Would you walk 5 miles for those french fries?
Imagine if your favorite fast food menu listed the number of miles you’d have to walk to work off each item you ate. That’s the type of scenario that researchers created as part of a study in the journal Appetite, where they looked at how much people ordered with different types of menu information.
In the online survey, subjects were told imagine they were in a place like Burger King, McDonald’s, or Wendy’s and then to choose what they would normally order. They were shown one of four versions of a fast food menu that featured things like burgers, fries, soda, and apple pie. One version contained only the food items; the second also listed calorie information; the third showed calories plus the number of minutes a 160-pound person would need to walk to burn them off; and the fourth menu showed the calories plus the number of miles needed to walk to burn off that item.
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Results: people who saw the walking mileage ordered about 200 calories less than those who saw a plain (guilt-free!) menu. Learning that a 250-calorie burger would require 2.6 miles of walking might have dampened their appetites. Those who saw the numbers of minutes needed to walk off the meal, also ordered somewhat less.
I get this. For the last four months, as I try to become honeymoon-ready, I’ve been doing Weight Watchers. And just last night, I stopped after one serving of cavatelli and broccoli. That’s because I realized that one cup was costing me more than ten points, while my 45-minute spin class was only worth five points. The thought of another 45 heart-pounding minutes on a spin bike was enough to get me to put my fork down!