Monday, October 22, 2007

So You Don’t Want To Regain the Lost Weight

So you lost some weight during the Ramadhan month and you afraid that the multiple Eid feasts on family and friend’s houses will (or already) bring back some added inches on your waist (and other places)

And there will be some halal bihalal meeting with family, friends and business partners. Such horrors.

What can you do about it? And what a marketing professor from Cornell can tell you?

Brian Wansink focuses his academic life to study how we decide and – and how much – to eat. Its not as silly as it first sound, food and beverages is a multi billion dollar business worldwide. Any cues that can make consumers eat more, and spend more money, mean some additional fat in the company's bottom line (pun intended).

In his book entitled Mindless Eating , some of his wisdoms at the table are to use small spoon, small plate, and don’t let other people clean the remains or refill your plate/glass while you are still at the table.

Those things should not make a different. After all it is the amount of food we put into our mouth that matter. And we as rational human with will power and self control should be able to know when enough is enough. Right?

Apparently not.

In his experimental studies, Wansink found that average subjects eat 15 % more using big spoon and 25 % with big plate. Having the bones of chicken wings cleaned up by waiters while watching a sport match at a bar on average resulted in you eating 28 % more.

The classical rationality argument that using small spoon and small plate resulted in more energy thus making you want to eat more seems not to be working here. It seem that human mind affect by relative as well as the absolute. The more we see empty space (a.k.a plate) the more we want to fill it up, with little regard on actual quantity, while taking every spoon as equal. This mispredictions are robustly repeated an not a one time aberration.

While you are at it. Loose the flower on the table and put food on the table with fewer colors since Wansink found doing the opposite strongly correlate with higher food intake. Apparently having color and smell around at meal time distract human mind and trick us to eat more.

People said we are what we eat. Maybe it’s better to say that we are what we decide to eat with.


Fik.. said...

And here I was, thinking that all I had to do was exercise a bit more self control, when it turns out that all I need to do is use a teaspoon, a small plate, and to make sure never to put my tusuk sate or chicken bones on someone else's plate before I finish eating.

In all seriousness, nice post, Bang. Just goes to show how significant the issue of misperception really is, in influencing behavior.

Berly said...

Know thyself
and you'll not only know thy maker

Thou shalt make better economic policy as well :-D

fajar said...

salam kenal