What was the least wanted gift this Christmas? No, it wasn’t the hand sewn, individually-named, socks from Grandma.
If New Year resolutions are anything to go by, the least wanted “gift” Santa left behind this holiday season was the extra few pounds around our waistlines.
We might leave cookies out for Santa, but we are the ones getting fatter.
The year-on-year growth rate on the world obesity map looks like the progression of “the virus” in a zombie apocalypse movie.
Why are we getting fatter? Drop the conspiracy theories. It’s simple – we eat too much.
There are ongoing arguments, but a fair amount of research indicates that our weight problem is more likely to be a rise in calories consumed than a lack of exercise.
the evidence suggests increased caloric intake is far more important than reduced caloric expenditure in explaining recent increases in obesity. Calories expended have not changed significantly since 1980, while calories consumed have risen markedly.
between the mid-1970s and the mid-1990s for males and females…Reported consumption increased by 268 calories for men and 143 calories for women… This increase is more than enough to explain the increase in steady-state weight.
Time for a diet then? Hardly.
As our main intervention for weight loss, the deprivation diet is pretty much scientifically proven not to work.
A recent large-scale study found that 39% of us can’t keep our hands off the twinkies for more than 7 days.
If you are one of the mere 8% “willpower of steel” dieters that make it beyond 3 months, what happens to all that weight loss?
Analyses of 31 long-term studies found approximately 83% of all dieters put their weight back on. And then some.
“You can initially lose 5 to 10 percent of your weight on any number of diets, but then the weight comes back,” said Traci Mann, UCLA associate professor of psychology and lead author of the study. “We found that the majority of people regained all the weight, plus more. Sustained weight loss was found only in a small minority of participants, while complete weight regain was found in the majority. Diets do not lead to sustained weight loss or health benefits for the majority of people
Ever wonder how fast dieters regain their weight?
About as fast as they lost it in the first place.
The speed at which you gain weight after going off a diet is almost always directly related to the speed you lost the weight to begin with. If you miraculously lose 10 pounds in two days with the new Celebrity Fad Diet, you’re likely to miraculously gain it back almost as fast.
But most of this isn’t new to us.
We’ve heard it before, and the evidence is all around us. In some cases, literally.
So if dieting isn’t the answer, how can you lose weight? Better yet, is there a way to lose weight without really trying?
But the answer isn’t a new fad diet, wonder supplement, or crossfit workout discovered on a paleolithic-era cave wall.
In fact, it’s just plain, un-sexy, psychology.
Studies of eating behaviour show that the reasons why we eat are myriad, and very often not related to actually being hungry.
We eat for emotional reasons, we eat for social reasons, but often we eat just because the food is there.
Everyone- every single one of us—eats how much we eat largely because of what’s around us. We overeat not because of hunger but because of family and friends, packages and plates, names and numbers, labels and lights, colors and candles, shapes and smells, distractions and distances, cupboards and containers. This list is almost as endless as it’s invisible
Find that hard to believe?
Consider this: how much more soup do people eat when given soup from a bowl they didn’t realise was being secretly refilled?
73 percent more.
People eating out of the normal soup bowls ate about 9 ounces of soup. This is just a little less than the size of a nondiluted Campbell’s soup can (10.5 ounces). They thought they had eaten about 123 calories’ worth of soup, but, in fact, they had eaten 155.
People eating out of the bottomless soup bowls ate…around 15 ounces. With a couple of exceptions…people didn’t comment about feeling full. Even though they ate 73 percent more.
When asked how many calories of soup they ate, the 127 calories they estimated was nearly the same as that estimated by those people eating from the normal bowls. In reality, they had eaten an average of 268 calories. This was 113 calories more than their tablemates with the normal bowls.
How much popcorn will moviegoers eat when given a larger tub?
people who were given the big buckets ate an average of 53 percent more than those given medium-size buckets
And it’s not just soup swillers and popcorn packers that are blissfully unaware of the influence of their environment on their eating. It’s all of us.
