I read Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think a few months ago after coming across the recommendation on Happy Herbivore. I quickly put myself on the hold list at the library and patiently waited for my turn among the masses.
The title is pretty self explanatory, Dr. Brian Wansink focuses on the environmental and capitalization of genetic triggers that cause us to overeat when we’re not hungry.
It was a pretty fascinating read with many nerdy experiments to draw you in and give pause for further reflection on our species and what triggers our ‘skill’ to consume a bag of potato chips in one sitting when it should last 8.
Reading this book I hoped to bring attention and mindfulness to my own ‘mindless’ eating habits and see if I could improve them. Mindless Eating definitely helped, I snacked significantly less while reading and for about a month afterwards.
But it really is about a practice in mindfulness because soon after we were packing and arranging our move to Pullman (and moves are stressful) so it was easy to slip into mindless snacking again.
The book emphasizes how important it is to be aware mindless snacking. Mindless snacking can add up to a few extra 100 calories a day which is more than a few extra pounds a year. Cut out the mindless? Maintain your weight.
I think this book would be perfect as a daily companion read. Each night or morning flip and read a section—after you’ve initially read it—just to keep things mindful and stay on the path of no overeating.
I thought I’d share the notes I took while reading.
Chapter 1: The Mindless Margin
- Reengineering strategy #1: Think 20% more or less
- Serve 20% less than you think you want
- Serve 20% more of fruits & veggies (the 20% you cut down on processed foods, increase it with veggies)
Chapter 2: The Forgotten Food
- The ability to see the ghost of what you’ve eaten (i.e. chicken wings or edamame shells)
- Cues for being full
- How much we chew, taste, swallow, think about the food, and how long we’ve been eating
- Don’t aim for the clean plate – eat until you’re no longer hungry vs. emptying a glass/plate
- Reengineering Strategy #2: See all you eat
- Pre-plate food and track empties
Chapter 3: Surveying the Tablescape
- The tablescape can increase how much we eat by 20%
- Measure out serving sizes of bulk items (use small bowls/bags – like for chips and crackers)
- Reengineering Strategy #3: Be your own tablescaper
- Use smaller plates
- Beware the double danger of leftovers
- Serve your plate (keep it simple)
- Do the opposite of these for fruits and vegetables
Chapter 4: The Hidden Persuaders Around Us
- Out of site, out of mind
- Reengineering Strategy #4: Make overeating a hassle, not a habit
- Leave serving dishes in the kitchen – except veggies
- De-convenience tempting foods: throw out, don’t buy or hide
- Snack only at the table on a clean plate
- Eat before you shop, use a list, stick to the perimeter of the store
Chapter 5: Mindless Eating Scripts
- The things we do while eating
- Don’t eat while watching TV – Guilty!!
- Reengineering Strategy #5: Create distraction-free eating scripts
- Rescript diet danger-zones
- Distract yourself before you snack: eat in one room, go meditate, lift weights etc
- Serve yourself before you start (portions)
Chapter 6: The Name Game (taste resides in our head as well as our mouth)
- Reengineering Strategy #6: Create expectations that make you a better cook
- Tell them what’s for dinner, adding descriptive words in front of peas and carrots
- Fix the atmosphere when you fix food
Chapter 7: In the Mood for Comfort Food
- Physical Hunger
- Builds gradually
- Strikes below the neck
- Occurs several hours after a meal
- Goes away when full
- Eating leads to satisfaction
- Emotional Hunger
- Develops suddenly
- Above the neck ‘taste for …x, y, z’
- Unrelated to time
- Persists despite fullness
- Eating leads to guilt/shame
Chapter 8: Nutritional Gatekeepers
- Be a better gatekeeper (who buys and cooks) than what you grew up with
- No food tools (eat to get dessert, good grades for Dairy Queen, clean plate to save starving children)
Chapter 9: Fast-Food Fever
- We are genetically designed to love fast-food
- Fat: calorie reserves to weather shortages
- Salt: retain water, avoid dehydration
- Sugar: helped distinguish sweet edible berries from the sour poisonous ones
- Reengineering strategy #9: Portion-size me
- Beware of the health halo (eating extra just because it’s low fat or x, y, z health benefit)
- Think small or super-share, split order the combo & extra drink, or throw out half
Chapter 10: Mindlessly Eating Better
- What does better eating mean to you?
- Eating less, eating without guilt, eating more nutritiously, or eating with greater enjoyment
- We make over 200 daily decisions about food, don’t micromanage fat/calories/carbs
- Focus on full plate of 75% veggies with 25% bean/grain
If you battle with mindless eating and want to embrace a practice of mindful eating, this book is a great resource to have in your arsenal.
Thanks for reading and please comment below with any tips that have helped you! I think my favorite is when snacking to place a set quantity on a plate, I find that really helpful.