Here is a story that is more of general interest than anything else. It might give you a little insight into the games your brain plays with your stomach. Researchers have found that if fast food joints alter their environment a little, their patrons might be a little healthier.
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Needless to say, the best health advice is to limit your intake of fast food. But, of course, these foods are so common in America — perhaps we could make some changes that will make us healthier? On one hand, a restaurant’s atmosphere can trigger overeating if it stimulates patrons to eat faster. On the other hand, its ambiance may get you to linger longer…perhaps over a dessert you hadn’t planned on.
Lighting and noise seem to influence food consumption, because they affect how long people eat for. Fast food restaurants are not designed to relax a diner. Instead, bright lights, loud noises, and colorful surroundings merge for a hectic atmosphere. But what if they changed that? Would it affect our eating habits?
A new study did a makeover of one-half of a fast food restaurant in Illinois. They pumped soft jazz music and fitted the room with soft lighting — making it seem more like fine dining. People ate in either the normal part or the new “fine dining” part of the restaurant.
The results showed that people in the fine dining half ate for longer — but they consumed less food overall. They were also no more likely to order extra food. Interestingly, they also actually rated the food more enjoyable. In this case, altering the atmosphere altered food consumption and even food satisfaction.
The study shows that if fast food restaurants want consumers to enjoy their food more, they should tone down the lights and music and create a more relaxing atmosphere. Diners who don’t want to overeat can slow down their meals and relax, so they’ll better recognize when they feel full. Distractions in the environment make us more likely to mindlessly eat. It’s time to slow down.
And, by the way, this trick might work just fine at home as well.