hi everyone thank you for coming I'd like to introduce dr.
Tracy man professor at UCLA here to talk about her book secrets from the eating lab thank you so much I'm very happy to be here thank you all for coming here I know it's Monday the beginning of the work week you probably have your head somewhere else I appreciate you coming here right now to hear from me I'm a psychologist and for over 20 years about I've been studying the self-control of eating basically looking at whether people can resist foods that are right there in front of them and over the years I've learned what all psychologists learn quite quickly which is that when people ask me what I do I've learned to never ever ever say that I'm a psychologist people immediately assume that I'm a therapist I'm not they immediately assume that I study or know something about psychopathology they don't but they assume this and start telling me all about their crazy uncle or you know worse themself so I don't do that anymore now you guys do not have this problem right you get to tell people that you work here and they think that's cool so it's a whole although maybe they get jealous and cranky and then maybe it all goes to hell after that I don't know anyway we all have our own problems you guys don't have that problem here's how I deal with my problem is instead of telling people I'm a psychologist I've learned to be a couple steps more specific than that about what I do so I say that I run an eating lab and do research on the self-control of eating and whenever I tell people that they always say the same thing not that not that ever nobody ever it says nobody has ever ever in over 20 years said that to me okay do these people exist I don't know probably because as a psychologist I know that all kinds of people exist okay but I think it's probably rare and in fact maybe some of you are this kind of person I don't know and don't tell us if you are cuz no one wants to know no one wants to hear it anyway it exists but it's rare what everybody actually says to me and I do mean everybody without exception everybody says to me oh man self-control of eating I need help with that I need some of that that's what I struggle with and they all say it is if they're this unique this sort of the day of this unique struggle that most other people don't have right all these people thinking that they're alone in their inability to reliably resist foods they're alone there pretty much everybody okay everybody struggles with self-control thin people fat people everyone in between no you guys okay with me using the word fat we're good okay it's just a word not a judgment in any way no valence it's just a description because sometimes I use that word sometimes I say obese sometimes I say fetch and make sure we're all good anyway okay so everybody struggles with this now if everyone struggles with this it's hard to see how this could be the crucial factor that explains who's going to end up thin and who's going to end up fat and sure enough there is plenty of scientific evidence that shows that willpower self-control these are the same things I'm going to use those words interchangeably there's plenty of evidence that willpower plays a much smaller role in people's weight than everybody thinks okay and I'm going to tell you about some of that evidence but first let's just think through a situation so that you could actually appreciate why it probably doesn't matter very much okay so here's the situation suppose you're in a meeting and there's someone one ear and co-workers comes in and plops a box of doughnuts down on the table and you're all sitting at this table I'm imagine what meetings are like I have never actually held a real job so I don't know what meetings actually are like in the real world anyway this is the picture that I have big table everyone's sitting around it somebody comes in with this box of doughnuts it's great except that you are trying to resist having a doughnut for whatever reason you don't want to be eating a doughnut okay so you're trying to resist it and now resisting this doughnut during the course of this meeting is not just one simple act of self-control right this is many many acts of self-control you have to resist it now when they plop down the box and you have to resist it two minutes from now when you look up and notice it again in a minute after that and a minute after that and you basically you have to resist that every single time you look up and notice it which is going to be some combination some sort of interaction between how exciting the meeting is and how hungry you are you are hungry you the hungrier you are the more you will look up and notice it now if you resist this doughnut the first nineteen times that you look up and notice it but then you get distracted by something you know it going on in the meeting or something else you get distracted have a two-second moment a weakness during which you take one of those donuts and subsequently go on to eat it if this happens you do not get credit for those very impressive 19 displays of self-control that you just demonstrated you have nothing to show for it okay you may as well have had bad self-control right for all the good you're impressive self-control did for you in the end you ate the donut but so did your friend with much worse self-control who ate it on the fifth time that they looked up and noticed it okay so with eating momentary lapses of self-control basically erase previous successes and that essentially wipes out the differences between people except on the extremes and the extremes you're still gonna see differences but in the vast middle you're not gonna see a lot of differences now this is not really true with other behavior so let's think about another behavior let's think about academic achievement getting good grades doing well on tests this requires self-control you need to use self-control when you're studying for a test basically so that you don't get distracted and of course this task is harder than it's ever been for young people right you I mean you we used to sit down with a book to study and there weren't so many distractions now you're studying you're online it's click away to start doing something else to start answering mail or watching a video whatever it is okay so you're studying for a test now let's say you have a lapse of self-control right and instead of studying you stop and you do whatever you watch some videos okay maybe this cost you a few minutes