SPEAKER 1: Brian Wansink is the John Dyson professor of Consumer Behavior in the Department of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell where he also directs the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, an interdisciplinary group of graduate and undergraduate students from psychology, food science, marketing, agricultural economics, human nutrition, education, history, the library science, and journalism along with a number of affiliated faculty members.
The mission of the lab is to investigate the psychology behind what people eat and how often we eat in order to help us to eat more nutritiously and to control how much we eat. An additional purpose of the lab is to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables.
Brian is author of over 100 academic articles and four books, including the best selling Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, along with Marketing Nutrition, Asking Questions, and Consumer Panels. From 2007-2009 Brian was granted a leave of absence from Cornell to accept a presidential appointment as the Executive Director of the United States Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, the federal agency responsible for developing the 2010 dietary guidelines for Americans and promoting the Food Guide Pyramid, mypyramid.gov, and such programs as Healthy Eating Index, the USDA Food Plans, the nutrient content of US food supply, and the cost of raising a child.
In addition to appearing on the front pages of The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, Brian's award winning academic research on food psychology and behavior change has been published in the world's top marketing, medical, and nutrition journals. The research focuses on how ads, packaging, and personality traits influence the usage frequency and usage volume of healthy foods.
His research on consumption volume has won national and international awards for its relevance to consumers. And it has contributed to the introduction of smaller 100 calorie packages to prevent overeating, the use of taller glasses in some bars to prevent the over pouring of alcohol, and the use of elaborate names and mouth watering descriptions on some chain restaurant menus to improve the enjoyment of the food.
Brian holds the PhD degree from Stanford University. And he's held professorial positions at a number of universities, including Dartmouth's Tuck School and Penn's Wharton School.
Brian and his wife and two daughters frequently attend drive-in movies. He's a saxophone player in a rock and roll band, but not as good as he used to be. And he regularly enjoys both French fruit-- I'm sorry French food and French fries.
Mindless Eating-- Secrets and Solutions, Brian Wansink.
BRIAN WANSINK: Thank you, very much Dr. [INAUDIBLE] And thank you so much for coming tonight. I was in the parking lot and I ran into some people who traveled all the way from up by Syracuse. So the only I can say is this is going to be worth at least as much as you paid for it, which was hopefully zero.
So we're going to be talking about Mindless Eating. And how many people have ever seen this figure before? So kind of what it is is it shows the United States. And it shows back in 1991, the percent of people who were overweight in each state. So you can see the colors. If you're dark blue, it's bad. It means that about 15%, 15%-20% of the people in that state were overweight.
You see as time's going on, being the overachieving nation we are, we've had to start adding new colors. Yeah, yeah. So you know right here. We've got the real overachievers, Indiana, West Virginia, a couple other states.
And I've done something with my lab that we took this data over the years and we projected what things would look like in the year 2025 if the trend continued. By using space age econometrics and statistics, here's what we've come up with.
OK. OK. Actually, I made that up. Actually-- But as we're going to talking about today, I'm going to talk about-- I'll start with an overview of a few things related to Mindless Eating. I'll talk about four myths that we have about eating and how we can turn those around. And these are basically Chapters 2 and 3 from the book Mindless Eating.
Then I'll discuss some brand new research. This is really cool stuff that just came out within the last two weeks about which of these tips appear to work best for what types of people. And I'll end with something really cool. We were on Good Morning America today. And if anybody had that on, there were five little segments that they had about a project we're doing in another city where we're doing a remake of an entire town of 17,000. And I'll end a little bit with that.
Let's take a look at the lab. And the lab is here at Cornell. And one of things we do is we use lots of bizarre research methodologies to try to figure out why we eat the things we eat, why we eat how much we eat, and what little ways we can sort of turn things around so that we can eat a little bit less or a little bit better than a little bit more and a little bit worse.
Now this is kind of hard to visualize what happens because some of these things are like psych experiments. But other things are kind of really strange like we have homes that have hidden in-kitchen cameras in them. Now these are people who at one point agreed to have a motion activated camera in their house. And the thing is with a motion activated camera, if you had a video camera in your house, would you change the way you act? You absolutely would for exactly two days.
OK? So we'd find people. We'd have these in the kitchens. People would kind of come in and you'd see after the first day you could see them thinking they were standing out of the way of the camera. And they'd be like combing their hair. Yeah. They'd walk in and open the refrigerator and get an apple and--
But after two days, it's unbelievable. You almost have to edit these things. We can't let the people under 21 in our lab even watch the tapes. But we do all this stuff. But to give you an idea what these studies are like, because the stuff that I'm talking about are going to be the basis of what we visit about today. Let me give you an example of something.
- Did you ever eat a whole bag of chips when you're not even that hungry? Why? Well maybe there's something going on that you're not aware of. Finding out what it is could help change the shape you're in.
At Cornell University, diners head for lunch at what looks like a restaurant, but is really a lab where students prepare to observe them as they eat. The diners are guinea pigs for research to uncover the secrets of our eating habits.
