If a gorilla walked into the room would you see it? Maybe. Two Nobel prize winning psychologists will say you have a 50% chance of missing it. The Invisible Gorilla is an experiment that shows how you can miss what’s in the food you eat and the declining health of the people you love.

This morning a friend asked me for help. She had just taken up exercise but the results haven’t followed. Grabbing her stomach she tells me that it just won’t budge.

I suggest that exercise is not enough; it will take more than that. My friend declares, “I have been cutting down on carbs” with gusto. But moments later she confesses that yesterday she had three pieces of pizza for lunch by accident.

Optimistically, my friend tells me that today is a new day; she has a nut bar for breakfast. When I sit down at my desk I google the variety of ‘nut bar’ she was holding and find that for every 33g bar it contains 16g of carbs. Her breakfast is 50% carbs.

Over the weekend I was speaking to another friend who asks me if body weight really is as big a problem as I talk about. My friend explains “in my office of 70 people there isn’t one person who is overweight…unless you are being really strict and saying anyone over a BMI of 25.”

The conversation continues and the same friend then tells me that actually, her brother has battled obesity for much of his life.

I tell these stories because I hear them all the time.

  • The person who says they ‘never’ eat something but that very thing bypasses their eyes into their mouth.
  • The person who is distracted by the marketing of the product, unknowingly eating something they know isn’t beneficial.
  • The person who has normalised being overweight.
  • The person who doesn’t see the problem.

An Uber driver picked me up last week that was easily over 150kg and about to have gastric banding surgery. The majority of our journey was spent talking about how he knows how to control his diet.

I kept my mouth shut.

How could they miss something right before their eyes?

Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris won the Ig Nobel Prize for ‘achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think’ for their experiment that inspired the Invisible Gorilla.

You can use the Invisible Gorilla experiment on your friends with this video. Before you press play to instruct them to watch the three people in white shirts and three people in black shirts pass the basketballs around. The aim of the experiment, to count the number of passes made by the people in white shirts.

At a point during the film, a gorilla strolls in the middle of the action, faces the camera, thumps its chest and then leaves, spending nine seconds on screen.

Would you see the gorilla?

Yes…of course! Simons and Chabris found in thousands of trials at Harvard University that half the people who watched the video and counted the passes missed the gorilla. It was invisible.

“This form of invisibility depends not on the limits of the eye, but on the limits of the mind. We consciously see only a small subset of our visual world, and when our attention is focused on one thing, we fail to notice the other, unexpected things around us — including those we might not want to see.” — Daniel Simons

That is the point. Sometimes we just don’t want to see what we are eating or how bad the problem really is.

This reveals an important truth: our minds don’t work the way we think they do. We think we see the world and ourselves as they really are, but we’re actually missing a whole lot.

If you would like to read more about how deconditioned executives can turn into athletes If you want to learn more about the program that allows deconditioned executives to turn into athletes you can download a free chapter sampler of my book here or on the website.