Book Review: Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink, Ph.D.
I sped through this book on Sunday! It was really interesting and I would highly recommend it to everyone. Mr. Wansink did a great job of relating to the reader on a personal level, unlike Michael Pollan's scientific tone in his book, In Defense of Food.
The book starts and ends with the sentence "The best diet is the one you don't know you're on." So true! Mr. Wansink goes through the whole book convincing us that we need to switch from mindlessly eating unhealthy foods to healthier ones. In this way, we will eventually be on a diet we don't know we're on.
Here are some of the finer points I enjoyed in this book:
-Think 20%, more or less: Eat like the Okinawans - eat until you're 80% full. Everyone should know that it takes our stomachs 20 minutes to tell our brains we are full. Don't wolf down your food (I actually had a dream about this last night) and eat less than you think you will need. In 20 minutes you should feel good anyways. Eat 20% more vegetables and fruits.
- See everything you eat: leave out the "waste" like chicken bones, wrappers, etc. Out of sight is out of mind, and you WILL eat more than you think if you can't see the "evidence".
- Put things in smaller containers or on smaller plates: I liked this point a lot. When did we get such HUGE dinner plates? Food looks small, so we pile more on (moron!). Grab a smaller plate instead and fill it with more vegetables than meats. Take smaller amounts to start off with - all practical "mom" advice.
- Make overeating a hassle: When you have to cross the room to get that piece of chocolate, it makes you think about it...I can say that this definitely works for me. When something takes a lot more work to get, I am less likely to actually get it! Willpower can also be built up this way and it makes you question yourself (Do I REALLY need that?).
- Distract yourself from snacking, don't eat straight from the box or bag, keep eating in the kitchen or dining room, and stay away from those areas if you're tempted to snack.
- Be a good "gatekeeper", parents: I also liked this point and totally agree with it. I think that my parents did a great job of being a gatekeeper of the food... almost too good because I hated it at the time! Our lunches were packed with healthy items that no one would trade for. My brothers and I always had to ask first when we wanted food. Most of the time if we were hungry, we could have a piece of fruit. If we were thirsty, there was water. Our after-school-snacks were either healthy or 1-2 cookies. One time my mom let us have as many Oreo Cookies as we wanted. That was . . . weird. Of course, we would totally abuse our babysitters by telling them we were allowed to eat whatever we wanted. My Grandma Mac was our favorite! She would make us anything we wanted for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Chocolate milk and ice cream galore! My mom started hiding the Hershey's Chocolate Syrup because we'd go overboard on it! All in good fun. So, good job Mom and Dad, for keeping us healthy, 95% of the time :) I'm planning on doing the same with our kids.
My favorite parts of the book were where Mr. Wansink described the amazing experiments he did to get to his conclusions. His Lab was based at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and he and his assistants came up with all kinds of crazy experiments. It was shocking to me to find that people would flat out deny that they had eaten so much. They were completely oblivious and mindless. He did such experiments as serving stale popcorn (which people would still eat!), self-refilling soup bowls (one man ate 1 QT of soup and denied he was full because his bowl wasn't empty yet), and chocolate in covered, uncovered, and "far away" bowls. So interesting and cool!
I know that I myself have participated in some mindless eating. I'm hoping to change my habits and make them mindlessly healthy. What a great diet, the one I don't even have to think about!