Over the years, Brian Wansink, director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University, has studied such things as how far Americans typically drive to buy food, how many times we refill our plates at all-you-can-eat buffets and how we organize our kitchens. In the mid 2000s he famously coined the phrase "mindless eating" (and wrote a book by that name) to focus attention on all the bad dietary decisions we make without really thinking about them. His new book, Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life, aims to change the design of restaurants, school lunchrooms, office cafeterias and homes so that the mindless choices we make will be more-healthful ones. Some examples:
- Keep kitchen counters clear. No visible snack food, no bread, no nuts - not even breakfast cereal. In Wansink's research, "women who had even one box of breakfast cereal that was visible - anywhere in their kitchen - weighed 21 pounds more than their neighbor who didn't." (Exception: You can keep a bowl of fruit in sight.)
- Trick yourself into drinking less wine. "We tend to focus on the height of what we pour and not the width, so we pour 12 percent less wine into taller white wineglasses . . . than we pour into wider red wineglasses." And the shape of the glass is not the only variable that affects how much we drink, Wansink writes: "Because red wine is easier to see than white wine, we pour about 9 percent less red wine whenever we pour a glass."
- And more: Wansink said his researchers found that people ate less at restaurants when they sat in well-lighted areas near windows and doors, rather than in darker areas or in the back. They ate less if they were offered a doggie bag, or to-go box, before they got their meals: Apparently the idea of getting a "free" second meal outweighed the impulse to clean their plates. Fruits and vegetables kept on the top shelf of the refrigerator were eaten at higher rates than those on lower shelves.
The point, Wansink says, is to consider findings like those and change your environment or habits. Then you won't have to think about it. You'll just eat less.
* * *
LET YOUR SUPPORT BE KNOWN
Just in time for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Florida has added a new specialty license plate for Moffitt Cancer Center.
The plate, which costs $25 plus county fees, is available at local tax collector's offices. The plate fee will go directly toward cancer research at Moffitt.
To learn more, visit moffittplate.org or call toll-free 1-888-663-3488.
* * *
BREATHE, STRETCH, DONATE
Empty Hands Music and Vandana Dillon, founder of the St. Pete Yoga Festival, are bringing the third annual event to Sunken Gardens, 1825 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 26. Musician Nimesh "Nimo" Patel will perform, and there will be yoga classes, meditation and health and wellness presentations. Admission is free with Sunken Gardens admission. Donations will be accepted on behalf of Embracing the World, an international organization dedicated to helping poor people meet basic needs, including shelter, health care and food. Visit stpeteyogafestival.org.
* * *
GIVE THOSE ACHING KNEES A BIT OF RELIEF
Knee pain can hit you at any age, but osteoarthritis, or "wear-and-tear arthritis," is the most common cause.
"Osteoarthritis is like a rusty hinge," says Dr. Robert Nickodem Jr., an orthopedic surgeon. "The knee still works, but it creaks."
To help alleviate the "creaking" and soothe the discomfort, he recommends:
Anti-inflammatory medications: Try aspirin or ibuprofen.
RICE therapy: Rest, ice, compression and elevation can help reduce swelling and pain.
Physical therapy: Exercise that strengthens your quads and hamstrings may help relieve the pressure on your knees.
Knee braces: They can take pressure off the arthritic area.
Cortisone injections: An occasional injection may lessen the swelling and achy pain.
Lubricant injections: They can help the knee move more smoothly.
* * *
HAIR LOSS AND IRON, VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY
If you're suddenly finding tufts of hair swirling around the shower drain, take a closer look at your diet. Low levels of vitamin D and iron might be to blame.
Prevention reports that Cairo University researchers found that women who were experiencing hair loss had lower levels of iron and vitamin D-2, and hair loss got worse as the levels dropped.
"This is the first time vitamin D's possible role in hair loss has been highlighted," said Dr. Rania Mounir Abdel Hay, co-author of the study. "It might regulate the expression of genes that promote normal hair follicle growth." As for iron, low levels may inhibit an essential enzyme that has been associated with hair loss in mice.
Aim for a minimum of 600 IU of vitamin D per day, and 800 IU if you're a senior. Salmon packs 450 IU per 3-ounce serving, and fortified milk and orange juice have 115 to 135 IU. And consider a vitamin D supplement, which also may help prevent heart disease, cancer and bone fractures.