If Not Noseclips, Dark Sunglasses?

In this interesting video about losing weight, Paul McKenna, a British hypnotist, recreates a study in which people ate food blindfolded. In the study, they ate one-quarter less when blindfolded than when not blindfolded. This doesn’t impress me; nothing is stopping the blindfolded subjects from eating more at later meals. But it makes me wonder how not seeing your food affects flavor-calorie learning. It might make it stronger (you’re less distracted) or it might make weaker (the sight of food acts like glue to strengthen flavor-calorie associations — there is actually evidence for something like this).

While wearing noseclips while eating with others is too weird, wearing dark sunglasses might not be. And what about listening to music (for distraction) while you eat? My calorie learning experiments are continuing; eventually I should be able to test these possibilities.

Thanks to Gary Skaleski.

7 Responses to “If Not Noseclips, Dark Sunglasses?”

  1. Ali Choudhury Says:

    I would think distraction would cause you to consume more, since you’re not paying attention to how much you eat.

  2. seth Says:

    I meant: what would be the effect of distraction on the flavor-calorie learning that takes place at every meal?

  3. SusanJ Says:

    It’s funny this shows up with an ad for the book on “Mindless Eating.”

    My recent experiences with SLD and lo-carb coupled with long experience with eating and various shortterm attempts at dieting have completely convinced me that Taubes is right when he says that hunger is physiological, not psychological. Once you’ve decided the exact amount you are going to eat or drink — a nose-clipped protein shake, say — and treat it as fuel, you aren’t going to consume more or less.

    I can now break a single potato chip into a dozen or more pieces and savor each little piece if I want to. I think I can do this enjoyably because lo-carbing means my body is no longer associating that taste sensation with a forthcoming sugar rush which it can hardly wait for. And I’m sure that SLD has also helped to break a flavor-calorie association although I think perhaps the important thing is breaking the flavor-sugar rush association. I’m not sure how to test this.

  4. Ali Choudhury Says:

    D’oh. Looks like I better up my flaxseed dosage.

  5. Jeff Says:

    It sounds like more distraction = more mindless eating:

    “Where you are, what you’re doing, and who you’re with all affect how many calories you’re likely to consume. When you’re in a restaurant with low lighting, you tend to eat more. You also eat incrementally more as the number of people at the dining table increases, and you’ll eat more if you’re watching television or reading the newspaper. According to Wansink, eating in front of the TV can increase your consumption as much as 60 percent, depending on how long you sit there watching.

  6. danielle Says:

    The answer is simple. It takes certain amount of time for the body to feel satisfied and full. When you have blindfolds on, then it takes longer for you to eat. Then when the time comes when you actually feel full, you didn’t have as much food as usually. – this isn’t news to me. It’s re-doing work that has been done already!

    When you eat with other people, many more things are going on. You look at how others eat and you excuse your own behavior “I guess everyone is eating a lot, then it means I can too”. If everyone eats just a little, maybe you’ll be a little ashamed to eat twice as much as everyone else.

    Nose-clips – sure if you wear nose-clips all day long, maybe you won’t be teased by the smell of food and maybe you won’t think of eating as much. In my personal opinion, that’s not the way to do this, because we need to breathe through our nose, we need to filter the air with nose hair, etc. Knowing how to breathe properly through the nose may actually lower people’s depression, may improve posture, and may cause them to eat a little less.

    Noises – I don’t think there’s much of a relationship, because people eat in clubs where there’s a lot of music, and in restaurants where there’s a lot of noise. The amount of food you eat depends on how fast you eat, which depends on how hungry you are. Or simply, you eat and eat, even when you are full and even when you sweat. If you do the second one, then you have too many problems to handle alone.

    Don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a relationship between noise and overeating, but I predict there would be a small effect size. I would call that doing science for the sake of doing science, not for the sake of helping humanity. There wouldn’t be much value in this study.

    If someone really wants to loose weight, they need to change their relationship with food, they need to make a commitment, and they have to do the work. Shortcuts don’t work in the long run, just like 99% of diets! Determination, eating moderately, diet full of nutrients, exercise and therapy are the only things that really help.

  7. Tom in TX Says:

    I wonder if the kind of noise would matter, e.g., soothing classical music vs. traffic noise.