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March 21, 2015

Food psychologist: How surroundings affect eating habits

Kiera Butler of Mother Jones had Dr. Brian Wansink, a food psychologist at Cornell University, follow her around to observe her own personal eating habits and learn about his off-beat approach to a healthy diet. The result: you can have your cake, and eat it too. Just try to eat less of it with some healthy choices to balance everything out. 

Wansink runs Cornell's Food and Brand Lab, a helpful source of information on how food company's target customers and dietary tips that won't make you overhaul your eating habits:

In Butler's piece, Wansink reveals several interesting tidbits about his food philosophy that ring like music in the ears of those who love their guilty pleasures but want to make healthier choices. Basically, he believes in meeting people halfway, with an eye on being realistic:

It's not like Wansink doesn't think we should eat our veggies. He's just realistic about it. "It would be great if we could be mindful eaters," Wansink says. "But most of us don't have the luxury of cutting a pea in half, tasting it, and asking ourselves, 'Are we full yet?' We have full-time jobs. We get home and the kids are running around. It's a lot easier for us to set up our most immediate environment so that it's easier to eat better."

Much of Wansink's focus is on not what we consume, but where and how we consume. His basic argument, as highlighted in this article, his 2006 book "Mindless Eating," and his countless studies, is that changing the environment in which we eat and the way our food is served can have major effects. Smaller plates and packages (Wansink was one of the pioneers for 100 calorie packs), along with consciously changing your mood, can prove to be important:

Wansiank, a fast food lover himself, offers a course entitled "Slim By Design" to help people people diet without feeling like they actually are. 

Read Butler's full story here

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