Filed Under: Food Police

Why Crash Diets Crash

Dieters struggling to change their food habits may now be able to say "so long" to extreme measures like cabbage soup and electro-shock therapy. New research shows efforts directed at eliminating types of food may be focused on the wrong target. Yesterday a Wall Street Journal columnist suggested that "what" you eat does not matter as much as "how":

There’s a lot of evidence that simply changing your habits and attention level while eating can make a difference in the quantity of food you ingest. In the new book "Mindless Eating," researcher Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab in Ithaca, N.Y., argues that external factors — such as family habits, food packaging, distractions and even the location of food on the table — often influence eating habits more than hunger.

Last year in The New York Times Wansink suggested that easy and effective changes in the size of plates used or the type of wine served at a meal "have little to do with matters that consume nutrition researchers." Based on this argument, foie gras bans, fat prohibitions and mandatory calorie counts may be examples of food police making maxims out of molehills.When asked for his opinion on the recent flurry of food legislation, Wansink said, "so much of the answer lies not in counting calories, not in legislating, but in the middle range of what we can do by changing some of our own habits."

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