Dan Ariely on the behavioral economics of Thanksgiving:


Ezra Klein asked Dan Ariely, Duke Economist and author of the bestseller Predictably Irrational, how to use behavioral economics to restrain oneself on Thanksgiving:

I asked Ariely how he would set up his Thanksgiving feast to limit overeating without having to exercise self-control. His answer was to construct the “architecture” of the meal beforehand. Create conditions that guide people toward good choices, or even use their irrationality to your benefit.

“Move to chopsticks!” he exclaimed, making bites smaller and harder to take. If the chopsticks are a bit extreme, smaller plates and utensils might work the same way. Study after study shows that people eat more when they have more in front of them. It’s one of our predictable irrationalities: We judge portions by how much is left rather than how full we feel. Smaller portions lead us to eat less, even if we can refill the plate.

Ariely’s other suggestions

  • He suggests placing the food “far away.”
  • If the first course is relatively filling and relatively low in calories, everyone will eat less during the rest of the meal.
  • it’s not a bad idea to limit the total number of courses. Variety stimulates appetite.
  • Satisfaction doesn’t depend on caloric intake; low-calorie, high-fiber foods and foods high in water content are filling. Thus, the more broccoli rabe there is at the table, the better.
  • …on Thanksgiving, make like you’re in Plymouth, and ensure all of the food is homemade. There will be fewer calories available if Grandma’s stuffing isn’t supplemented with bowls of chips and cheese.
  • Ariely’s main advice is not to worry too much about Turkey Day... The solution to overeating, Ariely says, “comes from [making] small changes across many normal meals.”
  • “Wear a very tight shirt.”

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