The Unstoppable American Appetite

Living / Health & Fitness

The Unstoppable American Appetite

By: Chris O'Shea

As Americans, we all realize that the majority of us are fat. It's true. Even if at times it's sad to admit it, we are a nation of giant blobs. And because we are all overweight, we are all a tad bit unmotivated. Maybe we shouldn't say "all." Mark Zuckerberg, who's now a billionaire, isn't fat and has plenty of motivation — but you get what we're saying here: Most Americans need help to stop being so damn fat and lazy. Now, thanks to some researchers, that aid might be on its way to grocery stores near you. And it will be delicious.

Brian Wansink, a professor at Cornell and author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, along with two psychologists — Andrew Geier at Yale University and Paul Rozin at the University of Pennsylvania — have come up with edible food guidelines. Essentially, through some experiments, they found that inserting serving size reminders into food helps people eat less.

Wansink and his team carried out the study on two groups of college students (98 in all). The groups were served some Lay's Stackable chips, with one of the stacks containing a chip dyed red where a single and double serving size ends. For a single serving, after six chips, the seventh was red, for a double serving, the 14th chip was colored. The people taking part in the study didn't know why the chips were colored, but they helped anyway: When the chips were positioned at a lesser spot than a serving, the students — on average — ended up eating less chips.

Wasnick believes that it's all about what we see. "People generally eat what is put in front of them if it is palatable," Wansink told The Cornell Chronicle. "An increasing amount of research suggests that some people use visual indication -- such as a clean plate or bottom of a bowl -- to tell them when to stop eating. By inserting visual markers in a snack food package, we may be helping them to monitor how much they are eating and interrupt their semiautomated eating habits."

While that's true, is interrupting us fatties with edible food markers going to help anything? Wansink thinks so. "The effect demonstrated and replicated in these studies stands as perhaps the largest practicable procedure to decrease food intake in the literature," he explained. "Marking modest portion sizes promises to be an effective strategy in the attempt to reduce food intake and obesity. Very modest reductions in intake produced by environmental changes can, when cumulated, lead to substantial weight loss. These studies could have major public health significance."

The problem, of course, is that the students didn't know what the chips were for. Now that the study is about to published, we all know. The markers will not have the same subliminal effect on our brains, because our brains will be thinking, "Oh, this is where a single serving ends. I will now eat more, more, more!" Maybe Americans aren't so unmotivated after all?

[Pic via Flickr - FBellon]

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