Mindless Eating

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I’ve totally fallen behind on my resolution to read 15 books this year but I’m climbing back on the bandwagon. I love to read and I really need to make more time for it! After starting it in March, I recently (read: finally) finished the book, Mindless Eating, by Brian Wansink.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. Brian Wansink is a Food Psychologist and his book explores the reasons behind certain food choices we make and why we often overeat. Some of his findings are truly fascinating and he includes tips and tricks for how to “mindlessly” lose weight instead of mindlessly gaining weight. Simple steps, like changing the clear, see-through candy jar on your desk at work to a colored, opaque jar can actually save you from eating a number of calories throughout the week. I liked this book because it focuses on small lifestyle changes as opposed to drastic diets, which, the author points out, almost always fail. The author points out many invisible factors that influence our food/meal choices and it has certainly helped to make me more aware of why I’m choosing to eat something.

Here are a couple of interesting tidbits I took away from this book:

1. You can actually burn calories by drinking water with ice cubes in it. Your body uses energy to heat up the drink and you burn about one calorie per ounce.

2. People can eat 20% less without realizing it. If you try to eat 30% less, you’ll feel deprived, but 20% is the magic number.

3. You’ll eat less if you see what you’ve already eaten, i.e. chicken bones, wine bottles, etc.

4. You’ll generally eat less if you make an effort to be the last person to start eating at a table and also if you pace yourself with the slowest person at the table.

5. Contrary to popular belief, “comfort foods” are consumed most often when people are happy, want to reward themselves or celebrate (not when they are sad or depressed).

6. The half plate rule. Half your plate should be filled with veggies and fruit and the other half with starch and protein.

7. We often read into food labels and create “health halos”. Just because a label reads “heart healthy” or “low fat” we automatically think the product is healthy and usually overindulge.

8. The “mindless margin” is between 100-200 calories. People can cut 100-200 calories without feeling deprived.

9. The size of your plate can totally make a difference in how much you’re eating. 6 oz. of food served on an 8 oz. plate looks like a healthy meal. 6 oz. of food serve on a 12 oz. plate looks like an appetizer.

10. Wansink studied diners in Chinese buffets and found that normal weight people tended to eat with chopsticks whereas overweight people tended to eat with silverware. The reason? People eat slower and less per bite with chopsticks.

11. French women pay more attention to how full they actually feel and not as much attention to external cues and therefore, most weigh less than women in other countries do.

12. It’s much easier to over pour into a wide glass than a tall glass. We almost all estimate that tall glasses hold more liquid than wide glasses do, but that is usually an illusion. Swap out wide glasses for tall ones to drink less calories!

13. We are easily fooled into tasting the way we think a food should taste. Wansink recounts a story of a chef who, by mistake, over-ordered lemon jello and no cherry jello. This chef used a bit of red food coloring on the lemon jello and diners truly believed they were eating cherry flavored jello. Food will taste the way we think it should taste. It’s called the confirmation bias.

14. The power of a name! People rate food differently based on descriptions, not necessarily taste. People will rate two identical, dried out pieces of chocolate cake differently based on what the cake is called – i.e. “Belgian black forest double chocolate cake” as opposed to “chocolate cake”.

15. soft lights, music, and colors make food taste better. Great tip when you’re throwing dinner parties! Tone down the lights and put some effort into the decor.

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