News and Tribune

October 31, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think” by Brian Wansink, PH.D.


> SOUTHERN INDIANA — I was introduced to this book when I attended a conference on obesity in Indianapolis. The author, Brian Wansink, was one of the speakers and everyone that attended was given his book for free. He was a very entertaining speaker so I thought I might as well read the book. I have now read it twice and each time it makes me laugh and shake my head at the silly things we all do that we don't even realize. He points out very simple things that if we put into play, could actually help us lose or maintain our weight and none of them have anything to do with cutting out a certain food or drink or calorie counting. It's all about mind games.

Wansink has done a lot of research and his studies have shown that a person will make well more than 200 decisions about food every day. What to eat, where to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, who to eat with, eat fast, eat slow and on and on and on. Most of these, he says, cannot even be explained. He claims that we overeat not out of hunger but because of family and friends, packages and plates, names and numbers, labels and lights, colors and candles, shapes and smells, distractions and distances, cupboards and containers. There is an endless invisible list of things that cause us to eat the way we do and we don't even realize it.

Throughout the book he gives examples of research he has done in his food labs and it's not the boring research with all the details of numbers, ratios and data but very simple overviews that will make you think, “Oh my gosh, that is crazy” and then you'll think, “Oh my gosh, that is exactly what I do.”  He allows us to step back and think about why we might be making some of the decisions we do when it comes to food.

A few simple ideas to put into play would be:

1. Buy smaller plates

2. Buy taller, thinner glasses

3. Don't put a clear candy dish  on your desk

4. Keep the leftover food from meals off the table, so if you want seconds you would have to get up to get them

5. When eating with others be the last one to start to eat and the last one to finish

6. If you buy food in bulk make sure you separate it into smaller servings as soon as you get home

7. Keep the good food in eyesight and hide the not so good food farther back in the cupboards

I think the best thing that he points out is that if you just pick one thing that would change your calorie intake or calorie burn by 100 calories for the day and stick with it day after day, then in a year's time you could lose 10 pounds. We are less likely to notice a change of 100 calories a day than we would a huge calorie reduction. Makes sense to me and seems like a more realistic approach.

If you want a book that is going to give it to you straight and make you understand why you might make some decisions about food the way you do then I would definitely pick this book up. It's an easy read and will make you laugh at yourself and make you think when you're eating.