of studying right maybe it cost you five minutes of studying maybe 10 that's not great but importantly what it didn't do was erase all the studying that had come before okay all the studying you did up until that point is still there it's still in the bank right your lapse of self-control didn't undo it the way it does with eating okay so eating is uniquely unforgiving of lapses and self-control okay and then to make matters worse lapses and self-control are also extremely hard to avoid when it comes to eating because we have too many opportunities right there's food all around everywhere there's too many temptations all around us certainly true here in your workplace and temptations everywhere and lapses it's too easy for them to happen and they happen so quickly there's always enough time to have a lapse in self-control when it comes to eating so willpower would have to be incredibly strong right nearly flawless to handle that but it's not it's actually the opposite willpower is fragile it's fragile ins really easy to disrupt so for years all these years my lab doing studies where we put milkshakes in front of dieters with the goal of looking at what would help them to resist the milkshake and what would mess them up and basically everything messed them up and nothing helped them okay so it's really fragile you know another problem with willpower is that despite what you probably have seen on the cover of magazines depending if you look at the sort of magazine there's no evidence at all that people can harness their willpower I'm actually not sure what that even mean but I know that it's not possible if that's possible to know it's not possible when I don't know what it means there's no evidence that you can grow your willpower or get better at it all right so I promise some evidence that willpower doesn't matter so much so much for weight so here's some evidence there's a test they use in willpower research to see how good or bad your willpower is how good or bad your self-control is and this is called the marshmallow test now you've probably heard of it it's very well known this is not from my own work this is from other people's work in particular Walter Mischel and you basically leave a four-year-old kid alone with one marshmallow and tell them that if they can resist it then later they can have two marshmallows okay so then they just see how long the kid can resist the one marshmallow they actually count up the seconds or minutes that the kid can resist the marshmallow it's very difficult for some kids although this guy's doing way better than my kids ever did I know psychology should ever test their own kid on anything but when my kids turn four I stuck them alone with a marshmallow and I couldn't even get out of the room before they ate it so and you're about to see how poorly this bodes for them sorry guys I shouldn't have mentioned you anyway they do the marshmallow test they see how long kids can resist the marshmallow and then they come back so for the examples I'm giving you they come back 10 years later okay and see how they're doing they look at whether how long they can resist this marshmallow predicts other outcomes later in their life so two examples I'm going to mention here are how well they do on their SAT okay and their weight okay and it turns out that first of all willpower does predict both of those things okay so how long you can resist that marshmallow age for does predict each of those things but absolutely importantly willpower is way way way better at predicting how well you do on the SAT then your later weight in fact it's eight times better at predicting your SAT scores than your weight and to say that more precisely because that they that's not totally the right way to say that willpower explains 32% of the between people in their SAT scores a full third of the variation between people in their SAT scores can be explained by their willpower by how well they do it in this marshmallow test but willpower only explains 4% of the variation between people in their weight 4% willpower are supposed to be the thing that matters the most for people's weight and yet it only explains 4% of the variation in weight 96% of the variation in people's weight is from something other than willpower okay now I did not get overly complicated just forget all that I'll say it a different way here's my simple but I'm gonna I'm not gonna lie slightly obnoxious way of remembering just how unimportant self-control is when it comes to weight loss or maintaining weight loss now to appreciate this you first need to realize that diets don't work in the long run for the majority of dieters okay so we reviewed all the long-term studies of diet studies that looked at people who went on diets and followed them for at least two more years and what we found is that by about three years after starting a diet the average dieter has regained everything they lost but two pounds okay so basically they've gained it all back all right so diets don't work in the long run for the majority of people and I've seen the number 5% as the percent of dieters who actually keep weight off in the long term or keep a lot of weight off in the long term okay so the minority of people do that now here's how you know self-control doesn't matter all that much when it comes to weight there's a person who is in this special minority of 5% this 5% of people who have taken off a lot of weight and kept it off and that person is Bill Clinton he went he became a vegan he lost a bunch of weight and kept it off a very long time that's great go bill I'm a fan I voted for him but this is not a person who most of us associate with having good self-control and I hate to say this on Sunday that's going on the internet but this is a man whose trademark is that he had no self-control this is his that's just thing okay but it doesn't matter okay because self-control is only slightly related to weight and weight loss you know if you've struggled to take off weight if you've struggled to keep off weight that you lost it is not because you have worse willpower than everybody else it's not because you have a weaker will it's not because you have less self-control I'm saying that over and over in lots of different ways because it's an important point that I want people to remember okay if you can't keep weight off it's not because you're weak it's not so what is it because of well before I answer that let me ask you guys a question do any of you know