Beating Mindless Eating

Most of us don't overeat because we're hungry. We overeat because of family and friends, packages and plates, names and numbers, labels and lights, colors and candles, and other environmental factors. We investigate how these factors influence us and how to make them work for us rather than against us.

Viewers vs. Doers. The Relationship Between Watching Food Television and BMI

Members of a family who influence the food selection and preparation for a household,  referred to ‘nutritional gatekeepers,’ play a large role in deciding what type of food and eating habits are permitted and supported within the family. Subsequent studies support efforts to better understand how and where these individuals obtain their information, as a pathway to influence change in food choice and eating habits to promote healthier lifestyles for adults and children. This study contributes to this body of information by investigating how cooking shows and social media outlets play a role in food information collection. This study also examines if the source of information and cooking behaviors are related to BMI. 

Watch What You Eat: Action-Related Television Content Increases Food Intake

Television is often blamed for making Americans overweight by distracting viewers and encouraging a sedentary lifestyle. Past research found that the frequency of TV viewing during dinner was one of the strongest correlates of adult and child body mass index—the more TV the higher the BMI. However, the focus on TV’s influence has been on the medium, not the message or type of programming. Little is known about whether the content, valence, or pace of content influences how much a viewer eats. Therefore, we hypothesized that different objective technical characteristics, such as the frequency of visual camera cuts or the variation in sound, influence how much food an individual consumes.

In Good Company: The Effect of an Eating Companion’s Appearance on Food Intake

Many social factors influence food consumption including the presence of eating companions. This study examined how dining with overweight individual influenced others unhealthy and healthy food selection and consumption in a natural setting. We posed two conflicting hypothesizes. The first was that in the presence of an overweight individual, participants would serve and eat larger portions of unhealthy food and smaller portions of healthy food, demonstrating a lower health commitment. An alternate posed hypothesis was that when an overweight confederate served herself unhealthily, other participants would serve and eat smaller portions of unhealthy food and larger portions of healthy food, in order to avoid association with the stigmatized overweight individual.

Big drinkers: How BMI, gender and rules of thumb influence the free pouring of wine

One lesser-developed area of alcohol consumption research is how gender and BMI impact free pouring behavior and ultimately, intake. There have been mixed results from previous studies looking at the relationship between BMI, gender, and alcohol intake. This could be the result of social and cultural influences, ranging from the social acceptability of drinking, to the resulting level of comparison for each gender, against the volume drunk by others of the same group.

Dispelling Myths about a New Healthful Food Can Be More Motivating Than Promoting Nutritional Benefits: The Case of Tofu

Recent research has shifted focus toward the quality rather than the quantity of food intake. This research investigated how to increase the consumption of healthy, but relatively unfamiliar foods, through the consumption of Tofu, specifically. Our overall goal was to determine what factors influence adoption of Tofu by “nutritional gatekeepers.” These are individuals, who purchase and prepare food, control up to 72% of what the household eats. We found that disproving misconceptions about healthy foods may be more successful in increasing adoption than concentrating on nutritional benefits.

Better Moods for Better Eating?: How Mood Influences Food Choice

Previous research has shown that one’s mood affects what he or she eats. This study investigates the relationship between mood and long-term/abstract goals versus short-term goals and how this relationship in turn impacts food consumption. We hypothesized that when making a choice between indulgent or healthy foods, a positive mood will result in heathier food choices due to greater consideration of long term or abstract goals. We also hypothesized that when making a choice between indulgent and healthy foods, a negative mood will result in greater consideration of short term or concrete goals, which will lead to greater preference for indulgent, less healthy foods.

Portion Size Me: Downsizing Our Consumption Norms

Portion size is a subject for which a substantial body of research exists, however, we found that additional understanding of the topic can be gained by revisiting existing research. For this paper we analyzed multiple past studies to examine who is most portion-size prone, why portion size influences consumption, what factors influence portion distortion and how can we decrease our perceived portion-size norms. 

Is It Fun or Exercise? The Framing of Physical Activity Biases Subsequent Snacking

People tend to compensate for the calories burned by indulging in unhealthy snacking after exercising. This study shows that the key component to preventing this compensation effect is influencing the way people perceive exercise, which in turn influences how much they eat post-exercise. This has important implications for public health strategies for obesity prevention, as well as the multi-billion dollar fitness and food industries.

