Brian Wansink Mindless Eating Don’t Clear The Bones From The Table

February 25, 2012 by staff 

Brian Wansink Mindless Eating Don’t Clear The Bones From The Table, Mindless Eating is probably the most interesting non-fiction books I’ve ever read. It breaks down why we eat the way we do. Do we eat because we’re hungry? Only sometimes. Do we eat because it’s there? Only kind of. Do we eat because we’re basically complex machines that are learning from and reacting to the environment and people around us? Yeah, I’d agree with that.

Mindless Eatingcomes from legitimate scientific research, complete with grants and a special food lab, then additional real-life testing to confirm hypotheses. If that sounds overly complicated, don’t worry. Dr. Wansink breaks it down conversationally and explains how the people reacted, how that might apply to the rest of us, and what we should do to combat these reactions. Here are a few of the more interesting examples.

1. Movie go-ers were given either a medium or large bucket of popcorn upon entering. Great. Except the popcorn was stale. Borderline inedible. Did that stop the people from eating this popcorn? Absolutely not! Not only did they eat it, but those with the large buckets ate a whopping 53% more than the medium buckets. Was it more delicious? No. Was there just more of it? Yes.

Lesson learned: Break food down into smaller, more manageable portions. Eating directly out of the cookie container or chip bag is pretty much a terrible idea.

2. Graduate students were invited to a football party with free wings. Half the tables were constantly bussed and cleared of bones, the other half were not. People with the bones left on the table ate 28% less than those with the cleared plates.

Lesson learned: Having a visual reminder of how much you’ve eaten will subconsciously inhibit how much you eat, so don’t be so quick to “hide” the evidence.

3. Administrative assistants were given filled candy dishes to leave on their desks. Some dishes were clear, others were opaque and lidded (i.e., you couldn’t see inside, although you knew what was in them). Those with the clear dishes ate a whopping 71% more often (77 calories more per day, equating to 5 pounds a year) than those with the opaque dishes.

Lesson learned: If you have snacks in plain sight, you have to continually tell and re-tell yourself that you don’t want them. Eventually, you will likely break down. What is out of sight is literally out of mind, evidently. It was even easier with candy dishes in drawers at least several feet away; there was time to re-evaluate the choice and make the right one.

4. If you eat with one other person, you will unwittingly eat around 35% more than if you were by yourself. Three other people, like a double date? 75% more. Seven other people, like at a party or Thanksgiving? A whopping 97%. That’s basically double!

Lesson learned: Chatting and socializing with others is great, but be aware of what you’re eating. Savor the flavors; don’t just shovel it in because you’re too busy talking to concentrating on portions. This also applies to watching tv or reading, by the way.

5. People watching a video were given bags of granola, labeled either low-fat or regular (in reality, they were all low-fat). Those with the low-fat pacakages ate 49% more, or 84 more calories on average.

Lesson learned: Just because it says low-fat doesn’t mean it’s a free ride. Portion control is still an important and necessary evil.

The takeaway: Mindless Eating is filled with similar anecdotes and stories, from how people consistently underestimate the amount of calories they’ve eaten to how names can influence your dining choices (wine with a California label tastes better than wine with a North Dakota label…even when they’re exactly the same).

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