The story

We are powerless to ignore the clarion call of the candy jar, the beckoning of the buffet, the summons of the snack cupboard.

That's the conclusion of Brian Wansink, author of "Mindless Eating" and head of Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab.

Wansink has spent a career watching how people behave around food -- at home and work, in sit-down restaurants and buffets, and in the many other places where Americans routinely chow down.

"We believe we have all the free will in the world. We believe we overeat if the food is good or if we're really hungry. In reality, those are two of the last things that determine how much we eat," Wansink says. What really influences our eating, he says, are visibility and convenience.

In one experiment, Wansink placed candy jars of chocolate in office workers' cubicles for a month. Then, he moved the candy six feet away. Simply having the candy closer meant the office workers ate five more candies a day. That adds up to 125 calories a day, or 12 pounds a year. Take an interactive quiz on eating and your environment Read full article »

David S. Martin is a senior producer with CNN Medical News.

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