Nutrition Action Healthletter
May 1999 — U.S. Edition

Want to lose weight or keep it off? Putting a mirror in your kitchen may help, says a study from Iowa State University in Ames.
   Brad Bushman asked 320 college students to sit alone in a room. Each got a bag of Lender’s bagelettes and three kinds of Philadelphia cream cheese (with the labels on): regular (100 calories per two tablespoons), light (70 calories), and fat-free (30 calories). Half of the students sat in a room with a mirror. When the other half sat in the room, the mirror was covered.
   In a second study, 979 supermarket shoppers were asked to sample bread spread with one of three kinds of margarine: Promise regular (80 calories per tablespoon), buttery light (50 calories), and ultra fat-free (5 calories). All were labeled. Half of the shoppers ate in front of a mirror; the other half did not.
   The results: When the students or shoppers could see themselves in the mirror, they ate less regular cream cheese or margarine. But the mirror made no difference in how much light or fat-free cream cheese or margarine they ate.
   “Something as simple as a mirror on a refrigerator may influence people to avoid high-fat foods,” says Bushman. He’s got one on his own fridge.
   Why didn’t the mirror make a difference for lower-fat foods? “Even dieters regard reduced-fat and no-fat snacks as food freebies,” says Bushman.
   That’s not so bad if they’re eating fat-free cream cheese or margarine, which are low in calories. But when it comes to sugar-loaded, calorie-dense, fat-free cakes, cookies, and ice cream, watch out. —Bonnie Liebman

J. Appl. Psych. 83: 944, 1998. 
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