Do You Eat Mindlessly?


While researching the milk industry’s attempt to use artificial sweeteners in milk without labeling, I can across some interesting data. In specific, a webcast featuring Dr. Brian Wansink of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab and author of Mindless Eating in which he discusses his “award-winning academic research on food psychology and behavior change.”

Some takeaways from the webcast, of the people surveyed:

  • 80% agree that exercise has the greatest impact in maintaining good health
  • 51% view their diet as healthful
  • 53% are trying to lose weight
  • 63% estimated incorrectly the amount of calories they should get per day
  • The top motivators for staying on track with weight management goals are “improvement in physical appearance” (69%) and “Improvement in health/overall well-being” (67%)
  • The top barriers for staying on track with weight management goals are “not seeing results quickly”(44%) and “lack of will power” (43%)

Interesting, but it was what followed that really caught my attention.

There is stunning information about the psychology of eating. For example, portion sizes — in cook books, average meals, etc. — have been increasing steadily over the years. And big bowls lead us to eat more even if we don’t like the food.

A study was conducted using fresh and stale popcorn in varying sizes of buckets and they found that:

People ate 45% more fresh popcorn from the extra-large containers than large ones but . . . even when the popcorn was stale, they ate 34% more from the extra-large buckets.

Another study found that bottomless soup bowls lead to bottomless appetites. Half of this study’s participants got 22 ounce bowls of soup and the other half got bottomless bowls of soup (pressure-fed under the table so that it slowly refilled). The results in that study:

People kept eating and ate 73% more until stopping. The kicker: They didn’t think they ate more.

The webcast contains all sorts of other interesting information about the psychology of eating. Stay tuned for the study’s take on perceptions of quality regarding California vs. North Dakota wine.

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About the Author

is a former marketing consultant who decided, at the age of fifty, to turn her hand to creative non-fiction. Jennifer continues to write about sustainable food and wine, the intersection of food and marketing and food politics for and is the author of Greening Your Small Business (November 2009, Penguin Group (USA)). She was named one of The 16 Women You Must Follow on Twitter for Green Business. She has four kids, a dog, a hamster and an MBA - follow her on and .