Still looking for a way to trick yourself into eating less? A mirror might be helpful in more ways than you think. On one hand tracking your progress by keeping tabs on your reflection might help, but a recent study goes beyond that and looks into what happens when people choose food in the presence of a mirror.
The study was done at the University of Central Florida and published in the Journal of of the Association For Consumer Research and basically used basic psychology to see how mirrors affect eating unhealthy food. The test that they put participants up to including asking them to choose to eat either a fruit salad or a piece of cake. Obviously in this situation the fruit salad is representing a healthy option, while the cake is representing an unhealthy one.
Some of the participants were in rooms with mirrors, and some of them were in rooms without mirrors. The research did not conclude that the participants in the mirrored room necessarily chose the healthy fruit salad over the unhealthy cake, but when they did eat the cake the participants in the mirrored rooms got less satisfaction from eating it than they did if there was not a mirror around.
The reasoning behind this has to do with the fact that having a mirror around makes us more accountable to our choices since we feel on display and have to take responsibility for them. Eating cake or some other “off limits” food is made more enjoyable by the fact that we’re getting away with eating it, so if we’re not actually getting away with anything it just might not taste as good to us.
This is obviously important to think about, because we might end up eating things that we really don’t even love just because we perceive them as junk food. To fix this, we might consider putting a mirror in our kitchen which could affect the choices that we make when we go in there to grab a snack.
“A glance in the mirror tells people more than just about their physical appearance,” says marketing professor Ata Jami, Ph.D. in a press release. “[The mirror] enables them to view themselves objectively and helps them to judge themselves and their behaviors in a same way that they judge others.”
Interestingly these findings only hold up when the food is chosen by the participant though, so it doesn’t make a difference either way whether there is a mirror in the room when you are served a meal at a friend’s house. By that point it can be important who you’re eating with, since how much our company is eating can affect how much we eat as well. Studies done on adults, children, and animals have all showed that we eat more when we are in groups than when we are alone hands down. So if you really want to drop a few, eat at home. Near a mirror.