someone who can just eat whatever they want and not get fat right you do let the record show people are all nodding or raising their hands we all know people like this and they don't even exercise right and you've probably never even thought about what that means aside from the fact that there is truly no justice in the world but aside from that you've probably never thought about what that means some of you might even be the person that I'm describing and again keep it to yourself don't share it don't share it with the room just a little pointer now you know what else exists is fat people who don't eat that much but are still fat you know for the longest time obesity researchers just flat-out denied that this kind of person existed when they did studies where they had people record everything they ate for days or weeks or months even they'd find plenty of fat people who weren't eating all that much I mean the majority weren't eating a lot weren't eating a ton of food the way people would assume and they would also find fat people in their studies eating even less than some of the thin people in their studies now when obesity researchers were faced with that kind of evidence what they concluded is that the fat people were lying there's so so so harsh it's just outrageously harsh just the well above crazy crazy they're not lying the lie is the thing that we've all been taught is the gospel the lie is that anyone can get skinny and all you need to do to get skinny is to exercise off more calories than you eat we've all been told that but if that were true how could we have thin people who eat so much and never exercise without getting fat how could that exist it does exist how could it if that were true we couldn't have fat people who don't eat that much and stay fat don't eat that much and not get thin it wouldn't be possible but these people do exist and the reason these things exist the reason these people exist is a more appropriate way of saying that is because your weight is influenced by so much more than just the calories that come in and the calories that you burn off exercising so I was at an academic meeting recently just a few weeks ago and somebody put up this diagram showing all the different things that influence obesity just a simple little diagram crazy crazy tight luckily they put up the simple diagram next here's their simple one they even labeled it simple model and you know don't need to pay attention or look at this at all other than knowing this is the simple model paying a lot of these functions on this little graph are genetic and we know a lot about the genetics of obesity and originally we learned about it from studies of people who are adopted when kids are adopted you can compare their adult weight with the parents who raised them who set their eating habits at their eating environment and you can compare their weight with their birth parents who they share genes with and what you find is that adopted kids their adult weight is much much more highly correlated with their birth parents who again never met but they share some genes about 50% of their genes much closer to their weight than the weight of the adoptive parents who again are deciding what they eat most of the time ok so that suggests genes matter more than environment in this particular for this outcome for weight now we also know a lot from studies of twins my University of University of Minnesota is a home of twin studies coincidentally it's in the twin cities unrelated is complete coincidence series is a complete coincidence and they originated the studies of twins identical twins reared apart which if you think about is the perfect study right they share one hundred percent of their genes but have different environments so you can really separate out genes from environment in that kind of study in those kinds of studies show very powerful role that genetics play in people's weight these are identical twins now these are not identical twins reared apart I don't have pictures of those but these are identical twins again sharing 100% of their genes and you can see that in most of the pair's the weights are nearly identical to each other they're not all identical they're not 100% identical because genes don't explain 100% of what your weight will be but it plays a large role these are paternal twins they share 50% of their genes and you see if they're not nearly as similar to each other as those twins who shared all their genes ok genes matter they play an important role now when you say something is genetic people get this weird idea that the thing is simply coded on one single gene right that so with weight people think there's one gene and that gene says this person will weigh a hundred and fifty pounds when they're full grown okay that's clearly that's way too simple right in fact there's over a hundred different genes that are linked to obesity that we know of currently every year they're finding more and more genes this graph just shows the number of genes that they found that influence susceptibility to obesity and they're finding more and more and that quite a pace that 2013 to 15 they found a lot of genes alright so what are these things that are coded on genes well let's start with hormones okay so the relative levels and responsiveness of dozens of different hormones are coded on our genes including these hormones of the gastrointestinal system known as the gut hormones okay and there's a whole lot of these okay so some of these hormones determine how much you need to eat to feel full some determine when you're gonna feel hungry and when you're not gonna feel hungry some people might feel full from eating one sandwich the other people of the same size may need to eat three sandwiches to feel full okay they may need to eat three sandwiches before their satiety hormone kicks in if one sandwich fills you up you are less likely to overeat and it's because of these genetically determined hormone differences okay what are you supposed to do if you need three sandwiches to feel full are you supposed to only eat one and live hungry are you supposed to live never feeling sated never feeling full you can just consider think about later on your your own time if you think it's fair or appropriate for us as a society to expect some people to never feel full you two always feel hungry just to achieve a certain weight okay I'm not sure not sure that's okay now another thing hormones influence is which foods you like and which