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Secrets From the Eating Lab Chapter 7

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Chapter 7: How To Trick Your Friends Into Ignoring a Cookie

Our behavior is influenced by the people around us; the pressure to conform has a powerful influence on our behavior, including what we eat.

“We do not simply eat; we eat certain things in certain ways, at certain places, and more or less at certain times, all prescribed within limits for a given established group.” Cultural or ethnic groups are associated with certain types of food: Germany- sauerkraut, Korea-Kimchee

Not only is the particular foods we eat influenced by others, but also how much we eat. For example, in restaurants, we tend to eat all on our plate. Plus, being with others distracts us so we do not focus on our eating.


Norms, (standards or expectations), influence our behavior by causing us to think what others are doing, or by what we think they are supposed to do. Most of the time, norms are implied rather than stated. Having a behavior as established as “norm” might influence you to behave in a certain way even if you are not in the presence of others.

How to Trick a Child into Eating a Vegetable
Norms are influential and sometimes telling one that the majority of people are doing something may influence you to do that also. Example: The study lab conducted a study and had participants track the amount of fruit they ate and told some of them that the majority of people eat recommended amount of fruit. Of those that were told this, many of the participants increased their consumption of fruit. But in the group where they were told that only a minority ate the recommended amount of fruit, these did not increase their fruit intake.

It is possible to change the norm, but it may take years to do so. The did an experiment where they placed a picture of a carrot and a green bean in 2 compartments of a lunch tray. They found that the students ate more vegetables; suggesting that the students thought it was the “norm”, or others were putting vegetables in those spots. In other words, the children were tricked into eating more vegetables.

SMART REGULATION STRATEGY 5: Get Someone in Your Household to Change Their Eating Habits.

Sometimes our family members have an unspoken influence on our eating. “But unlike cultural factors or norms, which influence us passively, our family members and partners often actively and explicitly try to change our eating habits. “ (p. 115) The do this either by encouraging us to diet or indulge with them. If we instigate the change ourselves, the response of our family members can have a large effect on whether we succeed.

Being supportive of someone who is trying to change is not easy. “Whether that support is effective depends on the partner’s motive for helping, the tone of the partner’s help and the type of help that is offered” (p115)

Research shows that people get less effective support and are less successful in changing their goals if their partner’s motives are self-focused…. For example, if a husband helps his wife lose weight only because he wants to show-off a skinny wife rather than the health benefits for her.

Sometimes, it is best not to ask your partner or family member to become your eating police because this may cause stress and unnecessary tension, which may then lead to ill feelings. If your partner offers you encouragement and shows understanding then you will most likely succeed on meeting your goal with their support.

The most useful type of help family members can provide is that they also change their eating habits with you; that way all in the household are doing the same thing and together are working on reaching the same goal, which ought to be to aim to live at the low end of your set range. Plus, when you are the one helping others, you are being the giver of social support and that, in and of itself, may improve your mood.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Thanks for this insightful information. I often feel guilty because my cooking (quite tasty) leads my beloved husband to overeat. His late wife was a vegetarian who fed him tofu and he was much leaner. But I care about the TASTE OF FOOD. It's a struggle.
    121 days ago
    Thank you!

    That's interesting. But, how DO we get our friends to ignore a cookie?
    127 days ago
    Lots to ponder here Nancy , I know the last section has been a struggle for you at times. emoticon
    127 days ago
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