Eat Mindfully & Lose Weight

Popcorn in a box

Eat less by order­ing a small serv­ing of pop­corn

It is dif­fi­cult to lose weight and it’s even more dif­fi­cult to keep weight off;  and your envi­ron­ment may have some­thing to do with it.  You may be famil­iar with this sce­nario.   You just fin­ished eat­ing a big din­ner, you feel per­fect­ly sat­is­fied, and yet you still man­age to eat a dessert or down a large pop­corn at the movie the­ater.  You blame your­self for not hav­ing enough willpow­er or self-con­trol and vow to do bet­ter tomor­row.

While the deci­sion to eat and not to eat is yours, when you are con­stant­ly being tempt­ed by food, this can be chal­leng­ing.

Bri­an Wansink of Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty has been study­ing how exter­nal cues can affect how much you eat, what you eat and whether you enjoy what you are eat­ing.  You’ll be sur­prised to find out how small envi­ron­men­tal cues can deter­mine your eat­ing behav­ior.


Here are some of the things he discovered:

  • Peo­ple ate more pop­corn out of a larg­er con­tain­er than a small­er one. He gave movie­go­ers who just had din­ner either a small bag of stale pop­corn or a large bag of stale pop­corn. Despite the fact that the pop­corn was stale and peo­ple were full, they still ate 34% more pop­corn out of the larg­er bag than the small­er bag.
  • Sec­re­taries ate 100 few­er calo­ries out of a can­dy dish when it was placed away from their desk com­pared to when it was right next to their desk. It also helped when the bowl was opaque or col­ored so the can­dy was not direct­ly vis­i­ble.
  • Peo­ple thought food tast­ed much bet­ter when it was served on nice dish­es than when served on a paper nap­kin. Food on a nap­kin tast­ed good but on a plate it was divine!
  • Peo­ple ate more food when the serv­ing dish­es were on the table than when they remained in the kitchen, and it seems to effect men more than women. Men ate 29% more, women only 10%. Men eat faster than women and serve them­selves sec­onds and thirds when oth­ers are still fin­ish­ing their first meal.
  • Peo­ple who were served buf­fa­lo wings ate 28% less if the bones were left on the table com­pared to if they were tak­en away.

The take-away mes­sage is to be mind­ful of how you serve and eat your food.


Here are some tips to help you be a mind­ful eater:

1. Keep food out of reach and out of sight.

2. Buy snack foods in small­er serv­ing sizes or pre-pack them into snack size Ziploc bags.

3. Have meals at the table with place­mats and nice dish­ware.

4. And if you must have buf­fa­lo wings, keep the bones on the table!

If you want to learn more about Bri­an Wansink and his stud­ies go to







Nutri­tion Action Health­let­ter.  Cen­ter for Sci­ence in the Pub­lic Inter­est.  Under the Influ­ence: How Exer­nal Cues Make Us Overeat.  May, 2011.

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