foods you want how palatable you find different foods if you've ever been pregnant you've experienced this if you've ever been pregnant you know that this has to do with hormones when I was pregnant all I wanted to eat were apples apples normally who could care about apples you know normally I wanted ice cream cookies but when I was pregnant I had no interest in those things all I wanted we're apples hormones clearly have something to do with that food preference so for some people it's gonna be much easier to resist ice cream than it is for other people but it won't be because of their impressive self-control they might tell you it's because of their self-control but really it's because they weren't as tempted by it it didn't look as good to them it's not calling out to them the way it calls out to some of us it doesn't seem as appealing you know how they say it doesn't count as bravery if you weren't afraid to begin with it's the same thing it's not self-control if you didn't want the thing in the first place that's not self-control that's just a different palette it's just a different set of genetically based preferences now you know people like this occur right you'll be in a restaurant with them and when it's time to order dessert they'll say oh no I could never eat chocolate mousse that's just you know I've people in my own home who say I could never eat marshmallow peeps for breakfast that's crazy so annoying okay people whatever people have different preferences so those are hormonal differences and there's also neural differences neurological differences so people differ in their brains responsiveness to the sight of food into the sight of different foods so some people get a big reward response from seeing or eating food they get a big rush of dopamine okay now you guys know about dopamine right it's this neurotransmitter associated with reward with pleasure with addiction right people get a big dopamine rush from drugs they're addicted to okay so some people get a bigger dopamine rush from certain foods than other people okay so the bigger this response the bigger the reward response the more pleasing you find it to have this food right the more you crave this food the more difficult it's going to be for you to resist it if it's present you know there's a lot of different neurological functions that influence people's susceptibility to obesity I'm literally just naming that one the reward response there's others to actually will mention another one in a second okay so neurological responses to foods have a genetic basis and then metabolism and of course your metabolism is genetically based then you guys all know about metabolism your metabolism determines how efficiently you use the calories that come in it determines how many calories you burn just doing the job of running the systems of your body okay so some people are going to burn up more of the calories from that doughnut than other people just while sitting still okay and this is how you can have people who eat a lot and remain thin and people who are fat who don't eat a lot you can put people on the same diet and completely different things will happen to their weight so this is a graph that shows what happened to 29 different people who were put on the exact very low calorie diet for 10 weeks this is their weight change in terms of the percent of their starting weight okay so each bar is a different person okay and what you can see is that different things happen for different people some lost a lot of weight some lost a little weight and some gained weight you know when you see graphs like this people say well I bet some of those people lied and ate more than they were supposed to and certainly this is possible on any diet study for the most part but they've also done studies where the person checks into the researchers clinic to a diet clinic to a hospital whatever it is and they live there for the duration of the diet and they only eat the food the researchers give them okay and you still get this wide variation in what happens to people okay now the same is also true for overeating so this next graph is from a study where researchers first figured out the exact number of calories to give people so that their weight would stay the same okay so they figured that out and then they over fed each of them a thousand more calories per day for a hundred days and they didn't allow them to exercise okay so each by now it's like who's volunteering here so each bar again each bar is a different person and again you see this big variation right some people gained as much as 30 pounds in the 100 days some came as little as 10 and not that we're going to talk about exercise today exactly but the same thing is also true for exercise and this graph is from an exercise study where everyone did the same intensity exercise for 12 weeks in the researchers clinic in front of the researchers and some people lost a lot of weight some lost a little and some gained and the reason there's two colored bars is because one is their weight and when is their fat mass okay either way same point is made whichever one you look at okay so first point your weight is based on a lot more than calories in calories out and genetically-based factors affect so many aspects of it including things like how tempting a food looks to you how reward that food is – how much you crave it how hunger you feel after eating the same food and the rate at which you burn up the calories from that same food if you're a thin person you're probably on the lucky side of a lot of those if not all of those okay probably on the side that makes it easy to resist food makes it easy to burn calories makes it easy to remain thin if you're a fat person if you're an obese person odds are you're on the other side of that the side that makes it difficult it seems crazy to blame people for their fatness or be impressed by their thinness it is way less about them than it seems okay so that was point one now point two is where and there's only two points an don't worry 0.
