clock menu more-arrow no yes

The willpower-free guide to being healthy this holiday

Editorial note: As of March 2018, Brian Wansink's research program — including studies mentioned in this piece — is now under investigation by Cornell following accusations of data manipulation. For more, see here.


The holidays are a time for indulgence, a time to let loose and eat until your pants get tight. But your pants don't have to get that tight; there are ways to watch your weight this holiday while still enjoying yourself.

We drew on the behavioral science in Cornell professor Brian Wansink's new book Slim by Design to guide us through hacking the holidays for health. Some of Wansink's tips border on the absurd (you probably will not throw out your entire glassware collection), but our environments, and how we set them up, do influence how and what we eat. Here are three highlights from our 2-minute video (above):

1) Avoid serving dinner "family style" at all costs

Wansink found that people who served from their stove or counter ate 19 percent less compared to those serving themselves right off the table.

family style serving

2) Destroy your short fat glasses and replace them with tall, slender glasses

Look at these two glasses. We tend to pour about 32 percent more into the one the left than the right, even though both glasses hold the same amount of liquid.

short glass tall glass

3) Carefully coordinate plates to be the opposite color of your food

In one study Wansink gave students either a red or white plate and allowed them to serve themselves either red marinara pasta or white alfredo pasta. The students who put white pasta on a white plate or red pasta on a red plate ate 18 percent more than those with opposite color plates and foods.

plate contrast food

For more, scroll up and watch the video.