Talking with a friend recently about the whole weight loss conundrum, I realized that I had never written about Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, by Brian Wansink.
Which is incredible, since this is THE BOOK that changed the way I look at food forever. The book that helped me finally lose weight in a way that feels easy and effortless. The book that helped me see that I wasn’t broken, my environment was. And showed me how to reengineer my environment so that I can eat what I want without guilt and without gaining weight!
It’s hard to imagine that one little ebook with such an ugly cover could have changed my life so significantly, but it did. Here’s a picture of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think from Amazon which looks a little better…
To be honest, it took me a while to warm up to this book. I kept ignoring it when I would see it in bookstores. I couldn’t get past the title: Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. What do you mean I eat more than I think? Of course I don’t! I’m too smart for that! I know exactly how much I eat!
But the author is able to prove otherwise. As Professor of Consumer Behavior at Cornell University and Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, he has conducted more than 250 studies into food and human eating behavior. He’s an expert on eating behavior. (And a total food geek.)
Don’t worry, this doesn’t read like a text book. Filled with hilarious anecdotes, its a quick and easy read that will have you asking yourself, “Can it really be this easy?” “Am I really that impressionable?”
A lover of all food, Wansink is on a mindless eating mission. His goal is to help you mindlessly eat less, which is a whole lot easier than always being mindful.
The Basic Concepts of Mindless Eating
- Diets don’t work.
- Once your mind/body feels deprived you are doomed. Your mind, body and the environment all fight back against deprivation.
- If you deny something you end up craving it more and more. This is a recipe for disaster. You end up wolfing down your favorite foods in no time.
- Food is a great pleasure in life. It’s not something you should comprise.
- Your environment has a lot more impact on what and how you eat than you realize.
- The easiest strategy for lasting weight loss is to re-engineer your environment and habits to eat a little less over time.
- The best diet is the one you do not know you are on.
- It is easier to change your environment than your mind.
- Cut back just a little so your mind and body don’t even miss it: 100-200 calories a day.
Mindless Eating Strategies for Mindlessly Eating Less
Peppered throughout the book are strategies for reengineering your environment to mindlessly eat less. Here is my summary:
- Dish out 20% less than you think you want except for fruits and vegetables, Eat 20% more of them.
- Preplate your food. See all you are eating and drinking. Don’t clear away the empties.
- Redesign your table. Decrease size of your dishes and packages. Use tall thin glasses to drink less. Beware of leftovers.
- Make overeating a hassle. Leave serving dishes in the kitchen away from the table. Deconvenience tempting foods. Snack only at the table from a dish. Never eat directly from the package. If necessary keep impulse foods out of the house.
- Re-script your diet danger zones. Try to begin eating last. Pace yourself with slowest eater. Leave some food behind. Chew gum while eating. Only eat desserts on special occasions. Have just 1,2,3 bites of dessert.
- Limit eating to at the table. Portion out foods to be eaten in front of the television.
- To be perceived as better cook, use descriptive words for dishes and create a nice atmosphere.
- Make comfort foods more comforting. Don’t deprive. Moderate. Rewire comfort foods by pairing healthier foods with positive events.
- Be a Gatekeeper. Offer variety. Upsell healthy food. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Portion out snacks.
- Portioning. Beware of the Health Halo. People eating “low fat” granola eat 21% more calories than people eating the “regular” kind. Healthy Subway eaters ordered more high calorie extras such as chips and cookies. Think small size or share.
It’s the basic stuff you have probably heard before. But it works. So just do it!
Implementing Mindless Eating Strategies
- Make deals with yourself. I can eat “x” if I do “y.” For example, “I can have popcorn at the movies if I have salad for dinner.” “I can have a serving of chips at lunch if I skip my morning snack or latte.” “I can have a coke this afternoon if I use the stairs all day at work.”
- Create your own food policies. Examples: No seconds. Only snacks that don’t come in a package. Only 3 bites of dessert. Always order the small. Share dinner when going out. One glass of wine on week nights.
“There is only 1 thing strong enough to deflect tyranny of the moment….HABIT.”
Implementing many of these simple strategies has helped me to lose those last stubborn pounds and keep them off for the past several years without obsessing about food, tracking, or counting calories/Weight Watchers Points.
Here’s a TED Talk about Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink. I found the part where he talked about “the ripple” effect of small changes fascinating. It appears that little changes lead to success, that lead to more changes that ultimately have a significant impact! Yes, small changes do lead to big results. Simple but true.
Find this book, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink, at Amazon or your local public library or independent bookstore.
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