- There's Pasta alla Bolognese.
- Check out this test.
- You can take as much as you want.
- On this day they tell the test subjects you can have a free meal if you simply rate the food for us.
- Have a good lunch.
- Thank you.
- Then the man in a blue shirt acting as a waiter says--
- Go ahead and get some water over there. I'll bring your-- right over.
- That's an excuse for him to take the plate and secretly weigh it. There's a scale under that flowered cloth before bringing it to diner and then doing this unappetizing thing.
- That's gross.
- To diner after diner.
- I'll get you another plate. I don't feel comfortable about giving this you now.
- That gets them to take second plate and serve themselves again. But the trick is that the second plate is bigger.
- This test is not about rating food. It's about whether people take less food when they have smaller plates. This woman thought she put more food in a smaller bowl.
- I actually noticed I put more in a smaller pasta bowl than I did in the larger plate.
- But the opposite was true. She, and most everyone, put 25% more food on the bigger plates. We're not aware of what we're eating?
- Oh, it's amazing. We eat with our eyes, not with our stomach.
- Food psychology professor Brian Wansink runs the lab that's been doing this research. And now he's written up the results in a book aptly called Mindless Eating.
- We really don't pay much attention to what we eat or how much we eat.
- Well I think I'm paying attention. I'm sure concentrating while I'm shoveling it in.
- Well most people believe that we know when we're full. But we don't really know when we're full.
- So use small plates?
- Oh, absolutely, because these are mindless ways--
BRIAN WANSINK: This leads us to our first eating myth. Shortly after discovering this, that something as silly, as stupid as the size of a plate or bowl could cause a person to eat a lot more and not even realize it, I happened to be giving a talk at the Institute of Medicine down in Washington DC. And just parenthetically after giving a talk about something else, I happened to mention this. And these people are really smart people. And for some reason, they all have British accents.
They could be from Omaha and they'd have a British accent. And this guy goes, surely, something as simple as the size of a bowl wouldn't influence how much an intelligent, informed person eats. Well, let's take a look.
So what I did is in this case, I took nine-- rather 60 graduate students. Really smart, motivated people. And for 90 minutes, one day I did nothing more than to tell them that if I gave them Chex Mix out of a big, gallon size bowl, they would take and eat a whole lot more than if I gave it to them in two halve gallon size bowls. Bigger size bowl suggests normal, typical, reasonable to take more and people do.
So I lectured this, we demonstrated it. We showed video. We had people break into groups to figure out how they could avoid this from happening to them. We did interpretive dancing. And after 90 minutes-- these were smart, intelligent, informed people.
What happened six weeks later, was when they came back from Christmas vacation, I invited them to this big Super Bowl party at a place called Jillian's. It's kind of a sports bar. These are a chain. Is anybody familiar with Jillian's? They're in the lot of major cities.
Anyway, people came in to one of two rooms. When they were led into the TV viewing area where their snacks were at. As they came in, their snacks were on a big table. Want to guess what their snacks were? Chex Mix. Surprised?
So what happened in one room was these Chex Mix were presented to them in huge, gallon sized containers. So as they served themselves, they got down to the end of the table. And somebody intercepted them and said, hey, can you fill in a couple of questions for me about who you think is going win the Super Bowl? And they go, yeah, yeah, but I got to figure out some place to put my plate.
Oh, look, there's an opening right on this table. Underneath that table cloth on that table is a scale that registered in another room exactly how much they'd taken.
Now as they were doing that, in a parallel room, another group was in the same situation, but they were given bowls that were about half that size. They were given half gallon size bowls.
And what we found is that if you serve yourself out of gallon size bowls, you served and ate about 54% more calories. Now, you can go, ugh, I don't know. That's not that much more calories. Well translate it into about 230 more calories. And if every day of your life, you ate 230 more calories, you'd end up weighing 23 pounds more a year from now than you weigh today. That's what happens with these little bitty calories, they add up.
So people would off. They watched the Super Bowl. At the end of the Super Bowl when they're leaving, we intercepted them and said, hey, do you know that you ate about 50% more than people who serve themselves out of smaller bowls? Do you think the bowl had anything to do with it?
What do you think people said? Come, on. Nah, the bowl couldn't have done anything. Well, why do you think you ate so much? And people would go-- ah. I didn't have lunch on Tuesday. Yeah. And that's the problem with this stuff is that these cues are so ubiquitous. We think we are so smart that we end up getting tricked every time we rely on our power of intelligence.
Now, if I ask you to think of the last time you overate, is there anybody who cannot think of the last time they overate? OK. Now when you think of that time, I want you to ask yourself why was it on that particular occasion you overate?
Now if you think about it, how many overate because the food was really, really, really good? We find that on average, it's almost 50%-- of the-- I'm sorry, almost 32% of the people overeat because the food's really, really good. About 50% of you, the last time you overate you overate because you were really, really, really hungry. Yeah.
