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.
This study 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.
But don’t just take my word for it. Dr. Wansink also conducted a study that involved the cookbook Joy of Cooking.
I imagine you might own a copy of this cookbook . . . I do. But even if you don’t, chances are that one of your family members does.
This study is one that you can pass directly along to your patients, helping them understand that there’s concrete evidence backing up our professional recommendations.
While this particular experiment focused on Joy of Cooking, this cookbook isn’t the only culprit. This study is just one of approximately 700 food psychology studies that Dr. Wansink has conducted.
For more concrete techniques that we can directly apply to our patients, helping them to change their eating habits with little effort, check this out.
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.