Watching What You Eat?

I’m pretty psyched to see how the Meal Plan project progresses. In it, a Bryn Mawr student will upload photos of her dining hall tray after meals. (Sorry–trays, what are those?)

One thought: How much will the Heisenberg Effect, the idea that the act of observing alters what is being observed, impact the photos?

photo by girlgeek via Creative CommonsIf you know your leftovers will be photographed, won’t it affect how you select and eat food? I say it will, unless you have no conception that leaving food behind is generally frowned upon.

Taking a step back, the Heisenberg Effect can be a force for good here. That’s why I often advise keeping track of your waste for a week. The very process of watching what you waste makes you aware of your shortcomings and often prompts solutions. At the very least, it gets you thinking.

Plus, the whole Heisenberg thing gives me an excuse (albeit a weak one) to link to Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me.” So every time you’re about to throw out some food, think of that chorus (sung by Rockwell’s childhood friend, Michael Jackson).

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  1. Posted January 26, 2009 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    I’m re-posting F. Liang‘s comment posted on the Trayless page because I don’t want anyone to miss it:

    When I first came to this country, from a poorer one, some years ago for college, I worked for the dining services on campus. I was so utterly astounded by the amount of food waste in the cafeteria that I complained to my supervisor. He was dismissive, of course. Now, everywhere I look, all I see is an entitled people taking their material abundance completely for granted. Hard to respect these people.

  2. Posted January 26, 2009 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    This reminded me of Frank Rich’s Sunday column, whose main message was that the time is coming for us all to sacrifice. That includes college students not taking glutinous amounts, with or without a tray.

  3. Posted January 26, 2009 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Oh, cool! This reminds me of my own food waste photos.

  4. Posted January 27, 2009 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Yea, you know I’ve found it odd that I should tell people that I’m “Freegan” when I describe my dietary habits (don’t get me wrong, I like how cool it makes me sound). If I was your Polish Grandmother, you wouldn’t find it odd at all that I’d be concerned about food waste, and that I would secret the bread from the restaurant tables into my purse. Yet, because I am American, it’s not only strange that I would rescue food under any circumstance, it also places me into an identity group all my own. I don’t really mean to be political about it; I’m just cheap and I like free food. Only in America though would there be an inherent political statement embedded within respecting the many hands that were involved in producing, transporting, and adding value to the food that I eat.


    I often hear people say that, “If everyone ate their leftovers, then obesity would be even more of a problem,” while I contend that if we ate our leftovers then we would cook less; if we ate our leftovers in the first place it would be an indication of a food philosophy that abhors food waste; if we made use of every scrap then perhaps we would respect the food that we put into our bodies. I believe that unconscious and unconscionable eating habits often exist together, and so I tell people that they should in fact eat their leftovers even if they are overweight–it may just open their minds to a new way of eating.

    Peace and Love,

  5. Posted January 27, 2009 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    I’m astounded that you’ve managed to sneak quantum mechanics into a conversation about food waste. Impressive.

    Anyway, I might just make the ‘photographing your food’ part of the food waste challenge next month to keep people honest :)

  6. Posted January 27, 2009 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Crunchy, I guess journalism school is good for something…

    I vote for required photos, mostly because I love seeing what people waste. Even better, of course, is when there’s no waste to be photographed. But that makes for boring pics!

  7. Daniel Livingston
    Posted February 2, 2009 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    I’ve got a good pile of pictures of my meals from the last few months. I like taking pictures of the plates before and after (though I get no short supply of strange looks as a result).

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