And then it's a smaller percent somewhere between 10% and 15% who typically overeat because of some emotional thing. They go, gee, it was a terrible day at work or I came home and the cat wasn't feeling well and I didn't feel well.
Word. Things like that. OK. But in general, the number one reason is we overeat because we're hungry. And we overeat because we think the food is really good.
So we decided to take a situation where people aren't hungry and where the food was terrible to see if they'd still overeat. And here's what we did. We went to a movie theater outside of Chicago, Illinois. And what we did is we took people who had just finished eating dinner within 20 minutes of coming to the theater. And what we did was we gave them popcorn that was either in a medium sized bucket, you know the ones that cost like $7 at the movie theater? Or on of those Holy Roman Empire size buckets they cost like $7.05.
And we said welcome to the theater. Here's your free popcorn. It's Illinois History Week, which it was. And that's sounds pretty bogus, doesn't it? I think there are about 170 people who are involved in this. And not one of them said, Illinois History Week, that's ridiculous. Most of them just kind of go, excellent.
But the other thing was, this wasn't fresh popcorn. This popcorn was five days old. And it had set in an entomology lab that had been, oh, humidity controlled at 66% or 68% humidity for five days. This was like-- what's the word-- Styrofoam.
Here's what happens when people have fresh popcorn. When they walk into theater, they go. They sit down. And they do this.
[CHOMP, CHOMP, CHOMP]
The person next to them asks them a question and they go mmmm. Can't talk, eating. And in one study we did just last summer, we ended up finding that 60% of the people who arrived in the theater before the movie starts with popcorn will have eaten more than half of their handfuls of popcorn before the credits finish rolling.
Well here's what happens if you give people 5 day old popcorn. They walk in. They sit down. They take a handful of popcorn and they go oh, god. They wince and then they-- you see them trying to pick it out of their teeth. And they sit the popcorn down and watch the movie for a while. And after about 2 or 3 minutes, all of a sudden, they go-- popcorn. And take another bite. And just this cycle starts all over.
But instead of eating 50% of their handfulls of popcorn before the movie even begins, they're still eating throughout the entire movie. To the point where when they finish that movie and come out, they will have eaten about 35% more popcorn if they were given a big bowl than a small bowl.
And if you say, hey, did you eat so much popcorn because you're really, really hungry? They go no. You say, hey, did you eat so much popcorn because it tastes really, really good? They go no. If you say, why did you eat so much? People are speechless.
And if you say, do you think it could have been because of the size the bucket? They go, no, no, no. That couldn't have been it. No. And that's what's so powerful about these cues. They are so ubiquitous and influence us in all sorts of ways.
But the neat thing is, where do they get started? Let's take a look at this. Oh,
- All right. So did you play in the snow this morning before you came to school?
- Yeah, yeah.
- Oh, great. Well, what I'm going to do now is just to see how much cereal you would like of this other cereal-- Cheerios. Would that be OK?
- Would you like more?
- More. [INAUDIBLE] just pour out half.
- Brian Wansink and Collin Payne are food psychologists at Cornell University interested in what, why, and how people eat. They are devising an experiment to study the eating patterns and psychological systems at work in the minds of preschool children.
- Is this enough?
- Is that enough or would you like more?
- That's enough? OK.
- What we're trying to see what happens at home influences them as healthy or unhealthy eaters.
- Again or is that enough?
You want to know the crazy thing about this is that you can talk to a parent and you can show a person 17 times in a row that they'll over serve themselves and overeat if you give them a bigger bowl than a slightly smaller bowl. And then you'll say, hey, so what are you going to do when you get home tonight? And they'll go I'm going to keep this in mind. It's like No! You just poured more for the last 17 times in a row to get rid of your big bowls and use your small bowls.
And the thing is the nice thing about this, we've just finished this study in a bunch of 4-H programs this summer. But a nice thing is if a person doesn't want to do this at least for themselves, at least it's something you do for your kids. Because we find that these kids we've been working with range from like ages six to 12. And even though you say they know how much to pour, no way. They end up pouring about 50% more cereal if you just give them a slightly bigger bowl.
We go through and after we finish all these studies with these little gooblets, we say, hey, which of these seven different sized bowls do you typically use at home? Do you know what the average sized bowl these kids use at home was? On average, it was 18 ounces. That's on the massive scale. OK? So I think it's a nice thing for us to know as parents that there's small things we can do to get our kids to eat better without us even having to be in the room.
Well an interesting thing happened in that to a child, they all pour more, but this isn't just bowls. It isn't just plates. It's also even glasses. We found it's kind of strange when you pour liquids that if you give somebody a short, wide glass or tall, skinny glass, people will always pour more liquid in a short, wide glass than a tall, skinny glass. Why? Well we're used to looking-- when we pour, we used to looking at heights and not widths. I mean nobody pours and then goes, yeah, that's looking like a lot.
No. You're looking at the heights. You're always looking at the distance from the glass. And so with the short, wide glass, you under compensate for the width, leading you to over pour. And we decide to say, hmmm. If we do that as mere mortals, would professionals do even the same thing?
