Published January 28, 2014

The Psychological Approach to Rapid Fat Loss# 14: Avoid too many choices.

Try this crazy idea: What do you think will happen if you try eating, every single day, exactly the same menu? Soon, you will get bored of the same food, and you will start eating less and less. This is the principle of trying to make food something less important in your life, and therefore, you will eat less. It is worth trying, but never forgetting the nutrition role.

Here is a great example brought by Barbara E. Kahn and Brian Wansink, “The Influence of Assortment Structure on Perceived Variety and Consumption Quantities.” Journal of Consumer Research 30: 519-533 (March 2004): She offered bowls of M&M to two different groups; one of them had 10 different colors of candy, the other had only three.  Those who had the smaller variety of colors ate less then half the amount of the other group. What they found was that the variety encouraged eating more.

What they were trying to prove (in the case of food) is that the way food is presented (what they call “structure of assortment”) will influence the perception of variety (actual variety compared to perceived variety).

In terms of food, imagine a buffet in which the same food is presented in many different places in a room (maybe for a lot of guests). You might perceive that there is more food served to choose from, even though it’s the same variety of food in each serving area.

Another aspect that might influence the amount of food you might eat is if you have (or not) a suggested portion size. When no serving size is suggested to serve yourself (for example the size of a glass when serving yourself a fruit juice in a self service), the consumed quantity can vary up to about 300% (which means, no guideline).  Unless you are physically stuffed with food, you will always make some room for a little more.  A typical example can be seen when you purchase a snack choosing a jumbo pack compared to individual presentation. It is obvious that nothing will stop you when the package is big and the availability is not restricted.

Here is another example, where variety encourages consumption.  If you are offered three different flavors of yogurt, you will probably eat much more of each, than if only one flavor were available.  Research shows people eat 25% more.  In this case, the assortment influences how much consumers will eat.

The conclusion is quite simple, bore yourself when you eat, and you will eat less. Stay away from buffets.

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