Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Brian Wansink is a food psychologist, an American professor, and a former Executive Director of the USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. His book Mindless Eating summarizes some of his research, much of which is focused on how external cues like packaging, portion sizes, and presentation can influence how much we eat.
Published back in 2006, some of the information feels dated. For example, his work showed that eating a designated portion from a smaller plate would lead to more satisfaction than if eating the same portion from a larger plate. Might have been groundbreaking once upon a time, but not so much now.
That said, most of the book details ways in which our environment can lead to mindless overeating. From smaller plates, to smaller portion sizes, to out-of-sight-out-of-mind, he suggests that we can use what he's learned about mindless overconsumption to actually promote mindless (ie painless) calorie control.
Most of us don't eat because we are hungry, and more importantly we don't stop eating when we are full. We look to other cues to determine how much and for how long we continue to eat.
The book certainly raises awareness, though I find Wansink's assertion that cutting 100-200 calories through "mindless calorie control" might actually solve our weight problems to be somewhat naïve.
Bottom line, as a means of increasing awareness, it's a great read. We live in a day and age where the strategies we've adopted to survive, no longer serve us. Our cravings for salty, sweet, and fat, which originally kept us from starvation, are now causing us to overeat, often to the point of illness and disease. And perhaps more importantly and less obvious is the finding that the context in which we eat significantly impacts calorie consumption.