The Dieter's Paradox: When More Looks like Less

by Alan Cooper

Which of these meals looks  like it has less calories, this one or...

Which of these meals looks like it has less calories, this one or...

According to a new study, if you show people a plate of unhealthy food, like a burger and fries, then show them the same plate of food with something healthy on the side, like a salad, most will say the second plate has fewer calories, even though it clearly has more food on it.

This has important implications for helping people lose weight. For one thing, that old tactic of encouraging people to eat their greens might not work.

After all, it's no use eating healthy greens PLUS a burger and fries. If pure weight loss is your aim, you're better off eating just the burger and fries!

Alexander Chernev of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, who authored the paper, calls this predicament “The Dieter's Paradox.”

Any ideas how we tackle it?

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Sep 23, 2010
by: Phil

Yeah, this makes a lot of sense. I've always had a little smile to myself when I'm behind someone in the line at the supermarket and they offload their purchases for scanning - crisps, high fat ready-to-eat meals, chocolates, donuts... and a diet coke!

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