2 is where things get really frustrating okay because regardless of where you start out on these biological factors here regardless of where your genes put you there is one thing that reliably messes these things up for everybody and that one thing is dieting okay so if you restrict your eating for a while and lose some weight if your body detects that not enough calories are coming in all of these biological factors change for the worse okay they change in the way that undermines your effort to keep weight off and this is why diets don't work in the long run for the large majority of people so after losing weight your metabolism changes so that you run your body on fewer calories than before leaving more leftover unused to store as fat so if you eat the same amount of calories that you were eating when you lost weight on your diet after a while you'll stop losing weight you might even start gaining weight fake sometimes call this the plateau and what will people say they'll say you had no self-control right they'll say you couldn't hack it you couldn't do it you were weak okay even though you're eating so little and probably even eating less than they're eating if they're not on a diet okay so that's metabolism after losing weight your hormone levels change you say you're more likely to feel hungry okay you need to eat more to feel full then you then you used to them for dieting so if you eat the same amount of calories you ate to lose weight you're gonna feel even hungrier than you felt then you probably felt hungry then because you weren't eating that many calories now you're even hungrier you get to keep weight off you have to always be hungry after losing weight also your brain changes it changes in ways that make food more tempting and you become preoccupied with food and there's all kinds of evidence for this but the earliest kind of evidence for this and the kind that I think is the most fun is okay that's gonna seem inappropriate but is the kind that you find in journals that explorers leave ok explorers are actually convenient people to study when it comes to the effects of starvation because unfortunately explorers do two things one is that they keep journals where they're very precise and another is that they die of starvation so you can read their journals and learn a lot from them and what you find is they talk about food a lot they mentioned dreaming about food they write about their favorite meals they write about what the first thing they want to eat is when they get home all this this guy the slide is Robert Falcon Scott he's a polar explorer and I feel like he's not so famous in the u.
he's extremely famous in England he's British and the reason he's not so famous outside of England outside of his home is because he came in second and coming in second for an explorer it's like not exploring at all you know it's either you're the first one there or you're not you discovered it or you didn't his team unfortunately got beaten to the South Pole by 28 days and unfortunately also they died on their way back they starved / froze to death it's polar exploring is insane I mean yeah yeah anyway I'm an indoor person so maybe let's just say it was really extremely extra crazy to me anyway Scott's journals maybe a whole museum devoted to him in Cambridge this is where I was on sabbatical and they it's fun to read his Diaries I mean okay again sounds horrible they're fascinating it's not grisly it's it's just a very interesting thing he's extremely tough and not whining in any sense of the word anyway you don't have to be starving to death for these neurological changes to happen they happen when you lose weight even just a little weight that happen when you're depriving yourself of food what happens isn't every dieter will tell you this happens you think about food constantly you're more likely to notice it if it's there and eating food gives you an even stronger reward response than before dieting and this is not ideal if you're trying to keep dieting okay so point to is that dieting leads to biological changes that make it incredibly difficult to keep weight off just that small minority people manage to do it and to do it they have to go about their lives basically devoted to this devoted to eating very very little to always feeling hungry and constantly thinking about food basically fighting against all of these these things and these red bubbles here now knowing about these things makes me just screaming mad when people blame dieters for regaining weight they lost I just I cannot take it when people safe and this is the thing that people are constantly saying or putting in comments when I talk at other places they say well there's men they're still the one holding the fork and shoveling it in it just makes me absolutely want to throttle them yes I will give them this they are holding the fork I will give them that yes it's true but they are holding that fork in a completely different physiological context than someone who hasn't been dieting right in this context they're holding the fork in a context in which their biology has turned on them and to succeed they have to battle against that all these biological factors so if you've been dieting you hold the fork in a context in which your hormones are preventing you from feeling full and causing you to feel hungry to feel extremely hungry no matter what you eat right you're holding the fork in a context in which your brain is more likely to notice foods if they're there pays extreme attention to thoughts of food and can't really be shaken from those thoughts very easily and you hold the fork in the context in which your brain is responding to food with a bigger more powerful hit of reward you with extra pleasure and extra reinforcement so yes fine that they held the fork right but it's this physiological situation that made them so likely to pick it up so I thought this information was something people shouldn't know something that people should hear about so 11 years ago I wrote a book proposal about why diets don't work and no publisher would come near it they did not want a book that started with the three words diets don't work they just said that is too bad that is too negative that's too much bad news nobody wants to read bad news no one's gonna read bad news forget it and this absolutely drove me nuts because first of all I don't think it's bad news okay I don't think it's bad news to learn that it's not your fault if you regain weight that it's not your fault if you find it difficult that it's not because you're weak it's not a personal failing okay it's because you are a biological human being right now secondly people deserve and want to know what's true I fully believe this whether or not it's good news whether or not they're going to interpret it as positive or negative people still want to know what's true and they should have the right to hear it and they should have access