Out of Sight and Out of Reach (oh and Girl Scout cookies too)

February 28th, 2011 by Amy Gonsalves Leave a reply »

I love this book!  Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think has been a subject of more than one blog over the past few months.  Some of the things I’ve read are not news, but the fact they have research to back them up somehow makes the information more fun.

First off, there is the see-food response you may be aware of.  It is very simple: you want to eat the food you see.  “Hunger” never enters the equation.

So, if you don’t want to eat (or overeat, really) then you need to make the food less visible to you.  They tested this one out by giving secretaries (the book says “secretaries” but I thought we had all shifted to “administrative assistants” years ago?) a candy dish on Secretary’s Day (sticking with the vocabulary in the book) filled with 30 Hershey’s Kisses.  Half the secretaries received a clear candy dish and half of them received a white dish. 

The secretaries with the clear dishes attacked the candy 71% more often than those with the white dishes.  This translated into them eating 77 more calories every day!  (Over a year this would have added more than five pounds of body weight!)  The scary thing is, they probably didn’t even realize what they were doing.

Doesn’t it make you want to cover all of your clear bowls and dishes?

And then there was the second part, that boils down to the fact we are all lazy people; we don’t want to have to work too hard for our food.  Using the same setup with candy dishes at the (different) office, this time the scientists used clear dishes with lids and varied where they placed the dish.  They placed the dishes one of three places:  on the desk, in the desk, and six feet away from the desk.

Those with the dish on their desk within eyesight had an average of nine kisses (225 calories).  If they had to look inside their desk and open a drawer, they only had an average of six kisses (150 calories).  If they had to walk six feet to reach a candy they only ate four (100 calories). 

They had to think about whether it was worth the effort and time to stand up and reach for a candy.  Those split seconds of thought were all it took for the secretaries to slow down their consumption.

So if you know in your heart that you don’t want to eat all of those Girl Scout Cookies you just bought (they are cute and it’s such a good program), for heaven’s sake put them out of reach.  I put mine in our freezer and we still have boxes left from last year!  Make consuming impulse foods like candy or cookies less impulsive… make yourself take a trip around your house to access them if you can’t get them out of your brain.

Those little tricks can make a BIG difference.

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