Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Don't Sit Too Close to the Candy Bowl!

As anyone who's ever tried to lose weight before knows, proximity matters. Some foods simply can't be allowed into the house.

Now, thanks to Dr. Brian Wansink, we have proof that sitting too close to the candy bowl is probably a bad idea.

Dr. Wansink is the John S. Dyson Professor of Marketing at Cornell University and is the director of Cornell's Food and Brand Lab whose mandate it is to study "Why, What, When, and How Much We Eat".

In this months issue of the International Journal of Obesity Dr. Wansink details a study involving Hershey's Kisses.

The study was conducted over "Secretaries Week" where 40 secretatries from six different departments at the University of Illinois were given bowls of Hershey's Kisses. Each day each bowl was filled with 30 kisses. There were 20 clear bowls and 20 opaque bowls and there were four different study designs: Clear bowl right in front of you, opaque bowl right in front of you, clear bowl 6 feet away, opaque bowl 6 feet away. Every day researchers would swing by and count how many kisses were left in the bowl.

The results revealed that when the kisses were 6 feet away in an opaque bowl the average number of candies consumed per day was 3.1. 6 feet away in a clear bowl, 5.6, opaque bowl right in front of them, 4.6 and when in a clear bowl right in front of them, 7.7.

So not surprisingly, both visibility and proximity increase consumption. What was interesting was that proximity had a somewhat unexpected finding. When the food was more accessible people underestimated how many kisses they had vs. overestimating when further away.

A few bottom line messages. First, leave foods you want to eat more of in more visible and accessible locations. Don't banish your fresh fruits and vegetables to opaque crispers, leave them right out in the open on your fridge shelves and your countertops. Secondly, the bad stuff, don't necessarily throw it out but hide it behind other foods and banish it to the furthest reaches of your cupboard spaces. Lastly, if you ever get the chance to see Brian Wansinck give a lecture, jump at it - he's one of the best speakers I've had the pleasure of seeing.