June 4, 2012

Book Review: Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think

Posted in Book Reviews tagged , at 11:37 am by Tamara

Title: Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think

Author: Brian Wansink, Ph.D.

Genre: Non-fiction, food psychology

Star Verdict (out of 5): *****

For: Anyone interested in psychology, healthy eating, marketing, or getting dinner guests to love your dinners and kids to eat their broccoli. Especially for anyone who hates restrictive, pressure-filled diets but wants to eat better.

 

First off, this is not a diet book.

Okay, now that we have that clarified, let’s talk about what it is!

Each of us makes approximately 200 food-related decisions daily, on everything from whether to have a sandwich or salad for lunch, whether or not to eat a candy (or 10) from the dish on the desk, and what to say to the carton of double fudge oreo chocolate ice cream that has been screaming at us from inside the freezer all afternoon.  The problem is, we make 90% of those decisions without even being aware we’re making them.

Sound unbelievable?  Most of us think we’re pretty aware of what we eat, but research says otherwise.  The studies in the book are both fascinating and hilarious—everything from rigging restaurant soup bowls so they never empty, to feeding movie-goers popcorn that is five days old (but free), to slapping a “North Dakota Vineyard” label on a bottle of wine and seeing how much worse the diners rate the entire dinner because of it.

The food industry pays millions of dollars to figure out how to get us to buy and eat more.  The scary thing is that these mindless choices easily add up to gaining 10-20 pounds A YEAR without us having any idea where the weight came from.  The good thing is that we can turn this mindless eating on its head—to actually lose 10-20 pounds in a year without noticing we’ve made a change.

Wansink maintains (as we’ve often heard), that diets don’t work because when we cut back 800 calories a day, both our bodies and our minds feel deprived.  However, there is a “mindless margin” of 100-200 calories that we can cut out without noticing or feeling deprived.  This doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up to 10-20 pounds LOST in a year, without us even noticing we’re eating less.  The book takes the millions of dollars worth of research the food industry has paid for and gives many suggestions of how we can trick our minds and stomachs into mindlessly eating less, while avoiding the tricks restaurants, grocery stores, and food packages use to try to get us to mindlessly eat more.

Wansink has a Ph.D. from Stanford University, is director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, and has been featured on National Public Radio and in the New York Times.  The book is part psychology, part marketing, and part nutrition, and written in an easy-to-read format with lots of humor but zero guilt or pressure.  It teaches not only how to avoid mindless eating (and weight gain) but how to use mindless eating for your benefit to eat healthier, lose weight, make your dinner guests think dinner is better than it is, and get your kids to enjoy eating “dinosaur trees.”

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