Nenia *Genghis Khan soaked in sherbet*'s Reviews > Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think

Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink
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Many people gain twenty or thirty pounds in a year and are at a loss as to where that mysterious weight gain came from. In his book, Mindless Eating, Brian Wansink describes experiments he runs at his food lab in Cornell, and how various cognitive and physiological process contribute to the overeating epidemic. The biggest surprise? A lot of it is unconscious, leading to food amnesia -- and those phantom pounds.

I've been trying to lose weight myself. It's a plight many people are probably sympathetic to. I realized I'd gained a lot of weight from eating in the dorms (curse you, freshman fifteen), as well as a lot of other things I hadn't taken into account. Things like snacking from opaque containers (you eat more if you don't see how much you're consuming), or eating while reading, or making junk foods more accessible than healthy foods (apples and carrots all the way). The biggest problem, though, was eating when I wasn't hungry. This book is all about how we unconsciously eat, and about our dependence on external cues to tell us how much and when to eat. A lot of us have forgotten to listen to our bodies to tell us when we're hungry or not -- or we're mistaking a "mouth" hunger (psychological) for a "stomach hunger" (physiological). Over the summer, I lost over ten pounds by altering a couple habits. A lot of my techniques were in this book -- which I'd learned about in a course on social cognition -- but there were a lot more that I had no idea about, and what amazed me was how SIMPLE so many of them were.

-If we are presented with bigger portions, we will eat more. If we eat out of bigger containers, we will eat more. If we serve with bigger silverware, we will eat more. If we are presented with more options, we will also eat more. The reverse is also true. Taking less means eating less.

-If a product says "low fat," or "reduced fat," we will eat more of it, mistakenly assuming that "low fat" is synonymous with low calorie -- it isn't, and oftentimes, the amount of fat that's been reduced is as low as 25% or less. And since you're eating more of it, you're actually consuming more calories.

-It takes about twenty minutes after eating for your brain to send your stomach a signal that you're full. If you eat quickly, that's enough time for a second or third helping, causing you to eat 2x or 3x more than you really need.

-Denying yourself food is a great way to lose weight in the short term but a lot of people quickly gain it back -- and then some. Rather than cutting out everything but ice cubes or sunflower seeds, you might just make it a bit more effortful to eat those sinful snacks or switch to a healthier version that tastes just as good. (Personal example A: I switched from Starbucks to Jamba Juice because a smoothie feels more like a meal than a frappuccino does (which feels like a snack to me). Even though the large sizes are about the same amount of calories for both drinks, the smoothie is more nutritious and I think of it as a meal, so it makes me more full and I'm less likely to eat later. I only go once a week, and I make myself walk across town and back to get one. On the rare instances I do get coffee, I get a latte, not a frappuccino).

-Your body will notice if you eat 2,000 calories one day and only 1,000 the next (and it will NOT be pleased with you), but is virtually oblivious to a difference of 100-300 calories. Cutting out your daily candybar/soda intake or replacing them with ice water and carrots can cause you to lose 10-20 pounds over the course of the year. As an added bonus, drinking your water with ice actually causes your body to burn calories, since your body has to expend energy to heat up that icy cold water (Personal example B: I'm a college student which means that I spend long stretches of time on campus. I found myself getting hungry/thirsty and allowing myself to buy things like coffee or soda. Now, I have a thermos, which I dutifully fill with ice water every morning. I already have a drink which keeps me sated, so I don't have to think about my cravings and ward off the evil temptation of an ice-cold coca-cola. This saves money, too!).

-Children are very sensitive to parental cues. So if you grimace every time you eat a salad but moan explicitly into your triple-chocolate fudge banana sundae, your kid is gonna turn up his nose at arugala in favor of a trip to Baskin Robins. Also, if you're pregnant, what you eat in the third trimester apparently affects your baby's tastes.

I finished this in one afternoon. Wansink's writing style is humorous and engaging, and his experiments on the psychology of food and eating are fascinating. Even if you're not a psychology major or a nutritionist, you'll find him pretty accessible. I definitely recommend this to anyone who wants to lose weight, or help their family lose weight, or just wants to be more informed.
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