Professor Brian Wansick, PhD, author of the fascinating book, Mindless Eating and website, has something to say about this subject. Wansick also is the John Dyson Endowed Chair in the Applied Economics and Management Department at Cornell University, where he directs the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. He has designed and conducted over 250 studies, written over 100 academic articles, and made over 200 research presentations to governments and governors, to top universities and companies, to culinary institutes and research institutes on every continent but Antarctica.
But what exactly does he do? He describes his work this way:
Using precise methods of weighting foods eaten or discarded, [I work with] psychologists [who] test the accuracy of food claims and consumers’ perceptions.
It takes 3,500 extra calories to equal one pound weight gain. It doesn’t matter if we eat these extra 3,500 calories in one week or gradually over the entire year. Just 10 calories a day–one stick of Doublemint gum or three small Jelly Belly jelly beans–will make you a pound more portly one year from today. Only three Jelly Bellys a day! Fortunately, the same thing happens in the opposite direction.
Mindless Eating is filled with fascinating fallibilities that affect our eating decisions even when we think we would never fall for foolish tricks that lead us to gain weight by eating mindlessly.
If you’re interested in becoming a food researcher, check out employment opportunities at the Consumer Behavior program at Stanford University, the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, the University of Illinois Hospitality Management Program, the Penn State Department of Nutritional Science, University of Maryland College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, eLab at Vanderbilt University, and the U.S. Army Natick Labs. This field is growing, so make sure to browse for consumer-behavior research programs on the Internet.