Now who's a professional who gets paid for pouring accurately?
BRIAN WANSINK: Bartenders.
- His tests also found that people pour less liquid into tall, skinny glasses than short, wide ones. Would even a professional bartender fall for that?
- Pour the amount of whiskey you'd be pouring if you'd be pouring a whiskey on the rocks.
- Wansink asked the owner of this bar to pour a shot into both kinds of glasses.
- There we go.
- All right
- Were they equal shots? Watch what happens when Wansink pours them into the measuring beakers.
- Ah, look at that.
- He had poured much less into the tall, skinny glass.
- Well that's quite a difference.
- Quite. It's almost half as much.
- In fact, when Wansink asked dozens of bartenders to pour, they averaged a third more liquor in the short, fat glasses.
- I guess I'm going to have to buy more taller glasses.
BRIAN WANSINK: Now after we found this result, I mean this was so cool. We were so shocked by the magnitude of this result that I was giving a talk to a group of dietitians somewhere on another topic. And we'd just discovered this like the week before. So I'm so excited about it. When I finished my talk, I go and another thing we just discovered was blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
The first person finishing who got up to answer the first question with the microphone, ignored the first talk that I'd totally given, and said, if even professionals are fooled with the things around us, what hope is there for the rest of us?
It was like this like this Charlton Heston drama, falling to her knees, soylent green is people, sort of thing. Hint. And again, then she says, somebody has to do something about this. And I know what we did when we first discovered it. Within about two days in our lab, we got rid of all the short, wide glasses. So we just had the tall, skinny glasses. And if short, wide glasses trip you up by leading you to pour too much. You can say to yourself, must not over pour, must not over pour. Or you can just get rid of the glass. OK? Which is a mindlessly smarter thing to do.
Within about two weeks of doing this, pretty much everybody in my lab had gotten rid of all the glasses at home. One guy even got rid of-- he and his wife even get rid of their red wine glasses because they're more wide at the bottom than white wine glasses. Yeah. Yeah. The rest of us thought that was going too far.
But the secret to any mindless eating isn't being mindful for most of us. That does work for some people. For most of us that doesn't work. Because we have seven billion things on our mind. The solution for mindless eating for a lot of us is just to get rid of the things that make us mindlessly eat so we end up being back in equilibrium.
So here's a second myth. And I'm sorry. The second myth looks like this. And it kind of relates to a question I want to ask you about how you know you're through eating dinner. Now, about two years ago, I asked 150 people from Paris-- you know sophisticated Parisians, how they knew they were through eating dinner. The number one answer was I know I'm through eating dinner when I'm no longer hungry. That's obvious. That makes sense, right?
The second most common reason was I know him through the dinner when the food no longer tastes good. Well that's an obvious answer.
But I asked the same question three months later of 150 Chicagoans. Ones And even though those are the two most obvious answers in the world, do you think they showed up in the top three? No. Not at all. The number one answer for Chicagoans-- and we'll see if it matches what yours might be-- number one answer was I know I'm through eating dinner when the plate's empty. The number two reason was I know I'm through eating dinner when everyone else at the table's through eating dinner. And the third one was I know I'm through eating dinner when the TV I'm watching is over.
Now if you look at our French people, they're using internal cues to tell them when to stop eating. Like those internal cues are their tummy or their tongue, right? With the Chicagoans, are using external cues, they're using the things around them. Plate empty, must stop. Game over, the Bears. Or what the people around them are doing. And insofar as we end up relying on the cues around us, we're almost always going to end up overeating because everything around us pretty much pushes us in the direction of eating more tastier stuff.
So the question was that the second eating myth. OK. So people might serve a little bit more. People know when they're full. They know when to stop. And we decided to look at what happens if, I don't know, a plate never empties. Do people know when to stop? Or do they just kind of eat like the family dog until they just blow up eventually? Maybe I only have the world's dumbest dog, but anyway.
So we did a study where we created these refillable soup bowls. We took these bowls and we drilled holes through the bottom of them. Yeah, I know. We drilled holes through the table and then we attach this food grade tubing from the bottom of the bowl through the table in the cauldrons of soup like that one down there next to the guy. Or like the one that you can't see here. It's on the other side of the wall. And fill that thing with six quarts of soup six quarts of tomato soup
So this woman, as she eats, the level of the soup's going to slowly go down. But the second she stops, it's going to imperceptibly start to rise again to the point where she could eat for three days. But until she finishes six quarts of soup, she will never see the bottom of that bowl. Actually, here's what the bowl looks like. Greetings to my garage.
Now how many people think that if you're eating out of a refillable soup bowl, they would figure something out. Of course, we all would. You're just embarrassed to raise your hand. We all kind of go, pffft, that wouldn't fool me.
The crazy thing is, we did this to about 160 people in total, and only two people figured this out. They ate for 15 minutes. One person dropped their napkin.
