Dim the lights, add some slow jams, and you could drop pounds. A new study in Psychological Reports found that you eat less in a restaurant with dim lighting and soft music than in one that’s bright and loud. Researchers tricked out part of a Hardee’s in Champaign, Illinois, by adding tablecloths, plants, and paintings, and softening the seating area with indirect lights and light music. Then, they studied people’s eating habits in both the modified and original sections by timing meal length and calculating calories consumed.
Turns out, customers in the renovated area ordered the same food (couldn’t kill the temptation of burgers and fries), but dined longer than those in the original section. The kicker: They also ate 18 percent less—about 175 fewer calories—and gave the whole experience higher marks. (Here are 7 Fast Foods Under 350 Calories.)
So what gives? Soft light and music mellow you out from your normally on-guard state throughout the day and signal your body to slow down, says lead researcher Brian Wansink, Ph.D., director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab and author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. “The more relaxed you are, the slower you eat,” he adds. Wansink suspects that’s because slow eaters my end up with cold food or their mind catches up to their stomach in feeling full or the food isn’t good anymore.
If you can’t avoid the fast food joint, at least do it right: Find the darkest and quietest corner, Wansink says. At home, replicate the environment by swapping the lights above your kitchen table for some candles arranged around the meal and opting for some slow tunes rather than the TV. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that people who eat while watching the tube consume 288 more calories on average than those who don’t. Why? You’re distracted and it prevents your brain from realizing you’re full.
- Softer Restaurant Music, Lighting Can Help Cut Calories (nlm.nih.gov)
- Fast food restaurant lighting and music can reduce calorie intake and increase satisfaction (eurekalert.org)
- Softer restaurant music, lighting can help cut calories: Study (todayonline.com)
- Want to cut calories? Add mood lighting (futurity.org)
- Softer restaurant music, lighting can help cut calories-study (canada.com)
- Study: Diners Eat Less When Restaurant Has Soft Music, Lighting (wqxr.org)
- Diners Eat Less When Restaurant Has Soft Lighting, Music (news.health.com)
- Dimly Lights Reduce Appetite (socyberty.com)