to accurate information about it very hard to get accurate information about diets out there tons of information is out there but most of it is designed to sell you something generally a diet so you're not getting accurate information about diets it seems that this is something people should have access to and the thing that drove me the most bonkers at the time is that the thing the the book that was on top of the bestseller list at the time that I was being told that people don't want to read bad news was a book I think it's like the ultimate in bad news anyone guess what that book might have been bestseller ten or so years ago super bad news right there in the title no my husband guessed Tuesdays with Maurey which is a correct it's this book he's just not that into you come on that is the worst news she's very annoying but also extremely disappointing the only reason I was eventually able to publish this book at all is that for the last 10 years I gave up on willpower I gave up on self-control and instead I started researching strategies for healthy eating that don't involve willpower and that don't involve dieting ways to get you to eat more healthy stuff okay the goal of all these strategies and I'll tell you two of them the goal of these strategies is to help you reach what I'm going to call your leanest livable weight this is the weight at the lower end of your set weight and range okay you do have a set range of weights that's basically biologically determined that your body basically tries to keep you within your leanness livable weight will be at the low end of that range rather than below it this is the lowest weight you can be without setting off all those biological changes from the red bubbles okay that dieting causes okay those changes again they happen when you try to live below that's set weight range so aim to stay within it but at the low end of it okay now this might not be as low as your usual diet goal okay this might not be the same as your ideal goal weight but I want to encourage people to think of that as the best weight for them and to aim for that weight because that's a weight you can maintain without it taking over your life if you do some healthy stuff and it's a weight that you can be healthy at okay you don't have to get skinny to be healthy absolutely not you can be healthy in any way okay so we need something between this damaging restrictive dieting that's always encouraged and just kind of letting everything go okay and so this is what I'm proposing to be in the sensible middle okay so I'm gonna end just by telling you about a couple strategies okay so some of the strategies are basically are trying to take advantage of obstacles there ways to put obstacles between you and 10 ding food then these strategies work extremely well because we and by we I mean humans we tend to be lazy why we tend to be lazy so obstacles usually slow us down if not stop us entirely so for example there's a study from the Netherlands where they show that if you have a bowl of M&Ms if you have a bowl of M&Ms across the room from where you're sitting you're not gonna eat as many as if the bowl is right there next to you at the table if it's 5 feet across the room you won't eat as many aletan half as many having to get up to stop what you're doing you have to get up you have to walk across the room that's a giant obstacle it turns out you don't need such a big obstacle to cut in half the amount of M&Ms you need that stain that same study also tested a smaller obstacle okay they put the bowl of M&Ms instead of right here by your hand they put it so that you had to reach two feet across the table for it you basically had to extend your arm and if you had to lean forward a little and extend your arm you ate just this few is if it was fully across the room okay so this little little change made a huge difference as much of a difference again as actually stopping what you're doing it and getting up does this keep you from eating any M&Ms at all no but it helps you eat a lot less okay and eating less seems like a really good goal okay eating less but not none okay none come on people need to enjoy their life you know I think anything saying you have to have none is not gonna work out and in fact I've done research on this with my collaborator and reward years and years and years ago we forbade our subjects from eating a particular food for three weeks just three weeks and we found that they thought about that food more and desired that food more than if we hadn't forbade them but here's the crucial thing we purposely had them pick a food that they felt neutral about not something they loved not something they hated something right there in the in that middle area and still they thought about it all the time and wanted it so much imagine if you're restricting yourself you're forbidding yourself from eating something you really love it backfires you know actually Google did a very into this strategy I actually mentioned this in the book and you guys probably know about it with their M&Ms they just have M&Ms all over the place in glass canisters and at some point they switched them to opaque canisters just to put one more step between you and those M&Ms just to remove one more bit of temptation M&M consumption went way down after they did that so Google Bravo but they still have M&Ms well I didn't see any maybe they're here I had Twizzlers on my way in yeah okay I was happy about that okay so that's one kind of strategy now another kind of strategy just flips that one around to help you eat more healthy food by removing obstacles that come between you and them okay so we're moving obstacles between you and healthy stuff so here's an obstacle to eating vegetables big obstacle okay for most people especially children vegetables lose to other foods most people don't think of them as yummy as other foods so they lose when they're put in head-to-head competition like they are on every plate ever anywhere okay that's a competition a vegetable will lose here's a competition a vegetable can win some of the time okay nothing vegetable vs.
