Many bright ideas in the latest Brian Wansink book, “Slim by Design” (Harper Collins 2014), are no-brainers. Like moving the candy dish off your desk to that little table where office visitors can benefit from your caloric munificence. Or sitting facing away from the all-you-can eat buffet.
But that’s the whole point from Wansink, Cornell’s John S. Dyson Professor of Consumer Behavior in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, who’s spent 25 years decrying “mindless eating.” Mindful eating, whatever that is, is next to impossible. Don’t strain your brain.
“Work with human nature, not against it,” Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, counsels in the book, subtitled “Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life.”
“Willpower alone won’t conquer bad eating habits for 90 percent of us. Fortunately,” Wansink adds, “there are a lot of small, innovative, proven solutions from behavioral economics and psychology that will help us become slim by design.”
Behavioral changes can be made anywhere in what Wansink calls our “food radius,” the five-mile reach where 80 percent of the comestibles Americans typically consume are lurking: at home, favorite restaurants, grocery stores, workplaces and schools.
The slim-by-design school lunch tray, for example, features smaller, shallower compartments for the entrée and starch to “make it look like more food, which helps diners feel full and satisfied,” whereas fruits and veggies go in deeper, one-cup compartments.
In the grocery store, Wansink suggests, chew mint-flavored sugarless gum: “Our study shows it keeps you from imagining how great those potato chips will taste.”
Despite the wide range of studies and tips, Wansink says, “The purpose of this book isn’t just to give people painless tips to eat less and eat better, it is to start a movement. If they ask a restaurant to offer half-size portions, or a grocery store to have a candy-free check out, everyone benefits – even those who don’t know it.”