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According to eating behavior expert Brian Wansink the mind makes food-related decisions, more than 200 a day, and many of them without pause for actual thought. In Mindless Eating, Wansink argues that we don’t have to change what we eat as much as how we eat. Make no mistake, this isn’t a diet book.
Wansink says “This book is not about dietary extremism—just the opposite. It’s about reengineering your environment so that you can eat what you want without guilt and without gaining weight. It’s about reengineering your food life so that it is enjoyable.”
The research summaries are entertaining. Take the study of how much people ate when their plates were literally bottomless. “It seems,” Wansink writes, “that when estimating almost anything—such as weight, height, brightness, loudness, sweetness, and so on—we consistently under-estimate things as they get larger.”
“While most Americans stop eating when they’re full, those in leaner cultures stop eating when they’re no longer hungry.” Not only that, unlike our (leaner) European friends, we tend to have bigger package sizes (and bigger kitchens), which means we end up eating (or pouring) more — “Because big packages (like big portions) suggest a consumption norm—what is appropriate or normal to use or eat.”
The problem is we’re all tricked by our environment. We think others could be fooled by something as simple as a bigger plate, but we never think we are fooled. That is what gives mindless eating so much power over us—we’re not aware it’s happening. Wansink’s approach is to change the environment.
Wansink believes that warehouse clubs are bad for our health. He also explains why you should leave empty wine glasses on the table, why Cinnabon stores are positioned beside stores that don’t sell food, how Subway is bad for your health, and why you should be the last person to start eating.
Check out this five-minute interview of Wansink.
“Regardless of how well we think we are tuned into our eating decisions, we will serve 25% to 35% more on a larger plate than a smaller plate.” Don’t think it makes a difference? 150 extra-calories a day is up to 15 pounds a year.