nothing they do sometimes beat nothing and this strategy we've tested it's what I call get alone with a vegetable and it's just as easy as this eat a vegetable before you put any other food on your plate no no don't do that ooh eat a vegetable well there's no other food in sight okay if all you have is a vegetable and you're hungry you'll eat the vegetable but put it on the plate next to the spaghetti and all bets are off you actually got the idea for this from watching my kids when they were aged 3 and 6 we're in a restaurant in Delhi which would normally come and put pickles on the table you've been to places like this that one day they were out of pickles I guess instead they brought a bowl of sauerkraut a large bowl of sauerkraut which i think is disgusting and I like most things and apologies foods are culturally linked and whatnot I don't want to insult anyone's culture actually I have Eastern European relatives it's at my culture too in any case I think it's a hard sell for children ok fair enough no one's hurt or offended by this my kids again aged 3 & 6 gobbled up an entire big bowl of sauerkraut with their fingers before I could even you know turn them against it by giving my opinion of it so and disgusting to use a fork people Jesus God there wasn't a fork in any case this works with children we tested it with children my university Minnesota colleagues and I we tested this in elementary school cafeterias we just gave each student a little cup of baby carrots before they went to the cafeteria and went in and got all their food and sat down with it normally in this school district only about 10% of the kids we're eating vegetables at any given meal ok but once we use this strategy five times as many kids ate ate the carrots this is extremely effective with children and then I also tested it with the girls in my Freshman Seminar at the U of M last fall we had them try this for three weeks and just to eat a vegetable first before they got the rest of their tray of food and they ate more vegetables in that time but not only that they also ate fewer calories in that same time period even though they weren't trying to reduce their calories they were only trying to eat more vegetables but it helps because eating vegetables if you eat more of them or any less of something else generally maybe not always okay so thank you so there's two strategies there's 12 in the book just giving you two of them so the key to all these strategies including the other ones is that they don't have anything to do with dieting or willpower they will work no matter how little willpower you have they'll work for all of us with all our crappy willpower and what I recommend what I hope people will do what I think is a sensible solution to the craziness of the pressures for the extreme dieting and the also inappropriate just do it do anything you want I think a sensible middle ground is to make these simple changes these sorts of strategies and then get on with that and by doing that you can reach your leanest livable weight you will be healthy at that weight you'll feel better about yourself and stop worrying about your weight get weight back to where it belongs which is one of the more minor things you think about or worry about and not this giant thing in your face that causes so much torture to so many people okay so what I'm hoping is that people feel liberated by the message in this book and not discouraged okay because even though it starts with the three worst words apparently the three bad bad news words diets don't work it does end with those really most cheerful words and the whole English language if you ask me which are these three words cup or cone you can't get cheer more cheerful than that since I'm here at Google and I love Google I thought I would like Google have the last word on this topic so I typed in dieting is not and Google came back with dieting is not working not a piece of cake not good and absolutely definitely not the answer so Google knows all Thank You Google and thank you guys for having me I will answer any kind of crazy question you want to ask or serious one whatever I'm good we got there I have a small technical question about how you got the four in the 33% variation that explains it's like a simple linear model when you use the R square or something so that came from I have the citations in the notes section it came from a study I want to say by Walter Mischel and Angela Duckworth where they looked at this very thing and exactly looked at the correlations between the seconds they could resist the the marshmallow and then their SAT score or their weight and they controlled for various obvious confounding variables and this was the remaining correlation and then I just converted the correlation to the percent of variance because I feel like people understand that more I don't know maybe not maybe people were to prefer to correlation but yeah that's where I came from so I just directly off of their published studies yeah they don't describe it that way in their studies once you opinion and started just like drink water before if you want to lose weight after if you want to gain weight think oh I haven't heard that drink water after if you want to gain weight Wow how does that I don't know I don't know how that works I mean if you fill yourself up before a meal with some water and that helps you to eat less if you're prone to eating too much of something unhealthy that don't think having a little water is gonna hurt you okay with that board yeah I just I just don't want people to focus so much on the the number on the scale yeah but that seems like a reasonable healthy thing to do so what's a good way to figure out your range like your healthy weight range is just when you start to plateau using healthy weight loss methods or what oh yeah that's a good way to look at okay so that's that I get this question a lot and it's I think the hardest question to answer scientifically because there's there's not research on this that I've seen about how to nail in on this so what it seems to me what I've sort of concluded by talking to lots of people about this is this the middle of your sort of set range is gonna be the weight it's gonna be the thing you weigh when you've eaten reasonably without dieting but without binge eating right so you've eaten like a really kind of basic amount of food and you've not been totally sedentary but you haven't like just run a race either it's you know I mean so you're really in the dead middle of all these behaviors that we know we're supposed to do and that's gonna kind of be your the middle of your range and another way people notice this is it's a weight that you keep seeming to come back to you just keep going back there just so whatever you do you're suddenly you're back there again here again and then you can use these healthy strategies