When researching how to get children to eat healthier meals and more vegetables, one solution was simple.
It was based on the same idea that works with adults-peers.
Traci Mann, a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota, spoke at the Crow Wing Energized Health and Wellness in May. Mann authored the book "Secrets from the Eating Lab, The science of weight loss, the myth of willpower and why you should never diet again."
Mann said they wanted to encourage school children to eat more vegetables. One way to do that is to make it a trend-that all their friends are doing. Beyond inventing such a trend they tried a visual enforcement. By putting a photo of carrots, for example, in the food tray, it gave the impression others were adding carrots and researchers found children who ate from those special trays more than doubled or even tripled the amount of carrots they ate.
For adults, peers can also be a factor. When a test put fresh, warm cookies and a small group of people together, all but one of the group was prepped by being told not to take a cookie. When an additional friend is added to the group, studies found they also declined to eat a cookie because no one in the group was. People might be familiar with this feeling of not wanting to be the first or only one taking an added helping or a dessert. When the group was separated and alone and the cookies remained, the subjects continued to decline to take one.
Mann said the takeaway is to eat with the friends that have healthy eating habits because it does make a difference. Mann elicited laughs from the gathering at the Crow Wing Energized Health and Wellness Summit when she added she wasn't advocating dumping the friends who don't have healthy eating habits, but maybe just don't eat with them.
Mann's keynote looked at the ways the body defends a set weight and how dieting can actually work against efforts to be healthier and lose weight. The leanest liveable weight refers to the low end of an individual's set weight, which doesn't trigger all the body defending alarms and biological changes dieting causes. The set weight is the weight people find themselves returning to after a weight loss. There isn't a scientific formula to determine it, but is found by looking at their history. It's what people weigh when not on an extreme, not overeating, not training for a marathon. Aiming 15 pounds below that seems reasonable and achievable, Mann said.