We may be eating in unhealthy ways without realizing it. Even healthy foods can lead to problems in certain people – for example dairy products in people who are allergic to them or wheat in people who have celiac disease. But even if food does not cause a bad reaction in us, there is research evidence that we are not in as much control of what we are eating as we think we are.
The first problem is that we often eat without thinking. Dr. Brian Wansink at Cornell University has done some fascinating experiments (which he writes about in his book, Mindless Eating) that look at why we eat more than we think. In one experiment he had people eat bowls of soup while he watched them using hidden cameras. For some people, more soup was piped into the bowl (without them knowing it) as they were eating – it was a bottomless bowl. These people ate more soup than those who had a regular bowl. Similarly, he has shown in experiments that people will eat less food if they use a smaller plate. In yet another experiment, he went to a movie theatre where a first-run movie was playing just after lunch on a Saturday. He prepared popcorn in advance and made sure it was really stale but still safe to eat. He offered each person who bought a ticket a free soft drink and a bucket of popcorn (some buckets were medium in size and some were large but all were too big to finish). People who got the large containers, ate more popcorn (even though it was stale). He surveyed people when they were leaving the theatre and most people who had the large buckets said that they would not be fooled into eating more popcorn by a larger bucket.