They looked down and they see all of this Borg like tubing underneath there and just freaked out. And this other guy apparently didn't hear the instructions. So what he did was I guess forgetting he wasn't in a medieval banquet, he started channeling a Viking ancestor and he grabbed the bowl and--
I think this is pressure fed. The thing comes up out of the table like a coral snake. And It's like pfft. Terrible, terrible. People are screaming and tipping over chairs.
The weird thing about this is that the people who are eating up from the refillable soup bowl end up eating about 73% more soup in 15 minutes. At least three people ate more than a quart.
I know what's up with that. But the crazy thing was when we asked people if they were full, they'd say things like, no, how can I be full? I still have half a bowl of soup left. What's wrong with you? You can see that as well as I can.
This ends up being a powerful thing. We end up eating with our eyes and not with our stomach. It's why a dietitian will tell you never eat ice cream out of the package. At least dish it up for a moment, because if it's in that bowl at least for a second, you'll know at least how bad of a boy you're eventually going to be.
That's why you don't eat potato chips out of the potato chip bag. Because remember there's like three or four handfuls and there's just air?
Well I don't know how many people have ever heard of the IgNobel Prize? Anybody ever hear of that? OK. It's a crazy, silly prize they give for research that makes you laugh and then think. And this won it in 1977. It's kind of cool, they hadn't seen Harvard. There's some really cool benefits to this.
One the unexpected cool benefit is that you get to party with real Nobel Prize winners. OK? There's a sudden unexpected benefit is that some of your colleagues are not really paying close attention to the news or the radio, think that you won the Nobel Prize. Brian, what did I hear on NPR this morning about a Nobel Prize? Only caught part of it. That was the part without the Ig in front of it.
So the third eating myth I want to talk about is that most of the eating, most the obesity problem has to do with food eaten away from home. And indeed, most of us eat it's estimated around 50% of our meals away from home, whether it be in the school lunch for our kids, whether it be eating lunch for us, or whether it be driving to work and trying to Ralph down breakfast.
Well, what I wanted to look at was is it just eating at home-- eating away from home that has a problem? Or is there also something about what we do in our home that might kind of have lead us to the direction of overeating over the years? And unfortunately, we can't find our great, great, great grandmother and say am I eating more than you did?
But we tried to do something else. We tried to take every--
Sorry about that. We tried to take every issue of The Joy of Cooking which has been in production for about 70 years. And what we ended up doing was we analyzed all the recipes that were common across all these eight editions. We analyzed the calories per serving.
Now if you look at things over the years, a lot of things change. We're just looking at calories per serving. But also what changes, there's a lot of recipes that you can find in 1950 or 1936 that you can find in 2006. Some of them are kind of pretty amusing. Like one of them, for instance, is like this recipe for squirrel. It didn't actually survive the years. So you want to keep those old cookbooks, because they've got this recipe and not the new one.
Well here's where it is, in case you--
Oh, that's why-- serve first-- I know. This is terrible. Oh. So the recipe has step one in the recipes is you put on your best Victorian boot. But here's we find with the recipes.
So we found in all these issues, across these issues, all recipes that were common except for one, increased in calories per serving. On average, these recipes that increased increased by an average of 63% per recipe per serving.
That means that over the years, what your grandmother gave your mother or your grandfather gave your father is a whole lot smaller than what you just got. But 2/3 this is due to more calorically dense ingredients like more butter, more salt, nuts, spices, substituting meat for vegetables, and things like that. About 1/3 is due to larger serving sizes. With the big jumps being '46, right after the war, that's no surprise. '62 and 2006.
In some ways paralleling what we actually saw in restaurants. Meaning that this really kept pretty good track, pretty good step, with what was happening in restaurants. Because we were getting huskier appetites at home, restaurants responding similarly.
The last eating myth I want to talk about. This is the one eating myth that-- it's one of many eating myths, but it's the one I'll talk about today-- it's news you can use if you want to be a better cook at home without actually being any good. OK. This is the idea that we know what we like. A famous French expression, right? There's no accounting for taste?
Well we did a study a while back. This gentleman had a series of restaurants that he was either-- cafeterias, university cafeterias. And he had a faculty cafeteria where he was just serving very healthy things. So they were typical things like chocolate cake and stuff, but he'd make it in a very healthy way. Great food, low calories. But nobody showed up.
So what he ended up doing is he said is there some way we can do some stuff to get people to eat here and think the food's actually pretty good? Well, we did a bunch of things. But one thing we did is the study that lasted about six weeks. And during that six weeks, what we did is we took six menu items and we either left them there same old boring names, like seafood filet, or we gave them a really cool descriptive name, like succulent Italian seafood filet.
Now, again, it's just basically a dried out fishstick. But this just sounds cooler. So for two weeks, we'd have it on the menu as seafood filet. And then for two weeks it'd be off. And then two weeks it re-appears succulent Italian seafood fillet. And what we'd do is we'd track, not just how many people bought the stuff, but once they finished their meal, we'd have them fill out little cards saying how much they liked it and all this sort of stuff.
