Sunday, May 17, 2009

Restaurant of the Future Personally Applied--It IS All About Me, Right?

I was listening to NPR this morning and heard a story about The Restaurant of the Future (insert the DUN DUN sound from Law & Order here). Have you heard about this?

It's a restaurant turned lab; and diners are the rats. Scientists in an adjoining room dubbed Big Brother Room 1 (read 1984 if the reference is lost on you) monitor such data as:

  • How much consumers weigh: a black rubber scale at one of the cash registers unobtrusively weighs diners.
  • What diners choose to eat (and how that varies based on their dining companions)
  • How much food they throw away
  • Their facial expressions as they eat
  • How factors like light and smell and noise affect their eating

And I found these little additional details in NYT article about the place:

  • Chairs can monitor the heart rate of diners
  • Chewing and swallowing rates can be monitored

The Restaurant of the Future states several objectives. And I'm sure some of their results will be for good--like helping us learn about how we make healthier choices, and some will be for ill--like helping a fattening restaurant or food producer ensure that we keep scarfing down their brand.

So while I clearly find all this fascinating, my real wonder is, if I really paid attention, how much could I discover about myself? For someone who has been dubbed "overly sensitive" my whole life, someone who is considered by others and considered by myself to be very compassionate and full of empathy, it's amazing to me when I have it called to my attention how truly unaware I am of what's happening to me inside and sometimes even duh, to the outside. [In my personal story, this is where the DUN DUN music of Law & Order gets inserted.]

This is one of the things that made Weight Watchers Core program less than appealing and a bit frightening to me--that so much depended on paying attention to your level of fullness and stopping at the appropriate time.

In the research on the healthy eating habits of people in Japan that is also the secret--they only continue to eat until they are 80% full. This concept was so alien to me that I think the first time I heard it I actually laughed rather than saying AHA! The answer I've been seeking!

So if I could zoom in, turn on, and scientifically analyze my own dining habits, what do I think would be most important to study?

  • How many more unhealthy things do I truly eat around my mother?
  • How slowing down to eat would affect how much I consume?
  • Whether eating 1/2 size my normal portions on a side dish size plate instead of a big dinner one would cause me melt in a puddle of tears, lead me to rip the cabinets open in a fit of self pity or hunger or rage an hour later, or send me to bed feeling nutritiously self righteous, smug, and perhaps dreaming of breakfast?
  • And if videotaped myself eating (which I have no equipment to do that btw), would I cry? Wake up? I think it would be worth to try to step out of myself and look down on myself as my own big brother and focus for just long enough to collect some scientific data to analyze logically and without emotion or bias.

What would you study about yourself?

This video from the restaurant itself gives more scientific detail--check it out.


  1. That was fascinating. When they put the floral chair covers on I immediatley reacted...ah, much better. lol The colors and lighting was interesting as well.

    I don't think I'm ready to have a video of me eating yet, or to visit this restaurant any time soon. Good thing I don't like sushi. lol

    Lots of food for thought there!

  2. Another interesting post, but I really just come back over and over for a hit of the music.

    Killing me softly. Love it.

  3. I am fidgety. The damn bread basket is my downfall. I eat less if a have a glass of wine wih dinner. A nice conversation, not a political debate, keeps me from cleaning my plate.

    I remember when I was first dating my husband we held hands, over the table and talked.

    I didn't eat a single roll.

    We should do that more.

    Peace - Rene

  4. So many things are being analyzed here. Too much information maybe? Interesting post.

  5. I have a friend who is from New York (from the Queens area). Last time she visited, she ate lunch at a McDonald's there. Guess what you see on the menu?! Right beside each picture is HOW MANY CALORIES IT HAS! Scary, right? Thanks, but no thanks. I know fast food isn't artery-friendly, but sometimes, you just have to have it, ya know? Imagine if they did that here in the South (where apparently more of our population is overweight.) I'm not too sure it would make a difference...

  6. I'd study what foods I consumed when all alone in the house. How much I salivate during food commercials. Why my heart rate increases when I smell Cinnabon. I could be a scientist's dream.


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