how much popcorn had been consumed and used this information in conjunction with the surveys to obtain their results.
And what did they find?
People who were given the large buckets ate an average of 173 more calories than the people who had the medium sized buckets – approximately 53%, or 21 more dips into the container.
And yet what did these large container people report on their surveys?
When asked whether they felt that the larger sized container would induce them to eat more, a vast majority felt that the size of the container hadn’t influenced their popcorn intake.
What is the moral of this tale? One, even if untasty, if food is available, it will quite probably be eaten. And two, the size of the food container does matter. And three, we are not very good at noticing what influences our food choices.
That’s why I’m so glad that Brian does this research.
We do need to take into consideration that portion control and mindless eating are part of a much bigger issue when it comes to healthy eating. And in that respect, this study is only a small piece to a very large and extremely complex puzzle.
But it epitomizes the principles of mindless eating, the invisible environmental cues that play unacknowledged roles in how much and what we eat.
And let’s face it – we could use all of the knowledge about environment cues that we can get, as our portion
sizes get bigger and more calorie-laden than ever before.
Would you like to get more concrete techniques that you can directly apply to your patients, helping them to change their eating habits with little effort?
If so, please join our Power of Three challenge.
All you’ll do is make three changes to your eating, based on tips from Brian’s experiments, and NICABM will donate $25,000 to Save the Children to feed Syrian children caught in the refugee crisis.
We’ll be starting the challenge on Monday as a group, but if you’re already signed-up and getting started, that’s okay too.
And when you sign up, we’ll give you a free handout that you can use with your patients. That way they can get in on this too.
You can learn more about the Challenge here.
What suggestions have you given your patients for combating the increase in serving size and calories of today’s dishes? Please leave a comment below.