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Friday, September 18, 2015

Forensic Candy Dish Blues: Mindless Eating Revisited

If you’re fighting the good fight against mindless eating, a no-brainer is to move that candy dish on your desk at work out of reach, or better still, out of sight. After reading Brian Wansink’s now iconic Mindless Eating—which offers insights and prescriptions for combating all ilks of alimentary oblivion—I repurposed the foodscape in my home. I also began advising friends at work about on-the-job foodtraps. That, of course, included recommending healthier candy dish deployment (which might ultimately be no candy dish at all).

So last week I took issue with the candy dish in the above photo. Taken aback by the in-your-face seduction on the front desk in my business school’s career center, I asked the woman in charge whether it might do more harm than good.

Crimes of Opportunity
I have a friend, a veteran forensic accountant, who likens embezzlement in the workplace to reaching into a candy dish. “Both are crimes of opportunity,” she insists. “Quite a few normal folks, when presented day after day, year after year with the opportunity to embezzle take the bait,” she explains. Translation: If the candy dish (or till) is always there, you may, in a weaker moment, reach in.

Slim by Design 
Seasoned with authorial wit and buttressed by his extensive empirical research, Wansink's latest book, Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions, is an operating manual for slimming down in five key settings: the home, restaurants, supermarkets, the workplace, and the school lunchroom.  In the home, he advocates smaller dishware that limits portion size. Plates should be 9 to 10 inches in diameter and sectioned or divided. Because consumers (and experienced bartenders as well) underestimate the volume of liquid that they pour into wide versus tall glasses, water glasses should be wider than  nonwater glasses, which should be tall and thin. 

Wansink systematically dishes out precise prescriptions for every room in one's house and for danger zones in his other "key" settings. Ultimately, he wants us to think strategically about physical and behavioral design so that we can continue to pursue our natural tendency to eat mindlessly--but more wisely--in design-proofed settings. 

Mindless or Mindful?
So did the candy dish in our career center do more harm than good? My education continues. The answer was--apparently not. "This is a career center and those 'candies' are breath mints," remarked the woman in charge. "They do wonders for our students when they get up-close-and-personal with company recruiters." 

Mindful breath mints

1 comment:

Grant said...

Lou, congrats on best blog post title ever. (Good post too.)