How to Resist Chocolate (or, using art for appetite control)

Yesterday my chickens again woke me up too early; they seem hell-bent on making me into a morning person. And grudgingly, I will admit I enjoyed the chance to have my coffee and catch up on my reading alone. I picked up the latest issues of Nutrition Action Newsletter and Bon Appétit. What I found to read was too fun to not share.

Apparently some researchers in Zurich (Appetite 58:1109) are looking into the effect of subtle food related cues around us as we eat. What things in the space around us cause us eat more or less? Well, right up my alley, these wise Swiss researchers examined the effect of different works of art on one’s appetite for what else? Chocolate. If the study subjects were given free access to those fabulous Swiss chocolates while in a room where a screen portrayed images of skinny Giacometti sculptures they ate less than if the screen portrayed Rothkos. How cool!

In the same magazine, there was an article discussing the need for people to eat fewer calories per day after age 50 in order to maintain the same weight. Depressingly, as we age our metabolism slows no matter how much hard exercise we get each day. Now putting the two articles together in my mind made for some fun. What works of art should I put over my kitchen table? The Giacomettis might send the wrong message to my soon to be a teenaged daughter. The Rothkos are too expensive (one sold earlier this month at Christies for nearly 87 million). What else then? Carravagio’s David with the Head of Goliath could slow even my 16-year-old son’s appetite and might help decrease the food bill a bit. What would our appetites do under a Bruce Nauman neon sculpture? The Wedding Feast of Cana by Veronese might upstage my cooking (this enormous painting is most notable in my mind for thoroughly upstaging the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, if you are ever able, go to the Louvre, stand in front of the Mona Lisa with the crowd then, turn around and look at this magnificent piece to see what I mean). We might eat more fruit under a Cezanne. More soup under a Warhol? Would I hang a Rubens to warn my subconsciousness of the consequences of eating those chocolates? No, more likely when redecorating my kitchen I would just throw wisdom about calorie restriction to the wind, let my sweet tooth take over and happily hang a Thiebaud.

After daydreaming in this way with my cup of coffee growing cool, I opened the Bon Appétit. It featured a yummy looking recipe for Roast Chickens with Pistachio Salsa, Peppers, and Corn. I may not be able to afford the Rothko but… I know where to get the chickens. Cheep.

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