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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A significant number of studies in psychology, consumer behavior, and marketing focus on how much food participants serve themselves, rather than how much they actually eat. In this preliminary study, we developed a method of estimating how much food those participants consumed out of the amount they served themselves.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There is growing evidence that the size of dinnerware influences how much people serve and consume during a meal. However, it remains unclear why this might happen which prevents the identification of moderating conditions or possible solutions.
Do common serving bowls containing food for multiple persons influence serving behavior, consumption, and satiation? In this study we investigated the effects of bowl size on how much of a main dish a person served and consumed when in a family-eating environment.
Many past studies have shown that television viewing is associated with increased food intake. Research also suggests that restrained eaters, or dieters, will respond more strongly to environmental cues associated with food than non-dieters.
Physical activity is associated with positive mental health and lower risk of chronic diseases, but the effect of exercise advertising on food intake has gone largely unexplored in past research. We conducted this study to test the effect of exposure to exercise commercials on food intake.
100-calorie packages have been introduced by the food industry to help reverse the trend of overeating. However, research results on the effectiveness of sub-packaging in reducing consumption have been mixed.
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.
Environmental and situational cues influence food intake in ways that are still unclear. We wanted to examine whether people consume more when an eating occasion is perceived with meal cues as opposed to snack cues.
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.
Although the majority of people underestimate the calories they consume, this calorie underestimation is especially extreme among overweight people. It has been argued that such underestimation is one of the main causes of rising obesity rates in the United States.
Calorie underestimation is often alleged to contribute to obesity, but is obesity really caused by the underestimation of the number of calories contained in large fast–food meals?
Through a preliminary study and two lab studies we found that when people are in a sad state they eat larger amounts of hedonic foods (buttered popcorn and M&Ms) than when they are in a happy state and that this effect is moderated when nutritional information is present.
Students at a super bowl party who were given large serving bowls served themselves 53% (146 calories) more and consumed 56% (142 calories) more than those who used smaller bowls.
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.
The size of food packaging and portions has steadily increased over the past 30 years, as have portion sizes and consumption rates. This study examined whether visual cues related to portion size can influence intake volume without altering either estimated intake or satiation.
Why do environmental factors influence consumption volume? The environment can be organized into two categories: the eating environment and the food environment.
A total of six lab and field studies were conducted to show that the structure of an assortment regulates a consumer's perception of actual variety. Serving as a benchmark measuring how many items should be consumed, this perception of variety in turn influences consumption quantity.
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 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.
How do environmental factors, such as a food's visibility or convenience, influence one's consumption volume of that food? Knowing the impact of these factors could help individuals better monitor and manage consumption tendencies of which they or their families may be unaware (Rolls, Engell & Birch, 2000).
External cues such as packaging and container size can powerfully and unknowingly increase how much food a person consumes. Do they still, however, stimulate consumption as the perceived favorability of a food declines? This was examined with popcorn in a theatre setting.
It is a cold and rainy afternoon. You decide that a bowl of chicken soup would hit the spot. While eating the soup, you smile as you are reminded of a rainy day when you were young and your mother made you the same soup.
Both managers of consumer packaged goods and public policy officials have questioned whether a package's size influences usage volume. Although often assumed, it has never been supported. Four laboratory studies and a field study show circumstances in which larger package sizes encourage greater use than smaller package sizes.
What Made You Eat the Whole Bag of Cookies: Internal and External Influences on Eating Bouts? Have you ever found yourself eating ice cream and before you know it the entire container is gone? What motivates people to eat more than normal? Dramatic increases in the volume consumed of a certain food are referred to as eating bouts.
Does Pantry Stockpiling Accelerate Usage?
If you have 24 cans of soup, will you eat it more frequently than if you only had 8 cans? It has long been suggested that stockpiling caused by promotion increases how often people use a product. However recent findings suggest this is not always the case.