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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