Some weeks ago CHOICE Food & Health was invited by Weight Watchers to participate in a ‘live social experiment’ involving lunch and information about the 2013 Weight Watchers program. We were told we’d be picked up from the office and taken to the event, and taken back afterwards. Who said there’s no such thing as a free lunch?
The hire car delivered us to Sydney Town Hall, where we were led into a function room with a couple of tables of journos and Weight Watchers staffers. We were asked to get our lunch from the buffet, but had to wait before eating it because there was no cutlery. We were told it was coming, and they’d start the presentation while we were waiting. Then some sliding doors were opened and to our astonishment there was another room next door with two more tables of journos and Weight Watchers staffers sitting with their lunch and lack of cutlery.
Thus the ‘live social experiment’ was revealed. The two buffets of identical foods had been set up differently so we could observe the effect of food presentation on how much we chose to eat.
People in our room, the ‘big stuff’ room, were given big dinner plates, the salads were served from big platters, the serving implements were big, the sandwiches were big, the carrot cake squares and fruit kebabs were big, the pile of chocolates was big and macaroons were an enticing mixture of colours. And when I say big, that’s not by any means gigantic - actually pretty normal.
But the ‘small stuff’ buffet had smaller dinner plates, the serving plates and implements were smaller and the quiches, sandwiches and arancini were cut in half. The desserts were on a separate table on the other side of the room, with impossibly cute petit fours-sized fruit kebabs and carrot cake squares, a small mound of chocolates and only brown macaroons (ok, so they were chocolate, but still not as appetising-looking as the mixed colours).
Having had the difference in the buffets pointed out to us, we were invited to wander around and look at how much everyone had served themselves. Not surprisingly, the people in the ‘big stuff’ room had a lot more food on their plate. At one table, which had collaborators piling their own plates up with tonnes of food to model ‘appropriate servings’, the helpings were enormous.
Our cutlery arrived and we started eating, while we were presented with info about the new Weight Watchers 360 program, in particular the new focus on addressing ‘hedonic hunger’ stimulated by the food-rich (particularly junk food) environment in which we live.
The food, by the way, was delicious, and if the Mediterranean chargrilled veggie salad is a Weight Watchers recipe, then count me in! As we went to leave, I couldn’t help but notice that there was an awful lot of food left on the plates of people from the big stuff room. Shamed into not eating? Eyes (or plates) bigger than stomachs? We’ll never know.