Brian Wansink, Ph.D. is head of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab. His latest book, Slim by Design is informative, action-oriented and challenges us to embrace a Lifestyle Revolution. He presents us with the idea that we should acknowledge our behaviors around food and embrace them rather than try to overcome them through sheer will power. As he aptly puts it, “It is easier to change your eating environment than to change your mind”. He often asks in his book “what do slim people do?” and then shows us what slim people do at home, the grocery store, at work, at a restaurant and at school. With his research and studies of human behavior he is able to provide us with specific examples of how to change our food habitat to support us rather than work against us as we strive to eat healthy.
By changing the design of the places where we eat we create an environment where it is easier to make better eating choices, supporting an overall healthier lifestyle. He calls this our “food radius”. Turns out most of us have a food radius of about 5 miles around our home. When you see it as just 5 miles it appears more possible and manageable to influence change around our home.
First things first. As he points out, the biggest change we can make is in our homes. He has even quantified it for us: “We control about 72 percent of what our family eats, for better or for worse.” At home design changes include eating off of smaller plates, getting rid of the clutter in your kitchen, swapping out the cookie jar for a big bowl of fruit, making tempting foods invisible and inconvenient to access and above all, making it easier to cook and serve. To help you become aware of how supportive your food environment is at home the book includes an “In-Home Slim-by-Design Self-Assessment.”
When it comes to the other places where we eat food he challenges us to get involved rather than just discuss what is wrong with the amounts of food restaurants serve us or the unhealthy choices of foods given to kids at school or even how grocery stores tempt us with calorie dense foods in the check out line. How do we get involved? The answer: by taking action and requesting change, politely, of course. To help you get started in making and requesting change there is a “Slim-by-Design Action Plan Kit,” complete with lists of people to contact, addresses and sample letters.
The point is it is possible to make changes to our food radius but it will require some effort. Yet without that effort we will be stuck overeating, yo-yo dieting and growing in weight, not wisdom. Dr. Brian Wansink shows us, however, that we should not be afraid of causing and requesting change. It really is a win-win for everyone. No one enjoys overeating. Your family may not even notice the changes you make in your kitchen but guaranteed, their bodies will benefit and they will feel better for it. Your first “win-win”. He then points out that changes in a restaurant can actually help the restaurant make more money in a couple of ways. If you ask for healthy changes and state you will frequent their restaurant more and recommend it to friends, the restaurant wins. If the changes they make involve smaller portions for an appropriate price they can also save money on food, bringing more money to their bottom line. Everyone benefits. Another “win-win.” This can also be true for your workplace, school and grocery store. Everyone can win with positive, healthy and “mindless eating solutions” for everyday life.
In summary, the book is a great resource. Dr. Wansink’s research and insight, based on his decades of behavioral studies, provides us a practical road map of how to work with our instincts and proclivities around food rather than try to overcome them. In truth it is all about taking action that will make it easier for us to eat healthy every day, everywhere we are, for the rest of our lives. In our own home and food radius he makes the argument that ‘small changes will spark a big movement’ for what I see as the ultimate Lifestyle Revolution. I’m in.
Enjoy! And Live Vibrant!