Frater Brian Wansink Dubbed Nutrition Swami

Frater Brian Wansink Dubbed Nutrition Swami

ITHACA, N.Y. - Every New Year, many Americans make weight loss their number one resolution. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight, and diet and food companies wasted no time pushing their products just as the ball fell.

If low-cal cereals and diet plans don't work for you, meet author and consumer-behavior expert Frater Brian Wansink (Lambda-Chi, Wayne State College - Nebraska), who has been getting people to change what they do on a fairly small scale -- in labs and classrooms in some of the country's best universities.

He recently became head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, a position he calls "the Nutrition Swami."

Getting Americans to eat better and less is a daunting proposition. Frater Wansink believes diets are destined to fail. Everything fights against them: our bodies, our brains and most importantly our environment.

So rather than hire a nutritionist for the job, the government chose Wansink, one of the world's leading authorities on consumer behavior and author of the bestseller "Mindless Eating."

"Regardless of how tuned in we think we are to eating behaviors and choices, we are a nation of mindless eaters," Wansink said. "This is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to improving people's health through nutrition." Wansink believes Americans unconsciously make food choices not based on how hungry they are but on external factors. He's found that people will take 25 percent more pasta if their plate is two inches bigger. When plain "macaroni and cheese" is changed to "creamy macaroni and cheese" people will buy 27 percent more.

"People refuse to believe they can be tricked by something as silly as the distance of a candy dish or the shape of a glass. And it's because they believe they are too smart for that to happen," Wansink explained. "That's why these things have an incredibly reoccurring impact on us."

Wansink's first sales job this spring will be "my menu planner," an addition to the food-pyramid Web site.

He explained, "My planner is a way [people] can actually go online, type in what they had to eat today, and it's going to say where they're deficient, or where they're doing really well." Wansink types his own information into his program and confessed, "What I'm really hurting on is fruits and vegetables."

Raised on an Iowa farm, Wansink can trace his curiosity about food choice to homegrown tomatoes and corn.

"When I was a little boy, we would actually try to sell vegetables door-to-door. Some people would say, 'Wow, fresh vegetables! I'll take 'em all!' and other people would look at [the vegetables] like they were kryptonite or something," Wansink said. "And I got very interested in why some people would say yes and some no."

Frater Wansink is hungry to get started.

"If you can see that just making certain small changes can have this ripple effect on your life -- man, that's doing people a tremendous service that goes way beyond nutrition and physical activity and health."

Adapted from ABC News Article. If you would like to see your chapter news here, contact Communications Coordinator Tom McAninch.

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