And the crazy thing is even though these were all the exact same recipes, if people ordered something with a descriptive name, what did is they thought the food tasted a whole lot better. They thought the restaurant was a whole lot trendier and up to date. And they even rated the chef as having more years of professional culinary experience.
Now in this case, I think the chef had been like fired from Arby's three weeks earlier. But it didn't matter. And they'd go, yeah, he's the real deal. CIA, I think the A stands for Arby's.
So this happened all the time. We even called something chocolate cake one time and the next time we call it like Belgian Black Forest double chocolate cake. Now, does it matter that the Belgian forest-- the Black Forest isn't in Belgium?
No. People are like this is good. Yeah. This is what it's supposed to taste like.
Then we want to see well how far can you stretch something this stupid? So we ended up doing something where we ordered cases and cases of $2 wine. Oh, god. $2 wine is called Charles Shaw wine. Does anybody know what the abbreviation for that is? Two buck chuck, exactly. Ordered all these cases of Charles Shaw wine. Soak the labels off. And we replaced with one of two labels-- one label said it was from Noah's Vineyard, you know, new from California, Noah's Vineyard Cabernet.
The other one said New from North Dakota, Noah's Vineyard Cabernet. California? Known for wine. North Dakota, not so. Actually, my maternal grandmother is from North Dakota and I never remember her ever mentioning the wine growing up.
Well so this is a research restaurant. And so what we did is people came in, they paid. It was a French dinner. They paid about $24 or $25 bucks for a prefixed dinner. It was February, cold February. And they came in. And we said, thanks for keeping your dinner reservation. And to thank you, we're going to give you a free glass of wine. This from Noah's Winery. It's new from California. Poured it. Left the bottle in front of them.
The other half the tables, which would be kind of you guys, weren't quite so lucky. For you, a different waiter or waitress came up and said, oh, thanks for keeping a reservation on this snowy night. What we've got for you is a free glass of cabernet from Noah's Winery. It's new from North Dakota. Your mouths just drop. And we'd pour it.
Well then we did everything. We ended up finding out that the people who thought they were drinking California wine, they ended up staying longer. They end up eating more. They ended up rating the wine as better, which was a surprise. And when they left, we asked them if they wanted to make reservations to come back, they on average would make reservations to come back within two or three months.
You pour North Dakota, people, you just couldn't wait to get out of that restaurant. It's poison. You rated the wine as terrible. You rated the meals as more terrible. And you didn't spend as long there. And when you left that night and somebody asked if you wanted to make reservations to come back, people would say things like this. This is funny. They'd say things like, oh, no. You know, like yeah, I'm just really, really busy like for the rest of my life.
So one of my researchers made it point to amusingly point it out that both groups of people drank the exact same amount of wine, which was all of it.
This was terrible, but there's still some left.
Now if we see something like this, we kind of go, oh, come on, maybe this could fool-- and these were actually fairly sophisticated palates. These were mostly faculty members. Let me rethink this then. But most of us can say, ah, you know, something like that wouldn't fool me. But I want to show you something, a little clip of something that's a little bit crazy that might be interesting.
- Brian Wansink.
- To demonstrate that, Wansink tricked some of our own staff, seven of 20/20's college interns. First, he added some chocolate sauce to vanilla yogurt. Then, he told the students--
- We're going to be doing a little strawberry yogurt taste test.
- On the table, he had some strawberry yogurt containers.
- If you put your blindfolds on--
- Students put on blindfolds, tasted the yogurt, and then Wansink asked them to compare the strawberry taste.
- I think they both tasted really strong with strawberry.
- All the students were certain they were eating strawberry yogurt.
- This one had a must stronger strawberry taste to it.
- It just tasted more like strawberries.
- With this woman, Wansink tried something different.
- We're going to be tasting a couple of different kinds of yogurts today.
- He didn't tell her what flavor it was So when he asked her to rate the strawberry taste--
- Honestly, I didn't notice it was strawberry.
- OK, good.
- And yet when I interviewed the group, she too had accepted the idea that she'd eaten strawberry.
- When you like follow up with a question like which one was more strawberry, I was like I had to choose one.
- They all believed it was strawberry. Actually, none of them was strawberry. It was vanilla yogurt with chocolate sauce.
- That can't be.
- What do you mean it can't be?
- Well, I thought I tasted strawberry. I guess also, when I opened my eyes, the two yogurts in front had a strawberry on the box.
- I think you're joshing us right now. I do. Because I feel like there was definitely a taste of strawberry.
- No. It was vanilla yogurt with chocolate sauce. But you thought it was strawberry.
- It tasted like strawberry. I swear it did.
- The moral to these stories says Wansink is that we are much less taste sensitive than we think we are.
- We don't want to really believe that we are duped or fooled by something as simple as a--
BRIAN WANSINK: You know the crazy thing about that is the lesson if you want to be a better cook without actually being any good is there's very small things you can do. Because anything you do that raises the expectation of how something is going to taste, whether it be that cool name you give it, whether it be a nice plate you put it on rather than a napkin, there will be candlelight rather than fluorescent lights, these all feed into the expectation that the food's going to taste better.
