Slim by Design: 9 Questions for Brian Wansink, PhD

  1. You once told me that people with a toaster on their counter, on average, weight 9 lbs. more. How do you explain that?

    This is from a really cool study of 230 homes in Syracuse, NY, where we photographed everyone’s kitchen and weighed homeowners. Those with a toaster on their counter weighed 9 lbs. more than their neighbor.  You can debate causality or you could get rid of your toaster.My Lab has a saying: if you want to be skinny, do what skinny people do.  You want to tilt the playing field in your direction so it’s easier to eat better or a little less.


  1. What are the top 3 things people should do to design their kitchen for fitness?

    There are over 20 that would work well. Some of the most effective tools are pretty person- (or habit-) specific.  If I could ask a person about 28 questions, I could give really accurate advice about what would statistically work for them.  Let me tell you the 3 things I’m doing every day this month:

    – The main dish is served or pre-plated from the stove or counter.  This cuts down how much you eat by 19%.

    – There are two or fewer cans of soft drinks in the fridge.  This slows down how much you drink because warm soft drinks aren’t as tempting.

    – My kitchen counters are organized (not messy).  This leads people to snack 44% less in the kitchen.


  1. What did you have for breakfast this morning?

    I threw some random handfuls of vegetables into a blender along with a can of V-8 and some protein powder (a lazy man’s semi-processed vegetable smoothie).


  1. How many food decisions do we make in a day and how many of them are completely mindless?

    Our studies show that the average person makes around 250 decisions about food every day – breakfast or no breakfast? Pop tart or bagel? Part of it or all of it? Yet out of these 200+ food decisions, most are mindless.  My book Mindless Eating (2007) showed what these decisions are and how to make them work for you rather than against you.


  1. If I want to shop at a grocery store that is designed to help me make healthy choices, what should I look for?

    My newest book, Slim by Design (2014), has a 100-point scorecard you can use to tell if your grocery store is making you fat by design or slim by design.  I’m currently working with eight grocery chains to roll it out in their stores.There’s also a 10-point version at that you can fill out.  Some of the items on it include:

    – The grocery store has pre-printed shopping list reminders that focus on healthier foods as the default option.

    – The grocery store has a fruit display within 20 feet of the door.

    – The grocery store has at least one checkout line that is candy-free.


  1. One chapter of your book offers dozens of things schools can do. As a parent with school-aged kids, how can I get my kid’s school to improve their design for fitness?

    We’ve started something called the Smarter Lunchroom Movement (  We give schools 100 low cost or no cost changes they can make to nudge kids to pick up an apple instead of a cookie. Over 20,000 schools are already implementing one or more of our changes.  The best way to get started is to go to and rate your child’s lunchroom by filling out the School Scorecard.


  1. You have three lovely daughters. What have you done in your own home so that they will grow up healthier?

    Everything.  Usually within 2 days of discovering something in a study, I implement it immediately. For instance, most parents think no kid would choose apple slices over potato chips or French fries.  We discovered it’s all in how you ask them. The secret is, you can’t ask them what they want to eat; you have to ask them what their favorite friend, teacher, or superhero would eat.
    Here are some tips from our What Would Batman Eat? Study:

    – Be specific, nonjudgmental, and make it a decision between two choices:  “What would Batman eat—apple slices or French fries?”

    – Don’t criticize their answer or even comment. Then simply ask, “What do you want—apple slices or French fries?”

    – Give them what they asked for and move on.


  1. If I could read only one section of Slim by Design, what should it be and why?

    Probably Chapter 2: Your Slim-for-Life-Home.  It relates to all of us (even the celebrities and the gossip columnists I describe) and it sets up the rest of the book to compellingly show what’s next.


  1. Almost 70% of Americans are obese or overweight. If the average American city could adopt all of your suggestions in Slim by Design, how much would that percentage drop? Just guess.

    It would turn the tide.  What we’ve found is that if a person makes just three of the recommended changes, they can lose about 5 pounds every 3 months. That’s not huge, but it doesn’t require dieting, counting calories or filling out a food diary every day.  We have found that over 80% of the population says they would be happy if they lost an average of only 16 lbs.  That’s easily doable within 9 months. I have great respect for the work you are doing with the Blue Zones Projects. You are putting into practice all the tips and tricks I recommend through my books.   The results are impressive.


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May 19, 2015