Book Review. Mindless Eating

Mindless Eating

( Ever find yourself asking, “Why did I eat that?’ or declaring to yourself or another, ‘I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!’. Well you’re not alone. It seems that making decisions around food are more numerous than we may think – research suggests that each of us make between 200 and 250 food-related decisions each and every day. Welcome to the world of mindless eating.

What in the world is mindless eating?

Mindless eating simply refers to the behaviour of over-eating without noticing. We all do it to some degree. Most of us don’t over eat because we’re hungry but rather because of other external influences such as prompts in our environment ‘telling’ us to eat whether it’s a TV commercial, a fast food advertisement on a billboard sign, or the person behind the counter asking us if we ‘wanted anything to eat with that?’ when we order a cup of coffee. We simply lack awareness.

Decisions, decisions, decisions

Brian Wansink’s research has shown that the average person makes around 250 food-related decisions every day. A seemingly innocent trip to the coffee shop reveals that there’s more involved than meets the eye: What size of coffee? Cream, milk or soy? Sugar or sweetener? If I get a large, do I use more sugar? Do I buy a pastry? Do I take a sample of pastry that’s at the cash register? It’s estimated that over ninety percent of those decisions are unconscious and the key to success lies in increasing of awareness of our food related choices.

Do we need to need to monitor over 200 food-related decisions everyday?

The good news is that by increasing our awareness around how the environment influences many of these decisions, we can then take control of them – and make changes for the better.

The timing for this information couldn’t be better as we head into our summer holiday social events such as BBQs with beer, and where there’s a gathering of people – there’s always more than enough food and drink – a perfect time to start rethinking our food decisions.

Mindless eating is a fascinating book. While it focuses on eating, it is not a nutrition book. Its concepts, written in everyday English with a great dose of humour, draw from the fields of psychology and marketing. Its content will illustrate why you may not realize how much you’re eating, what you’re eating, why you might be compulsive eating – or why you’re even eating at all.

Some research highlights from the book reveal:

  • People will rate foods that they think are brand name as better
  • There’s a greater likelihood you hate a given food simply because your mother did
  • That the size of your plate will influence how hungry you feel
  • What your favourite comfort food really says about you
  • That people tend to over eat in healthy restaurants
  • The size of a package determines how much you’ll eat – up to 20% more
  • The more people that join you for dinner, the more you’ll eat
  • The genre of a movie will influence how much popcorn you eat

Becoming a mindful eater

Becoming more mindful requires some effort up front to find out where your mindless eating is most problematic; remember, we all do it to some degree. Reflect on your own situation to see where your blind spots are: meals, snacks, food court, restaurants, weekend dinners at your parents, watching TV, reading, or the office in front of the computer. Then consider some of the following tips which studies have shown can help us to eat less:

  • Use smaller plates and bowls. This gives the illusion that there’s more food in front of you.
  • Don’t eat while watching TV, using the computer or reading; be present while you eat.
  • Take time to eat your meal, savour every bite.
  • Use a tall thin glass instead of a shorter wider one, you’ll pour and consume less of whatever you’re drinking.
  • Beware of the fat-free or low-fat label, it isn’t calorie free. People tend to eat more when a food or snack is labeled that way.
  • Don’t eat snacks from the bag or box, portion out a serving [be sure to read the nutrition facts table] in a separate dish
  • Keep counters clear of all foods except the healthy ones.
  • Don’t keep snack foods in the home, if it’s there, it will eventually be eaten.
  • Put down your utensils between bites to slow down how quickly you eat.
  • Eat sitting down, don’t stand at the counter at eat, you’re likely to be rushed.

For anyone who’s the least bit interested in learning about how the various cues in his or her environment affects how food-related decisions are influenced, then this light and easy, yet informative, read is definitely for you.

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