And in the dozens of studies we've done on this, we've never find it ever backfires. You almost never get expectations so high that it makes people go oh, my god, that's terrible, because it was so bad. So that's really, really good news you can use you want to impress that special one this weekend with your Chef Boyardee pasta that you're going to warm up. Word.
I had an interesting thing. I talked to is this guy who was a reporter for the BBC a while back. And he was doing something. And he goes, you know what he says, I think I just sort of inherently knew this because I'm a pretty good cook. But I have all of these dinner parties at home. I prep everything before people arrive. You sit in the-- we sit and have some appetizers and enjoy some wine. And I say, hey, let's go eat and people go there. They eat. They don't really say anything about the food. He says I think it's because they don't think it's taking him any time to prepare it, so it must not be any good.
So he said, what I started doing a while back is he said about 15 minutes before I'm going to serve a meal, I get up. I walk into the kitchen, where the meal's already been prepared. And I just sit there. I hang. Every few minutes, he goes, you know, I beat on some pots and pans. And he says, people in the other room, and they kind of go, wow, he's in there? He sounds busy. This is probably going to be a pretty good meal. And he says that he's gotten a lot more comments once he starts doing that.
But now the deal is that there's a lot of things you could do if you want to feed kids and get them to eat a little bit better. Like I said we're doing a bunch of really cool studies this summer with kids. And what's kind of neat is that we were to take time back and turn it backwards about 80 years to 1928, the number one favorite food of kids was ice cream. Ooh, no surprise. Number two favorite food of kids will be a surprise. It was spinach. Ugh. You know back then, we're not talking leafy green spinach. You know what we're talking, the nasty canned stuff which is exact same stuff that what's his name ate--
BRIAN WANSINK: Popeye. Well, we've been doing a bunch of stuff with kids. One of the things we've been doing is we've been renaming foods with little kids. And these are four-year-olds and then six-year-olds and up. And this works really good for the younger kids. We'll rename peas, power peas. Well, no, they're nasty canned peas. Rename them power peas. And what happens is the kids in the second or third grade took 60% more than if they're just peas.
We did this other study. And this is just-- I always feel guilty about this one. We did this in a summer church camp. And they had this tomato juice that like nobody had taken since 1962. And we renamed it a rainforest smoothie. And they ran out of it.
Well, in review, the stale popcorn studies show that changing the size of our plates or bowls changes the cue leaving us unknowingly eating more. The bottomless soup bowl says we don't really know when we're full. The Joy of Cooking too much shows us that the calories of foods at home are even rising if we don't watch ourselves.
And in general, just these cues around us are tripping us up. There is a couple things we can do about that. But the basic solution is if our immediate environment causes us to do something we don't like instead of saying must rage against the environment, no, I mean if you can change your environment by using smaller plates, or skinnier glasses, or changing the way your cupboards are laid out, or your refrigerator's laid out, or moving your candy dish, these are lot easier than saying note to self must remember not to eat too much from the candy dish that's on my desk. No, just move it six feet.
Now are there Mindless Eating solutions? I want to share something with you. And this just came out within this last month in The American Economic Review. We did this cool study where we took a bunch of people who would come to the website mindlesseating.org-- which is our web site. And these were people who came there with the intention not to lose weight, but to get their families to eat better. They didn't want to lose weight. They wanted to get their families to eat better without their families knowing it.
Well one thing we did was we randomly took these 2,000 people. We gave them one of 10 tips. And some of these tips were ones that we found out that worked in Mindless Eating. But a bunch of these other tips are ones that dietitians often give people to lose weight. We wanted to see which of these worked, just in a big self-reported study, which of these worked?
So we tracked people for a while, for three months. We kept in touch with them every month. And they reported their weight before they started and after they ended. Now here's what we found. One of the suggestions was to use a salad plate or a 10 inch plate for your dinner plate. Now the typical person who did that, even though they didn't want to lose weight, lost 1.97 pounds per month. Well that's pretty good if you don't even want to lose weight, you know, wow.
People were told to eat only in the kitchen or dining room ended up losing 1.58 pounds per month. Pretty darn good.
Well what we ended up finding was that some of these tips that people ended up reading from diet magazines stuff actually backfired. Like this one. It's often-- how many people have ever heard the idea of you should eat oatmeal for breakfast. Cause it's sating. It makes you sated, it's something warm. And it lasts throughout the day. Yeah, but if you do that, these people were gaining about a pound a month by eating oatmeal. And that didn't really make a lot of sense.
Can you guess why that might happen?
BRIAN WANSINK: Exactly. That's one of the reasons. We called these people up. One reason is they said, oh, I can't eat that nasty stuff without having an equal amount of sugar on it. OK. That's one strike against it.
Another thing people would say, geez, Louise, if I'm going to go to the hassle of making oatmeal. I'm not going to have half a cup. No way. I'm eating it until it's gone. The third thing was is people would say, you know, I dislike oatmeal so much that I thought after ate it, I deserved a bagel or a donut or something.