In the thousands of debriefings we’ve done for hundreds of studies, nearly every person who was “tricked” by the words on a label, the size of a package, the lighting in a room, or the size of a plate said, “I wasn’t influenced by that.” They might acknowledge that others could be “fooled,” but they don’t think they were. That is what gives mindless eating so much power over us—we’re not aware it’s happening.”
We are slaves to our environments. Captives to context.
But this is also the good news.
Research shows that, just as we can be completely unaware that we just ate 200 calories too many, we don’t really notice if we eat 200 calories too little.
Over a year, this can cause us to gain or lose 10 pounds.
If we eat way too little, we know it. If we eat way too much, we know it. But there is a calorie range—a mindless margin—where we feel fine and are unaware of small differences. That is, the difference between 1,900 calories and 2,000 calories is one we cannot detect, nor can we detect the difference between 2,000 and 2,100 calories. But over the course of a year, this mindless margin would either cause us to lose ten pounds or to gain ten pounds.
It takes 3,500 extra calories to equal one pound. It doesn’t matter if we eat these extra 3,500 calories in one week or gradually over the entire year. They’ll add up to one pound.
Starting to see where this is heading?
With just a little re-engineering of our environments we can eat what we want without the deprivation and guilt.
Here’s 3 key tips on how to change your food landscape to lose weight with minimal effort.
How To Lose Weight Without Effort
1) Make It Shrink
When do we think we stop eating? When we’re full.
When do studies find we actually stop eating? When the plate is empty.
That’s actually good news. Why?
Because 72% of our calories come from food that we eat from bowls, plates, and glasses.
Shrinking the size of our kitchen and dinnerware can effortlessly reduce our calorie consumption.
Each of the innocuous-looking items on the table—packages, dishes, glasses, and the variety of foods—can increase how much we eat by well over 20 percent. They can also be used to decrease how much we eat. Either way—up or down—the impact they have on us will be mindless.
So start with puny-ifying your plates.
The bigger your dinnerware, the bigger your portion. If you use larger plates, you could end up serving 9 percent to 31 percent more than you typically would,” write authors Koert van Ittersum (Georgia Institute of Technology) and Brian Wansink (Cornell University).
The average size of dinner plates has increased by almost 23 percent from since 1900, the authors point out, and eating only 50 more calories a day could result in a five-pound weight gain each year.
Bitsy your bowls.
During two summer camps, larger bowls led people to overserve up to 31 percent more than normal.
Follow-up experiments showed that the “bowl bias” is nearly impossible to eliminate with education, awareness, or practice.
Shrink your serving spoons
If you use that large serving spoon, even that will cost you 14 percent more calories.
Condense your cup.
if we give you a tall, skinny glass and a short, wide glass, you’ll drink 25–30 percent more out of one than the other.
we visited eighty-six Philadelphia bartenders…We asked them to pour the amount of alcohol they would use to make a gin and tonic, a whiskey on the rocks, a rum and Coke, and a vodka tonic.It didn’t matter if they had worked there for thirty minutes or thirty years, the typical bartender poured 30 percent more alcohol into short, wide 10-ounce tumblers than into 10-ounce highball glasses.When we showed these bartenders how much they overpoured, they balked, even guffawed. They’re experts—they do this all the time. We asked them to pour again two minutes later. Same result.
Buy smaller packets of food, or simply divide up bigger packages into smaller ones before using.
Imagine you’re making a spaghetti dinner and on one day you have medium-size ingredients, including a box of spaghetti, jar of spaghetti sauce, and package of ground beef—and on another day we give you large-size versions of all three. What will you do? You’ll make and eat 22 percent more food. We’ve seen this dozens of times. Bigger packages cause you to make more, serve more, and eat more—actually you eat 92 percent of what you serve yourself.
That was pretty easy wasn’t it? Still keen to lose weight? What’s another easy way to mindlessly lose calories?
2) Make It Disappear
This one is straight forward. We eat the food we see.
If you want to lose weight, remember:
Out of sight, out of mind. In sight, in stomach.
