Clamping Down on the Urge to Splurge

Amar Cheema, an assistant professor at at St. Louis’s John M. Olin Business School, and Dilip Soman from the University of Toronto, decided to see how packaging affects consumption rates. They learned the way something is packaged determines how much we eat

According to the Social Science Research Network, partitioning food actually clamps down on a person’s urge to splurge. Cheema and Soman found when food is divided into small partitions it introduces a “transaction cost.” Or, in other words, a cost becomes associated with opening a new package or going for seconds. The study showed when consumers have time to think and weigh the costs of an extra snack, they are more aware of how much they are eating and more likely to pause and consider the consequences.

Researchers also learned over time, the partition effect can lose power if it becomes too routine. According to Cheema, “People grow accustomed … and may start eating more than one pack in a sitting … or sometimes, calorie-counted packs are touted as being ‘guilt-free.’ Consequently, people may not keep track of how many they eat in a week and consume more than they would from products in regular packaging.”

So, how do you control your urge to splurge? Here’s what the experts say:

  • Don’t feel like you have to eat every single last bite
  • Drink lots of water, everyday all day long
  • Eat slowly, chew slowly, and don’t gobble when you eat
  • Eat small meals throughout the day, not two or three big meals and nothing in between
  • If you want to snack, eat something healthy like an apple, celery, or carrots, and avoid things that have no partition, such as potato chips or cookie bags
  • Listen to your mind, not your stomach
  • Partition treats by placing smaller portions in containers or buy items individually wrapped
  • Take less than you think you can finish
  • Watch for signs you’re full and then stop eating