Larger bowl size increases the amount of cereal children request, consume, and waste

Previous research has established that environmental cues and portion size have a greater impact on consumption than BMI or body composition. For adults, the larger the serving vessel, the more food gets consumed, in part because of the size-contrast illusion and the DelBoeuf illusion. Childhood obesity is a growing concern and the amount of food a child eats is related to how much a caregiver serves the children, particularly younger children who do not have the motor skills to serve themselves. We hypothesize that children, like adults, will request more food when they have a large bowl and will consequently eat more food too.

Weight rhythms: Weight increases during weekends and decreases during weekdays

Understanding of the mechanism of weight gain outside of “calories in, calories out” is limited. A better understanding of weight gain patterns could provide insight as to how to prevent and treat obesity. One hypothesis is that there is some rhythm analogous to a circadian rhythm or menstrual cycle that could be the driver of debilitating weight gain. Past research has indicated that weight tend to be higher on weekends and lower on weekdays, but it is unclear if this phenomenon is related to long-term weight management. The purpose of this study is three fold: to find evidence that indicates whether there is a group level variation in weight fluctuation over a week, to study the relation of weight change to the days of the week, and to study how weekly weight patterns affect weight losers, gainers, and maintainers. 

Just a bite: Considerably smaller snack portions satisfy delayed hunger and craving

Snacking is a large contributor to the growing proportion of overweight individuals. Snacks are often consumed to satisfy hedonic hunger, or that which is more psychological than physiological. This study set out to determine how different portion sizes can satisfy hunger and craving when snacking. We hypothesized that individuals would claim that they were hungrier after eating a small snack but if asked 15 minutes later, they would report feeling equally as satisfied as those who ate a larger snack. 

Mindless Eating Challenge: Retention, Weight Outcomes, and Barriers for Changes in a Public Web-Based Healthy Eating and Weight Loss Program

As the global obesity problem increases it is necessary to find easy yet effective approaches to healthy eating and weight loss. Most common weight loss programs require major lifestyle changes or unsustainable diets.  As a result many of these diets fail over time. Previous research has demonstrated that small and easy changes to our eating habits can result in sustained healthy habits and maintained weight loss. This research focused on a program that would help individuals implement small eating behavior changes which would allow them to achieve their eating and weight loss goals.

Association of Nutrient-Dense Snack Combinations With Calories and Vegetable Intake

Childhood obesity has been on the rise in the United States as a result of many behavioral factors including snacking. Research has shown mixed results in the efficacy of limiting children’s snacking. As an alternative, it has been speculated that providing high-nutrient dense snacks could reduce the caloric intake of children by increasing satiety. In this study, we hypothesized that children who eat high-nutrient density snacks would consume fewer calories and more nutrients than children who consume low-nutrient density snacks. Furthermore, we hypothesized that children who are overweight and those who are from low-familial involvement families would show pronounced results that would be in alignment with our initial hypothesis.

Just thinking about exercise makes me serve more food. Physical activity and calorie compensation

Introducing a new exercise routine may not result in the desired weight loss because people engage in more indulgent eating behaviors as a means of compensation. In this study we went a step further to explore if merely the thought of exercise could induce increased consumption in food.

Mindless Eating and Healthy Heuristics for the Irrational

Previous research has focused on food choice decisions that determine what we eat, but much less research has been dedicated towards how much we eat. There are many environmental factors which consistently influence eating behavior, such as the number of food items in an assortment, the eating behavior of a dining companion, and the size of plates, packages, serving bowls and even pantries.

Bad Popcorn In Big Buckets: Portion Size Can Influence Intake As Much As Taste

Do people only overeat the foods they like? We investigated whether environmental cues such as packaging and container size are so powerful that they can increase our intake of foods that are less palatable. We recruited moviegoers who had independently elected to see one of four showings (two consecutive shows on two consecutive evenings) of the re–release of the film "Stargate" at a theatre in a northern Philadelphia suburb.

Exploring Comfort Food Preferences Across Gender and Age

Does preference for comfort foods vary across age and gender? We conducted two studies to examine the physiological and psychological motivations behind food preferences in order to answer this question. We randomly contacted 411 Americans via mail and asked them to describe their favorite comfort food and why it was comforting to them, among other questions. From their responses we concluded that people consider both meal– and snack–related foods to be comfort foods.

When are Stockpiled Products Consumed Faster? A Convenience–Salience Framework of Post–Purchase Consumption Incidence & Quantity

When consumers stockpile products, how do they decide when and how much they will consume? To answer this question, we develop a framework showing how the salience and convenience of products influence post purchase consumption incidence and quantity.