It would be easy to write off Cornell professor Brian Wansink as another academic tediously complaining about a mythical “toxic food environment” in which Americans are completely helpless before limitless food choices. But the professor’s solution isn’t what you’d think. Wansink, writes USA TODAY, “believes many people could slim down relatively painlessly by … tweaking their environment and making appropriate changes.”
As director of Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab, Wansink studies how people eat in a variety of “food environments,” using different portion sizes, plate sizes, food labels, and kinds of foods to test hungry volunteers. His findings have been interesting, as The New York Times observes:
The size of an ice cream scoop, the way something is packaged and whom we sit next to all influence how much we eat. His research doesn’t pave a clear path out of the obesity epidemic, but it does show the significant effect one’s eating environment has on slow and steady weight gain.
Certainly, our environment influences us. But we also control our own food environment more than we think. (Wansink’s studies have indicated that we make 200 food decisions a day.) Contrary to the food police who wish to regulate away your choices so that only “healthy” options are left, a responsible eater actually can have his cake and eat it too, simply by paying attention and practicing moderation. The common sense Wansink’s studies have reaffirmed is that personal responsibility is the key to eating that is “both enjoyable and mindful.”