Mindless Eating

In Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, Brian Wansink explains food habits people have and suggests ways to eat better. A lot of the book focuses a lot on eating less: “Cutting out our favorite foods is a bad idea. Cutting down on how much of them we eat is mindlessly do-able.” This keeps things practical because that’s the most immediately relatable concept. Assuming people eat a lot of bad food, getting the total amount down is a good first step. Then you can focus on quality and replacing bad food with good. Finally, you can earn the right to inconvenience your friends with your odd orders. Then take it one step further and share your thoughts on food.

It reminds me of 59 Seconds, where Richard Wiseman boils a bunch of research down to straightforward suggestions. Which, all, in turn reminds me of Derek Sivers’s “Just tell me what to do” directives approach.

Here are some of my highlights.

Simply thinking that a meal will taste good can lead you to eat more. You won’t even know it happened.

Not completely related, but it’s so rare now that I’ll eat somewhere without looking things up on Yelp. And then I end up liking everything. I like good food and am not picky. This means you should never ask me for food recommendations. I like everything. Since I think everything will taste good, I eat more of everything. Not a good combination.

Most diets are deprivation diets. We deprive ourselves or deny ourselves of something—carbohydrates, fat, red meat, snacks, pizza, breakfast, chocolate, and so forth. Unfortunately, deprivation diets don’t work for three reasons: 1) Our body fights against them; 2) our brain fights against them; and 3) our day-to-day environment fights against them.

That’s enough reasons for me to believe, and it’s easiest to change your environment. 59 Seconds has some eating tips also and suggests a very straightforward environment change: Put a mirror in your kitchen.

The more you think of something, the more of it you’ll eat.

Going through a paleo phase, one of the takeaways that stayed with me is the initial kitchen purge. You’ll eat what’s in there, period. I still don’t keep many snacks around. The brain is too strong and too dumb.

The bottom line: We all consume more from big packages, whatever the product.

In other words, volume trumps calories. We eat the volume we want, not the calories we want.

Here’s where we can start replacing low quality with high quality food.

A smart strategy is never to have more than two items on your plate at any one time. You can go back if you’re still hungry, but the lack of variety slows you down, and you end up eating less.

Variants of this conversation are happening at every buffet in America:

“I want to eat until I feel like garbage.”

“It’s gonna be awesome.”

At times, Mindless Eating seems like it’s explaining how to deceive your brain. Sometimes, that’s what’s needed because we’re idiots. If, like me, you don’t believe in yourself, check the book out..

I didn’t have the time to link to this elegantly, but I’d like to point people toward Bill Barnwell’s article about his own weight loss: The Easiest Way to Lose 125 Pounds is to Gain 175 Pounds. It’s the best health article I’ve read in the last few years.