Around 45 million of you are on a weight-loss diet right now — and have been more than once. That can be draining physically, emotionally and financially. Americans spend $33 billion a year on weight-loss products. Unfortunately, for all that effort, almost 66% of you are overweight or obese. But you can get around those challenges and succeed.
To help you do it, we want to suggest a new approach to the difficulties associated with upgrading your nutrition so that you can lose excess weight. We know a lot of what we provide to you is info about what you should or shouldn’t eat, what kind of physical activity to get and how to fit it into your day. Rules, suggestions, pokes and prods. And don’t worry, we’re not going to stop. However …
A new French study in marketing science looked at the amazing power of subtle nudges — yes, nudges — to change eating behavior, and that got us thinking. Seems folks respond positively to the unconscious power of convenience and are willing to upgrade the healthiness of their eating behaviors when doing so is simply the easiest option.
What kind of nudges work? They’re simple changes in how food options are presented to you and your family. They’re ones that you don’t really have to think about and that naturally nudge you toward making the smart choice. As one researcher said, “Putting fruit at eye level counts as a nudge; banning junk food does not.”
So we’ve taken the basic findings of the study and translated them into four simple nudges that can change your eating style, improve your nutrition and boost your weight-loss efforts.
1. Control portion size with new styles of plates and glasses.
>> A 2014 study in the International Journal of Obesity found that plates with wide, colored rims make folks think there is more food on the plate than there is.
>> Look for “MyPlate” plates (they’re available online), which divide the surface into sections that hold healthy-size portions of veggies, protein, fruit and grains. They’re not just for kids! And for more info on MyPlate, check out choose myplate.gov.
>> Yes, large glasses make for healthy servings of water, but if you’re drinking fruit juices or other sweetened beverages, you want to limit your intake until you wean yourself off them (that is the goal). Get 4-ounce juice glasses.
2. Change how you arrange food in the fridge.
In this eat-on-the-run world, you want to make sure the food you grab to go is healthful. One study found that 70% of drivers eat while driving, and another survey done for Jenny Craig found that parents are so busy these days that they eat more than 150 meals a year standing up!
>> Store ripe apples, oranges, plums and pears in the front at eye level.
>> Wash and cut up melons and berries, and place in glass storage containers so you can see what’s ready to eat. Do that with carrots, celery and bell pepper strips, too.
>> It’s easy to stash veggies in the big bins and forget them. Every day, put a couple on a shelf so you’ll remember to eat/cook them.
3. Put good stuff out for snacking.
>> Put walnut halves and almonds in a bowl next to grapes on the kitchen counter for a grab-and-go snack.
4. Let your family — even kids — serve themselves.
>> The “nudge study” found that when folks dish up their own food, they make smarter choices for themselves than you would! That confirms previous research showing that when you choose your own food, your conscience tends to guide you to healthier choices.
We don’t want to be a nudge, but we hope these nudges help.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chairman of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.