Is Your Home Obesogenic*?
Rearrange the Food
“We find that people are three times as likely to take the first thing they see when they open the cupboard than the fifth thing they see,” says Wansink, whose team has conducted extensive research on the psychology behind what we eat. So exile the double-chocolate decadence to the darkest corner of the cabinet and put the quinoa snacks up front.
Same with the refrigerator: Keep the cucumber slices and the minted pea dip in clear containers at eye level, and stash last night’s leftover mac and cheese in an opaque container toward the back of the shelf. (Cover it with foil instead of plastic wrap while you’re at it.) “Hide and eat less” even works with candy. Wansink’s team observed that people dip into candy bowls 71 percent more frequently when the bowls are transparent than when they are white.
Buying in bulk can cause you to eat in bulk. The Cornell researchers discovered that when people put four boxes of crackers on their shelves instead of their usual two, they ate the extra boxes faster than they normally would, until they were left with the amount that they were used to having on hand. The effect was especially pronounced during the first week after stocking up, when the study subjects consumed the extra food at almost twice the normal rate. The simple solution: Keep everything you wouldn’t typically go through in a week on a high shelf or in the garage.
Ditch the Giant Containers
The big problem with a Big Gulp is that we look for external cues, like how much soda is left, to help us know how much to consume. So when a container is big, we enlarge our sense of what a normal serving size is, says Wansink. In one study from his team, people who were given popcorn in large containers ate 53 percent more than people who received medium ones—even though all the popcorn was stale.