But the crazy thing about this is we look at these people in these first two groups, first couple people. The people lost weight, they didn't lose it like two pounds the first month, two pounds the second month, two pounds the third month. What happened is they'd lose maybe one pound the first month, two pounds the second month, and three pounds the third month. You know, it's self-reported weight, but we saw this pattern happen over and over again, which is puzzling why it would happen.
And at the time we were kind of at a loss. I was giving a talk I think it was in Denver-- I'm going to talk about two people here. And they both told me I could use their likenesses and their stories. And the solution in this bizarre mystery kind of happened when I was in Denver. And this woman came up to me and said-- after a talk, there was a reception afterwards-- and she said you know my husband, or I lost like 32 pounds in the last 11 months and my husband lost like 45 pounds. And all we did was made one change. We said we will never sit down and eat lunch or dinner unless there is both a fruit and a vegetable on the table.
Now we don't have either of them. They just have to be on the table. I hate them, man. That grapefruit has been on the table since February actually. It's not moving. You know and you can think of a lot of reasons why that would happen if you start thinking a little more consciously about food and stuff.
I said, wow, you've lost 32 pounds. Is said your husband lost 45 pounds? And this was like maybe in 11 months or something. I said what did he do different than you did? She goes, oh yeah, yeah. She said after a couple of months, he starts saying, hey, this is really working. So he made another change that what he did was instead of drinking beer after dinner, he drink wine.
Now does that make any sense to you? No. I'm just a big question mark over my head. I said, well, why did that work? And she goes oh, he doesn't like wine.
So what happened a certain time after this is the guy and I was giving a talk actually in North Dakota. I used to give five little talks in North Dakota. And at the end of one of these talks-- it's kind of late at night, it's like quarter to 10 or something. And I'm just there with my host. We're kind of finishing up.
This whole time there's a guy kind of back in back by the door. He's got his coat on, buttoned the whole time. He's just like kind of like watching me. And you don't really think anything about it. But then it's thinning out. And there's just my host and I and he kind of walks down. And goes I liked it. He goes I've been waiting all night to show you something.
I'm like oh, my god, let it be a gun. And he take his coat off and he says, see this sweater? He said like seven months ago this sweater was skin tight on me. And I lost 34 pounds in seven months. I go, wow. He says I made one change. I go what was the change?
He says when I come home from work, I eat a cup of cottage cheese. I'm like not tracking this. I said how did that make you lose weight? He goes, yeah, I was kind of wondering that, too. But it's because I ate the cottage cheese, you know at whatever 5:30 PM, 6:00 PM when he got home. He says we used to eat 6:00 o'clock. But I'm not hungry so we don't eat till 7:30 PM. And because I don't eat until 7:30 PM, we don't eat snacks at 9:00 PM or 10:00 PM because I'm not hungry. It's like well interesting.
There's really small ripple effects that happen from just making one change consistently every day, whether it be fruits and vegetables on the table for dinner or lunch, whether it be cottage cheese after work.
Now, we're doing something-- and I don't know if anybody saw Good Morning America this morning. We're doing something. We chose a town to do a town makeover. And it's called The Vitality Project. I do all the nutritional related parts of it. And somebody else does the exercise. And the third person does sort of the spiritual kind of connection stuff. And so we're doing this in a town called Albert Lea, Minnesota, which is in southern Minnesota, a town of 70,000.
And what we did was we got 3,000 families to sign a pledge that for six months, they would make four changes and to the best of their ability stick by these four changes every day for six months. Now we gave them 14 changes and all they had to do is pick four. So we gave them a little bit of flexibility. And four of these were related.
So there's a town right here. One of them is having a walking group. Now that's not what I'm doing, but it's what one of other guys did. They were just getting like families like this will end up saying this pledge. And it would things like this. You commit to do four of these following activities like the walking club, you have a grocery list. And the five that relate to eating are use a 10-inch plate or smaller, remove your TV from your kitchen or dining room, or unplug it, wear this bracelet that reminds you to eat 80% of what you typically eat, and to weigh yourself every day. That's only four things.
And it's going to be neat. They had a little bit of a preview today about it on Good Morning America talking about this. And this is going to end on the 13th-- I'm sorry, the 12th, 13th, and 14th of October. So you can see. They're doing the big weigh in on those days. And so I'll be out there. And it will be back on TV. So the whole idea is if you do a couple of small things, but do them consistently, it can have a rippling effect in other parts of your life.
If you want to learn a little bit more about this, we've got something called the smallplatemovement.org. And all this stuff can be found also on mindlesseating.org if you're interested. Now that's all I have for tonight, But I wanted to remind you that the best diet is the diet you don't know you're on. Thanks.
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Hidden persuaders in restaurants, movie theaters, airplanes, and even our own homes can trick us into eating more than we want--but it's possible to survive those places with your waistline intact.
Cornell faculty member Brian Wansink shares some practical, science-based strategies for losing weight and fat-proofing your life. Wansink is director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.