Reading and implementing what I learned from the book Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink was a real turning point in my weight loss journey.
It was the tipping point that led to achieving the peace with food I’d been seeking while maintaining the Weight Watchers goal weight I’d set back in my late 20s.
6-Week Mindless Eating Challenge Background
Now seven years later, as I settle in at the scene of this healthy exploration (Land O’ Lakes, WI), I thought it would be fun to create a 6-week Mindless Eating Challenge to help others experience what I discovered.
While Weight Watchers friendly recipes are important, they are only one part of the equation. Learning how to manage our environment and develop healthy habits are the critical elements of lasting weight loss success.
Mindless Eating helped me see this.
But it’s not enough to just read a book. You have to practice what you discover. Which is what this challenge is all about.
“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” – Confucius
For this challenge, we will all read Mindless Eating and share our awarenesses and experiences. Every week for six weeks, from July 10 – August 14 – we’ll read two chapters a week and share what we learn.
I’ll kick things off every Monday with a post, which will give provide participants a place to comment with their discoveries, if they’d like.
It seems like a perfect summer project: A virtual book club, but with homework 🙂
To be most effective, this challenge is best undertaken in a low key “let’s just see what we discover” manner. No pressure. No way to fail.
But it does provide a bit of accountability if you find it helpful in propelling you into action.
All you need to do to take part is buy the book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, by Brian Wansink (or borrow it from your library).
Here’s the basic schedule:
6-Week Mindless Eating Challenge Schedule
- Week #1 – July 10 – Chapters 1 & 2
- Week #2 – July 17 – Chapters 3 & 4
- Week #3 – July 24 – Chapter 5 & 6
- Week #4 – July 31 – Chapters 7 & 8
- Week #5 – August 7 – Chapters 9 & 10
- Week #6 – August 14 – Appendix B & Wrap-up
Week #1: My Notes & Thoughts on Mindless Eating Chapters 1 & 2
The Bottom Line: There’s nothing wrong with you. We were designed for the “see food” diet. It’s natural to eat food that we see and that is readily available. This made sense in a world where food was sometimes plentiful and sometimes scarce. The problem is that today food is TOO PLENTIFUL (for those who struggle with our weight, anyway).
You need to learn to set up an environment that supports your desire to eat better and lose weight. This is your work. You will need to practice for a while. Breaking old habits and forming new ones takes time, but it is worth it!
Weight Loss Strategies:
- Think 20% more or less. Dish up 20% less than you think you want. Increase fruits and veg by 20% to make up for the difference.
- Pre-plate your food. Avoid serving anything except fruits and vegetables family style.
- Avoid seconds. Wait at least 20 minutes before eating more. Gives time for stomach and brain to know you are full.
- Don’t eat directly from boxes, bags,containers, packages. Portion out your food and put it in a dish.
Notes from the Introduction:
- Everyone of us eats how much we eat largely because of what’s around us.
- Most to us are blissfully unaware of what influences how much we eat.
- We think we are too smart to be tricked by things like packages, plates and lighting. That’s what makes it so dangerous!
- This approach is not about dietary extremism.
- You can re-engineer your environment so you can eat what you want without guilt & without gaining weight.
- Food is a great pleasure.
- We need to shift our surroundings to work with our lifestyle instead of against it.
- You need to remove the environmental cues that lead to overeating.
- You need to redesign your kitchens and habits.
- The best diet is the one you don’t know you are on.
Notes from Chapter 1:
- People eat more when given a bigger container. Even when they are not hungry and/or the food doesn’t even taste good!
- The “Popcorn Experiment” shows how frail willpower is. People served a large popcorn bucket ate 173 more calories (53% more) than those given a medium container, even though the popcorn was stale and many folks had just eaten lunch so they weren’t hungry.
- Our body fights against them. We are designed for survival in a feast or famine world. This design works against us in our modern all-you-can eat world where food is too plentiful, but our instincts are still programmed to eat as much as we can as often as we can.
- Our brain fights against them. If we consciously deny ourselves something we are likely to end up craving it more and unlikely to stick with it.
- Our day to day environment fights against them. We are bombarded my sights and smells encouraging us to eat. Fast food, convenience stores, vending machines, television commercials all signaling us to eat.
- The “Mindless Margin” is a calorie range that we are unaware of. If we eat way too much or way too little we know it. But small differences of a couple hundred calories don’t register with our bodies or minds. They are too small to notice. These little differences repeated day after day can cause us to slowly gain or lose weight.
- Cutting just 100 calories/day: would prevent weight gain in most of the US population. (Classic article published in the journal Science.) Click here for some easy ways to cut 100 calories/day.
- Divide calories/10: to determine how much weight lost in a year by cutting out a number of calories per day. For example: if you eliminate 150 calories a day at the end of the year you will be 15 pounds lighter! If you cut out 250 calories a day, at the end of the year you will be 25 pounds lighter!
- Easy weight loss strategy: Trim 100-200 calories/day in a way that doesn’t make you feel deprived and you will slowly and steadily lose weight without pain or suffering! Click here for some easy ways to cut 100 calories/day.
- Focus more on HOW MUCH you eat rather than what you eat.
Notes from Chapter 2:
- We all suffer from food amnesia. We are not designed to accurately track what we have eaten.
- We need external benchmarks to tell that we are gaining weight or losing weight:
- fit of our jeans
- notch of our belt
- energy level walking up stairs
- We believe our eyes, not our stomaches. Research shows that people get full by the amount of food they eat, not the number of calories they take in. You can cut calories in your favorite foods by lowering the amount of fat and or increasing the amount of fiber-rich ingredients, such as vegetables or fruit.
Click here for more ideas on how to lighten up your recipes so you can eat the same amount of food, but with fewer calories.
- We are terrible estimating the number of calories we eat. Normal weight people underestimate by about 20% Obese people underestimate by 30-50%.
- The bigger the meal the more we will underestimate its calories.
Questions to Consider:
- What were your biggest takeaways from Chapters 1 & 2 of Mindless Eating?
- What strategies have you implemented? What have you discovered?
- What surprised you most about the North Dakota wine study?
- Do you agree that volume trumps calories and our stomachs are bad at math?
- What is your typical cue to stop eating? Do you usually finish everything on your plate? Why or why not?
I’ll be back next week with my notes from Chapters 3 & 4.
Have a great week!
PS: If you want some support eating better and losing weight this summer, my 28-Day Smart Start Weight Loss Challenge may be just what you’re looking for! Many of the tips and suggestions are based on what I learned by applying Dr. Wansink’s Mindless Eating concepts.
“This has been a wonderful challenge. Thank you for all of the support and encouragement. I have definitely made some positive changes that I plan to continue!” – Bronwyn
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