Brian Wansink, a behavioural scientist at Cornell University in America and author of Slim By Design, has been hailed the ‘Marie Kondo of the kitchen’, showing dieters how simple tweaks in their kitchens and dining areas can aid weight loss.
In various studies, Wansink noticed the food decisions that slim people made – unconsciously – and how they differed from heavier people. He noticed that everything from where you sit to the size of your plates is linked to the size of your waistline.
It’s constantly drummed into us that we should eat ‘mindfully’, but with our swamped schedules and deeply engrained eating habits, attempting a healthy regime solely through willpower is likely to fail. Wansink’s solution to ‘mindless eating’ isn’t ‘mindful eating’, it’s simply a matter of learning to ‘mindlessly eat better’. By changing dieting pitfalls in your ‘Food Radius’ – the places you eat 75% of the time (home, go-to restaurants, supermarket, work/office, schools) – you’ll achieve easier and better results that through sheer willpower alone.
Ready to make a change? It all begins in the kitchen – here are some of Wansink’s top tips for changing your food habits and losing weight WITHOUT having to diet…
Dieting downfall: Food on the worktop
The counter is a common place to stash your groceries, but will inevitably lead you to eat more. It doesn’t have to be cakes and cookies – even displaying foods you think are ‘healthy’, like cereals and diet coke, can contribute to weight gain. Wansink noticed that women with even one box of cereal visible in the kitchen weighed over a stone heavier than those who didn’t.
Solution: Clear the worktop of everything except for fruit
In Wansink’s findings, people whose kitchens displayed 2 or more fresh fruits weighed around 7lbs less.
Dieting downfall: Your fridge is empty
Surprisingly, empty kitchens cause just as many weight problems as heavily-stocked kitchens, as they encourage you to eat out and buy takeaways.
Solution: Stock your cupboards and fridge with healthy staples
Come home to a fridge stocked with eggs, wholemeal bread and veggies so you don’t reach for the takeout menu the minute you get hungry.
Dieting downfall: You spend too much time relaxing in your kitchen
Cooking can be therapeutic, but the kitchen shouldn’t be your ‘lounge’ area. Spending time relaxing in the kitchen makes you more likely to overeat as you’re surrounded by snacks and leftovers.
Solution: Spend time only cooking in the kitchen
That means moving computers, TVs and comfortable chairs into a different room.
Dieting downfall: Treat foods are close to hand
Wansink simply puts this as “in sight, in stomach” – you will eat the food you can see, not what you can’t. If chocolate and crisps are in plain sight, it’s safe to say that they’ll get eaten.
Solution: Make tempting foods invisible and inconvenient
Store indulgent treats in foil, or put them in the veg drawer in the fridge or a hard-to-reach cupboard. Having to make more of an effort to get the food will make you think twice before eating it.
Dieting downfall: The way you serve food
Where and how you serve food is just as important as what you’re serving. Bigger plates equal bigger portions, and serving up a large dish at the table makes it easy to go back for seconds, thirds and fourths.
Solution: Make small changes to your dinner routine
Reduce plate sizes to 10 inches/25cm or under, and use plates with brightly coloured rims (if your plate is the same colour as your food, you’ll 18% more). Another way to reduce what you eat is to pre-plate food at the stove; or if you’re feeding a crowd, serve a salad or veggies before the main meal comes to the table, and move the remaining dishes to the counter once everyone is served. Moving leftovers out of sight to the worktop means you’ll eat 20% less.
Pre-order your copy of Slim By Design by Brian Wansink, out April 26.