For Dr. Emily Splane, one meal’s leftovers were added proof that portion sizes are out of control and Americans are eating too much. A day after dining at a chain restaurant, she took a box from the refrigerator only to be shocked by how much there still was.
“My leftovers filled an entire bowl used to feed a family of four,” she said. “I was stunned to see that after eating until I was full, I still had enough food left to feed my entire family. The sodium in that pasta dish was probably three times the average level.”
For Splane, associate professor of psychology and department chair of Social Sciences, that example epitomized the ongoing struggle in America: a growing obesity problem, health issues caused by diet and ultimately how the simple and necessary act of eating has become deadly.
It’s a subject that Splane is passionate about, whether in her research or in teaching students in a course called “Psychology of Eating.” She is co-authoring a textbook by that same name with her graduate mentor, Dr. Neil Rowland, professor and chair of the psychology department at the University of Florida.
Although the textbook will address the psychological, biological and sociocultural
aspects of eating, Splane said her and Rowland’s motivation for writing was to address what experts in the field of eating refer to as a “toxic environment.” The result, she said, has led to the health crisis the country is facing.
“One-third of our country is obese, and two-thirds are either obese or overweight,” she said. “Only one-third of our country is of normal weight, and that statistic includes eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia. Ultimately, this means that a very small percentage of our country’s population is in a healthy weight range.”
Splane said if we hope to understand how our eating behaviors have changed, we must first understand just how much our environment has changed.
Splane received her Ph.D. in Behavioral Neuroscience from The University of Florida, where she also earned an M.S. in Behavioral Neuroscience. She earned a B.S. in Biology from Stetson University. She has conducted extensive research in behavioral neuroscience using techniques including autoradiography, immunohistochemistry and operant conditioning.