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When it comes to convincing your brain what to eat: size matters

Eating healthily is something many of us claim we want to do, yet find so hard.
When overcome by fatigue, bad hair days, frustration and low blood sugar, it’s easier to reach out for that not so healthy quick fix tasty food, despite the bowl of virtuous looking salad sitting right beside it.

I’m not a big sweet eater (give me a rind washed, vine leaf wrapped soft cheese from Spain any day) but given the option after a delicious meal in a restaurant to look at the dessert menu, I do, with the thought that I’ll just read the choices and then order a peppermint tea. Paragon of virtue, I know.
However, what usually happens is that my husband will order dessert and it arrives with two spoons.
How did they know?

The arrangement works well, because one or two small mouthfuls is enough, just to have a taste and satisfy the desire to try that delicious looking chocolate dessert.

Note to restaurant owners. Have you ever thought of offering bite size desserts? Like a single spoon of silky panne cotta or salted caramel icecream?  Just a thought.

Outside of restaurants and back in the real world, changing our dietary habits is hard, especially when we like the foods we are trying to eat less of.

So is there a way to ease the pain and eat better?

Yes, by simply making a small incremental change of introducing a small portion of the healthier alternative. Having a small snack or portion of a less healthy food will quickly satisfy that craving for something sweet or salty or chocolate.

So if you really want hot chips, then have a couple but add a couple of slices of fresh apple to your plate as well. It’s a bit like weaning off any addictive substance. Going cold turkey is hard and few can muster the will power to sustain it. Cutting down slowly like reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke, lessens the craving and the guilt.
Then as you get used to eating more of the healthier foods it’s easier to do with less of the unhealthier food choices and eventually you start to choose the healthier versions first.

Because I eat healthily most of the time, I enjoy the occasional plate of wedges or ice-cream without guilt. Well, not too much guilt depending on how big the plate is!

Scientists from Vanderbilt University have shown how variety does trump virtue when looking to make behavioural change. The researchers go so far to suggest that vice-virtue “bundles” could be offered to people with the aim of promoting better eating habits.

So could naughty and nice really be the answer to our eating problems and obesity? Or is this just a potential marketing ploy to suck us into thinking we’re doing OK. Because ultimately the option for greater health and wellbeing boils down to personal choice and willpower.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Ref:

Vanderbilt University. “Size matters when convincing your brain to eat healthier foods.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 August 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140811180253.htm>.

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