to go you know 10 pounds less or what it depending you know how much you weigh to begin with yeah exactly but I can't point it at like a scientific like calculation that you can use to get there that would be cool though yeah that doesn't exist so thanks for coming but just to be clear my lack of willpower is not the primary reason why my wife luxuries is what you're saying or my current weight is the way it is is that like just so I can tell my wife that it's not right definitely no I guess then in all seasons like I remember high school I was four all of high school I was probably like 160 and then in university hit like that you know the freshman 15 I just I just went to like 180 and stayed there yeah I know but I stayed there for the long time even though I tried to do all these things so how does your theory explain is it is it just my hormones changed in university therefore like I'm now stuck at this new plateau kind of thing yeah I mean so yeah the research has showed that okay you see lots of diets out there that say there's a change your set point diet right I've seen this exact thing there's absolutely no evidence that you can lower your set point but unfortunately there is some evidence that it can creep upward does this slowly over time with large life changes such as going off to college when you change your eating habits in a big way lots of people when they get married have very big changes and their eating habits and you see it a creeping upward women during menopause same thing you see this creep upward so it can creep follow up on her question how long should you do this trying to try to figure out your set point or set range like how long you have to eat healthy and not binge eat healthy ish diet I I don't know again there's there's not a clear science to that so you know I'm gonna pull I'm gonna pull a number out of the sky for you would you like me to yes let's say how much does that sounds about right right if YouTube yeah even maybe a couple weeks three weeks something like that definitely not a huge amount of time please did you look at the psychology of stress and how some people eat when there's yes and some people can't eat when they're stressed it's true okay so emotional eating is a big a big issue in the dieting world so there's a couple different things about stress one is that I've done research with my former student Janet tomiyama where we found that dieting itself causes a physiological stress response in your body this could be another reason why diets don't lead to long-term weight loss so stress is clearly a problem what it looks like is that the people who eat in response to stress tend to be dieters people trying to not eat people trying not to overeat are the ones who eat in response the stress whereas people who aren't worrying about their eating are the ones who eat less when they're stressed so stress in some what it looks like to us is that stress messes up diets okay dieters are more likely to overeat in response to stress and stress messes things up so removing stress is a good important strategy for well for overall health I mean stress is extremely bad for you regardless of whether or not you're dieting so removing stress is an important part of being a healthy person and it will also help you not gain weight I'll say one more thing about emotional eating if if I may which is about eating comfort food this is a vast range thing we ever found in our research is that comfort eating comfort food doesn't do anything special for your mood it doesn't do anything different for your mood than eating any other food and it doesn't do anything different for your mood than not eating food we tested it in all these different comparisons and it didn't matter everything even time made your mood slowly creep upward after we first we messed up people's moods and then we looked at what this is how you have to do it and then we looked at what happened when we gave them either their own personal comfort food or a neutral food or food that they liked just as much as their comfort food or no food at all and in every case their mood improved but they comfort who didn't make it improve more so because of this I've come to believe that comfort food is the thing that you crave when you're feeling bad it's the thing you want when you're feeling bad but it doesn't actually do anything special for you and maybe you think it does because when you eat it you feel better but you don't realize you don't have the control group in your head which is if you hadn't eaten that you'd have felt better too or if you'd eaten something else you'd have felt better too so we encourage people to not reach for their comfort food when they're feeling bad thinking that it's gonna make them better in some special extra way it's not I would say save the comfort food save that particular food for when you're happy and can really enjoy and appreciate it but you don't really need an excuse to eat those foods you can eat them when you wish just don't justify them thinking it's gonna make you feel better because no it's not it's not gonna make you feel worse don't don't go there it's not gonna do that and so I thought the twins you know not the twins today the adopted child said it was really interesting how they found that they were more like their biological parents the environment that they were brought up in I was wondering like when they compared to the biological parents as they compared like with those parents at that kid's age or cuz like opposite parents or normal people – they changed like their set point changes over time if like that makes a difference because I do know like some people like things like bone structure metabolism like that that's all influenced by your parents and stuff but if it was like the parent at that child's age or the parent at the current age it's true so those are studies done I want to say Sweden but I could be wrong Scandinavian type countries that keep these amazing immaculate birth records and what those studies were able to find was the parents wait when what is it when the child was born and then they also went back and we're able to track these people down because of these amazing records and then get their current wait so it was their full-grown adult wait for both sets of parents yeah that's correct it's crazy there's it's so cool that they can do that okay if there's no more questions I'd like to thank dr.
Mann again for coming thank you so much for being here today.