Out of sight is out of mind. If the candy dish sits on your desk, you consistently have to make a heroic decision whether you will resist the chocolate that has been giving you the eye all day. The easy solution is to lose the dish, move the dish, or replace the candy with something you personally don’t like.
But you don’t have to throw out all the junk food. Just make sure it’s out of sight to avoid that fatty food siren-song.
Start by clearing the kitchen counter-top.
Studies have shown that what someone weighs can be predicted by the food that is visible in the kitchen.
The average woman who kept potato chips on the counter weighed 8lbs more than her neighbour who didn’t.
How about a box of cereal sitting out? +21lbs more than your neighbour.
Crackers or chips on the counter? +8lbs more than a household without.
Fizzy drink lying about? +29lbs more than someone who doesn’t.
If the junk food has to stay out, say, because you have a deep-seated fear of falling into a diabetic coma without your snickers bar collection within arms reach, just pop it into a non-transparent container.
Secretaries who had been given candies in clear desktop dishes were caught with their hand in the candy dish 71 percent more often (7.7 versus 4.6 times) as those given white dishes.
Every day that dish was on their desk they ate 77 more calories. Over a year, that candy dish would have added over five pounds of extra weight.
Disappear the serving dishes from the table and plate up at the stove instead.
We found that people who served from the stove or counter ate 19 percent less total food compared to those serving themselves right off the table.
Note that, whatever works for “disappearing” the bad food will work in reverse if you “undisappear” the good food.
Fruit bowl out on the kitchen counter? 7lbs less than your neighbour.
Do a cupboard, pantry, and refrigerator makeover so the first foods you see are the best for you.
You’re three times more likely to eat the first food you see in the cupboard than the fifth one.
we asked people to move all their fruits and vegetables from the crisper bin to the top shelf of their refrigerator and to move their less healthy foods down into the crisper. After one week, they reported eating nearly three times as many fruits and vegetables as the week before.
Here’s an infographic summary of some of the above tips on how to lose weight mindlessly.
You may be thinking that the tips so far have been entirely painless. But here comes the tough one.
It’s gonna require turning off the TV…..
3) Make It Mono
Make your meals a mono-tasking mission.
Distractions make us eat, make us unaware of how much we eat, and extend how long we eat. Regardless of whether we’re actually hungry.
Turn off the TV (ouch).
It’s about as close to an established fact as things get in the social sciences: People who watch a lot of TV are more likely to be overweight than people who don’t. The less TV people watch, the skinnier they are. It doesn’t matter if they’re 14 or 44… As TV viewing goes up, weight goes up.
TV is a triple eating threat. Aside from leading you to eat, it leads you to not pay attention to how much you eat, and it leads you to eat for too long. It’s a scripted, conditioned ritual—we turn on the TV, we sit down in our favorite spot, we salivate, and we go get a snack.
What happened when they gave people a large bowl of popcorn and a half hour or one hour TV show to watch?
You guessed it.
The longer they watched TV, the more they ate. In fact, if they watched TV for an hour, they ate 28 percent more popcorn than if they watched for a half hour.
The same goes for books and radio.
In one study, people who listened to a lunchtime radio mystery show ate 15 percent more than those who didn’t.
So there are a few quick and easy tips to lose weight by simply losing a few hundred calories a day, all without noticing.
Time to go and put all this into practice? Change up everything? Not a good idea.
People who successfully lose weight, and keep it off, make a few small changes that fit with their lifestyle and remain consistent.
People who most successfully lost weight made only one or two changes but stuck with them day after day— an average of at least twenty-five days a month. Unfortunately, the people who didn’t lose weight often tried to tackle too much all at once. They tried to change everything, and most gave up within a month.
This clearly isn’t a “get quick slim” solution. But then, no one goes to bed skinny and wakes up fat either.
By reversing the way we slowly gained weight in the first place, we can slowly lose weight – painlessly.
No guilt. No deprivation.
the best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on.
image sources: flickr