What you don't want to say is, "I can't eat this food," or "I have to eat less of this food." If we consciously try to control what we eat, it takes way too much time. Most of us have way too much on our mind to say, "Let me eat half the pea and stop and ask if I'm hungry."
It's a whole lot easier to just simply use a smaller plate; to serve yourself 22 percent less; to clear your counters of everything but a fruit bowl; to cut up fruit and put it in your refrigerator. What you're going to find is you're going to double or triple your fruit consumption. You're going to reduce how much other stuff you eat, but you're going to be doing it unconsciously. That's why it becomes slim by design and not slim by willpower.
Everything in Slim by Design is based on studies that we've done in my food and brand lab at Cornell.
We brought people into the kitchen one day; they were supposed to meet somebody for lunch there. We had three really tasty snacks on the table. For half the people, the rest of the kitchen was totally organized and clear. For the other half, it was totally cluttered; there was mail on the table, there was an open newspaper, there were dishes drying in the dish rack. It was really disorganized like many kitchens we see.
What we found is that when people came into this cluttered kitchen and had to wait for their confederate to show up, they ended up eating about 44 percent more snacks just because the environment was disorganized.
That's an easy thing to do in your kitchen. If having a cluttered kitchen is going to make you snack a lot more, the secret to that is not saying, "Now that I know it, I won't snack." No. The secret is to just declutter your kitchen, and both you and your family are going to eat better.
In most U.S. kitchens, there are four to five cupboards that have snacks in them. That's basically almost every cupboard except the one where your plates are.
When we go into kitchens, we isolate all the snacks. We don't get rid of any of them, we just isolate them all to just one cupboard that's either down low or up high, a little bit out of the way. What happens is snacking goes down dramatically.
You might say, "The best thing that I could do is I could just not buy that stuff to begin with." That might be a solution for some people. But we also find that if you totally deprive yourself of things you like, it usually comes back to bite you.
In most of our homes, it's not just us, it's also our family and kids. It's probably important for some people that there are snacks. But they just need to be isolated in the same place so that every time you open the cupboard you're not saying, "Hey, do I want that?"
If you want your kids to eat a whole lot more fruit, if you want to eat a whole lot more fruit, you don't want to put it in the bins where it's just going to compost eventually. Take the fruit out, put it on the middle shelf and put the less-healthy stuff either in the bins or in back. It really helps what people decide to eat.
We did a number of these studies where we've taken leftovers, either healthy leftovers or unhealthy leftovers, whether it is salad or whether it is birthday cake. The less healthy it is, the more we tend to wrap it in aluminum foil or put it in an opaque container. If it's really good, we put it in transparent wrap or a see-through container. What we'll do in one day is move you more toward eating the healthier stuff and leaving the less-healthy stuff to sit there for 3-5 days until you actually say, "What's in there?" Then you throw it away.
The color of a plate does bias how much you serve. The more of a contrast there is between the color of your plate and what you're serving, the less you're going to serve. If you have a bright red plate and you're putting on noodles or rice, you're going to put about 20 percent less on it than if you're putting white on white. With the white on white, the contrast just isn't there and doesn't jump out at you.
The easy fix for most of us isn't to have an infinite number of colored plates. The fix for most of us is simply to have some darker plates. Because most things we're in danger of overeating are carbohydrates like rice or pasta.
What we've done in research in the past is we've shown simply that if you use a plate that's any size other than about 9-10 inches in diameter, you're going to overeat. If it's too big of a plate, which is what most of us have, like an 11- or 12-inch plate, you're going to end up serving about 20 to 22 percent more food. As a result, you'll overeat.
If you have too small of a plate, say a little 6-inch saucer, you realize you're perceptually fooling yourself. You have seconds and thirds and fourths. It's a great way to reduce portion size for those of us who want our pasta or eggplant Alfredo but don't want to overeat, because the smaller plate will lead you to eat smaller.
But for other people, and these are often men, our problem is we're fast eaters. We tend to have seconds and thirds of a lot of things, whether it be the pasta or the meatball or whatever is on the table.
We found that simply serving off of a counter or a stove instead of having that big bowl sitting right in the middle of the table reduces how much people eat of that food by about 20 percent. For guys, actually it's closer to 30 percent. For women, it's about 10 percent because women tend to go back fewer times for seconds and thirds. It's an easy, easy way to cut 20 percent of a food out of your diet without even really knowing it.
The big takeaway is that it's a whole lot easier to make your kitchen work for you than against you. It's a whole lot easier to become slim by design than slim by willpower. What we found is just even making one of these changes will make a non-dieter who does it every day lose an average of about a pound-and-a-half every month. That's a non-dieter. It has a tremendous effect not just on us, but it also has an impact on our spouse or on our kids.
What's important is that the home is only one of five places where we eat food. The same sorts of things can be done in grocery stores, restaurants, where we work and where our kids go to school. When a change is made or we encourage those places to make a change, it doesn't just influence us, it influences the person in the office next to us, it influences our neighbor, it influences the person who has given up hope and thinks there's no way she's ever going to lose the extra 60 pounds she's put on since high school graduation.
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