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“Mindless Eating”—Book review

Book - ME - HC - standing up - light blue background - webDo you ever eat without thinking?

I do. But after reading Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, I’m thinking a little clearer.

I loved this book. While it’s not a diet book, following its strategies could help you lose weight. I’m not specifically trying to (although I wouldn’t complain if a few pounds just fell off!), but I know I don’t want to gain any.

And I do want to eat healthier.
Especially if I can do it without hassle.

And still enjoy God’s gift of food like I do now.

But before it happens mindlessly, it has to become mindful. Author Brian Wansink tells stories and gives examples. But he also sneaks in nine strategies at the end of the chapters to “reengineer” your eating habits, helping them become a new normal for you, without having to give them a lot of thought.

Here are a few of his strategies. Some are common, some not.

  Strategy 1. Think 20 Percent—More or Less
* Put 20% less food on your plate before you start eating because you typically won’t notice a 20% difference. (But 30%? You’d realize!)
* But for fruits and vegetables, give yourself 20% more.

  Strategy 2. See All You Eat
* Never eat out of the box or bag. (Oops!) Put your snack in a separate dish and leave the box in the kitchen.
* See it while you eat it—leave your discarded chicken wings or ribs visible to see how much you’ve eaten.

  Strategy 5. Create Distraction-Free Eating Scripts
* Rescript your diet danger zones (dinners, snacks, parties, restaurants, desks/dashboards). Be the last one to start eating; pace yourself with the slowest eater; serve triple helpings of healthy food and single servings of meat and potatoes.
* Distract yourself before you snack.

  Strategy 8. Crown Yourself the Official Gatekeeper
(This one guilted me.) For better or worse, the nutritional gatekeeper controls around 72% of what your family eats.
* Be a good marketer of healthy foods.
* Use the Half-Plate Rule. Half the plate should be vegetables and fruits and the other half should be protein and starch.
* Make serving sizes official. Do your own prepackaging in baggies.

Wansink provides much data from the experiments he performed for each strategy. It’s quite eye-opening to discover we eat more M&M’s when extra colors are available. That the bigger the package we pour from, the more we’ll give ourselves. And that we so easily accept and eat what others deem is a serving.

But he also points out information alone isn’t enough. Don’t we all know by now what is healthy eating and what’s not? We have to mindfully set ourselves up for better mindless eating through small changes.

One mindless change I’ve made is keeping a container of pre-washed baby carrots in the fridge (yes, this is a new habit for me—you’ve probably been doing it for years!). Because they’re now convenient, I’m grabbing a few whenever I want to snack instead of my typical chips or crackers.

Another change (lest my carrot example mislead you into thinking I’m eating all healthy now) is I set out my serving size of malted milk balls on a napkin and put the box up, instead of mindlessly eating them one at a time out of the box until it’s surprisingly emptied. 

Wansink encourages well with these words:

Eating right is a great goal. The problem is that it’s just too daunting for most of us. It seems so absolute and so joyless.

But the idea of eating better is do-able. While eating right is a long-term goal, eating better is something we can start today.

This book was a fun read. And it made me think twice about a lot of things. But most importantly, it’s already influencing me to change some behaviors. Mindlessly and otherwise.

* * *

Here’s a mindless eating quiz. I wasn’t brave enough to take it, but maybe you will be. And let me know your results. {smile}

What small changes have you made through the years to eat healthier?


Barbara H. said...

I got 50 -- "moderately mindless." I do get aggravated at the questions, though, like "Are you a member of the clean plate club?" -- like it is a sin to clean your plate. Only if you put too much on it in the first place. :-)

I need to work on this more, but one thing I've done is to buy chips in individual serving packs. It's built in portion control, but I have to admit my initial reason wasn't so much about health and calories as it was that we were constantly running out of chips. It seemed any time anyone snacked on them, half the bag or more would be gone. As the chief purchaser, I'd get aggravated that I JUST bought chips and they were gone so soon. So, though my first motivation was making them last til the next trip to the store, they do have the benefit of not mindlessly eating half the bag. They may be more expensive, but it probably balances out -- I'd probably be spending the same amount if I kept buying big bags enough to accommodate everyone's munching habits.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Lisa ! I am going to look into that book. I think the individual serving packs help also but over priced. I hope to get to a point where I will have more self control with a normal size bag. I know I need discipline in that area ! I have no excuse not to know my own serving size myself LOL :) I don't need to loose wait either like you but also don't want to gain any. Healthy is good ! Blessings, Janet

Anonymous said...

ps. sorry my wait should be weight ! LOL :) Janet

bekahcubed said...

What you've just shared from this book sounds wonderful--and spot-on.

One of my personal favorite pieces of advice is to fill your plate with fruits and vegetables--and have smaller portions of the high-fat/high-calorie stuff. I can never say (and no one would ever say) that I deprive myself when I've got a full plate and several bowls in front of me. (It's just that half the plate is full of cooked veggies, a big bowl is full of raw salad with a wee bit of dressing, a medium bowl is full of fresh or canned veggies with minimal added sugar--leaving the other half of the plate for the "meat and potatoes" portion of the meal.)

I've got this book on my list for my trip into the library next Saturday. With luck, I'll have it in my possession and be able to give some thoughts on it on bekahcubed within the next month or so.

bekahcubed said...

I, by the way, qualify as a "mostly mindless eater" according to Wasnick's little quiz.

I guess I'll really have to read the book and see if I really am as mindless as the quiz suggests!

Lisa notes... said...

Glad y’all were brave enough to not only take the quiz but share your scores! :-) I think the individual serving packs is a great idea; sometimes the extra expense is worth it for our health.

I would hate for you to see what I fill my plate with sometimes. Ha. I’ll look forward to your professional opinion of the book. Hope you can find it at your library.

Melissa said...

This sounds like a good book, and the points that you've included all ring true.

I especially like this part: "It’s quite eye-opening to discover we eat more M&M’s when extra colors are available. That the bigger the package we pour from, the more we’ll give ourselves." I definitely agree. That's part of the reason we stopped shopping at warehouse stores. The jumbo bag of Chex Mix would disappear almost as fast as the regular size bag. It tastes good, but we sure don't need that much of it!

Unknown said...

I was curious in this when you first listed it. Glad you liked it! I'll definitely keep it on my list.

I find that when I have fruits and veggies on hand (and especially if they are cut up), I'm more likely to eat them than junk. It might still be mindless, but at least I'm getting vitamins!!


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