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The 200 Food Decisions You Don't Know You're Making

How many decisions did you make about your last meal? If you're like most people, you probably think just one: what to eat. But if you delve into that experience, many more decisions appear. How much did you serve yourself? What dish did you use? Where did you sit down to eat? When did you stop eating? Why? According to research, you make about 200 of those decisions every single day.

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Your Unconscious Decisionmaking

For a 2007 study published in Environment and Behavior, Cornell researcher Brian Wansink and his team asked participants to estimate how many decisions about food and drinks they made in a given day. Then the researchers asked 18 more questions about what, when, where, how much, and with whom the participants ate and drank. While most people estimated they made around 15 decisions a day, the study found that they actually made 219 decisions on average—around 200 more than they thought. These results point to how mindlessly we eat, and how easily our diets can be influenced by our environment.

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How This Affects You

When the researchers broke down the numbers, they noticed a connection between the number of decisions people made and their weight. People who were of normal weight made more than 100 more decisions about food than people who were overweight. But those who were obese made the same number of decisions as the normal-weight participants, suggesting that it's not just the number of decisions you make that affects your waistline, but the way you make them. This shows that it's important not only to think about what, how, where, and why you're eating, but make sure the decisions you make are wise ones.

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