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Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink: Book Review

Since I got to Argentina I have been spending a fair amount of time reading about health, nutrition and dieting. I make smoothies almost every day, try to eat relatively healthy and run 3 times a week. I want to know more and be able to optimize my machine (aka my body). I heard about Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink and it sounded like a cool idea, help me reduce times that I am eating pointlessly.

Take-Aways and Healthy Eating Tips:

Finishers. Americans love finishing things, that’s why it’s hard to leave that last bite untouched on your plate. This is the clue that we are done when our plates are clean. Try always leaving a piece of food on your plate.
Perception. In a study when people thought they were drinking “cheap” wine, ate less and stayed at dinner shorter BUT the group with the “good” wine (they were the same wines) stayed longer, ate more and said the meal was better.
Eat. Don’t torture yourself from the food you love. Here are great ways to reduce the amount of food you eat: The first bite is always the best so just reduce the portions. Take 1/2 home before the plate comes to the table, have the waiter remove the bread from the table, put food in the back of the cupboards (make it harder to get), take Costco size things and put them in smaller containers (then hide the large bins) and in general keep the food out of sight.
Numbers. When a sign says limit 12 per person over no limit a person is likely to buy more of them, 30 to 100 percent more.
Awareness. Eat when you are really hungry. How used to the noon lunch routine are you? Are you really hungry? When you eat say out loud – “I’m not hungry but I’m going to eat this anyway.”
20 percent. Try 20 percent more veggies/fruits on your plate and 20% less of the entree.
1/2 plate. When cooking think about 1/2 the plate meat/potatoes/etc… and then the other should be veggies.
Forgotten. A great study where 1 group saw the bones after they ate chicken wings and the other groups wings were cleared away after eaten. Who ate less? Exactly, the group who saw their progress. You can do the same with wine glasses, always serve new ones after each glass and leave the old ones out (bottles too).
Volume. We focus on the volume of a substance rather than the calories when we eat. Solution: Add more volume, water, froth, whip, air, etc…
Cut it. The mindless margin is when you are “I’m full but I can eat more,” be satisfied. Just say done. Or try fasting for 24 or 48 hours.
See all you eat. Serve yourself from the kitchen and eat in the dining room and try to serve snacks out on fixed portions otherwise the hand always reaches into the bag.
Servings. What’s the right serving size? We generally eat 92% of what we serve ourselves. Use smaller dishes, taller glasses (we will pour less than a wide one) and serve in smaller packages.
Chop-sticks. It takes 20 minutes to digest and realize the affects of the food you ate. Hence, you can keep eating when you are really satisfied. Solution: Make it harder to eat means you will likely eat less. Use chop-sticks, try eating with your other hand, try pacing yourself with the slowest eater at the table, put your fork down after every bite and try starting last and finishing last. Yay, finally it’s best to be worst.
Groups. When you are with 1 other person you’ll eat 35% more, with a group of 4 it’s 75% and with 7 or more its 96% more. Solution: Always eat alone or be aware of this (sorry keith).
Nice restaurants. You are likely to eat more with low lights, soft music, muted colors and an attentive wait staff.
Distractions. If you eat while you work, read, watch tv, etc… you are more likely to eat more.
Brands. We experience this food as better because we expect them to be better. Set your expectations to low and all food tastes great.
Perceptions. Add two words to any dish and people will think the food is better. Calling peas “power peas” encouraged kids to eat nearly double the normal amount. Spend the last 15 minutes of prep on your food in the kitchen during a dinner party and people will think you are working hard and the food will be better.
Habits. Start them young, get used to them and it will stay with you for awhile.
Health Halo. Watch out at Subway. Most people because they think they are eating healthy will get the soda (plus refill), cookie, chips and the most unhealthy sandwiches. Calories add up and make it almost as unhealthy as McDonald’s. Watch out.
Business parties. Only 2 items on your plate at anytime, chow down on health stuff first, set the food down during a conversation so you don’t mindlessly munch and when you enter the room remind yourself the purpose of your visit: business or food (generally food for me:)
at business parties.


Buy this book now. It is awesome! Don’t stop eating the great food you love, just eat less. We ALL eat an extra 200 calories in our day that we have no idea. Just reducing 50-200 calories a year cuts out 10+ pounds a year. It is much easier to eat less than to work out.

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9 responses to “Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink: Book Review”

September 28, 2009 at 3:23 am

Bhumika Does the book cater alike to both male and female readers?

Um… I’m guessing it does as last time I checked, both males and females eat and both males and females eat to excess. Strange question!

April 8, 2008 at 10:30 pm

@ Nicole:

“Don’t tend to put on weight at all. so I can eat all I want without feeling the guilt.

Probably best just to keep quiet. 😉

joe d
March 6, 2008 at 8:44 pm

thanks for the contraband, it’s got a good start but i’m no more than a few chapters in.

Noah Kagan
March 6, 2008 at 11:44 am

i had a friend smuggle the book in from the states. not sure if you can find it here. there wasn’t much of a selection at el atheneo.

Steven Kloogh
March 31, 2017 at 4:55 am

hey hey ….i’m in Ohio,Tacos sound fantastic man i come get cross state lines id do that for sure!

Nicole Price
March 4, 2008 at 12:18 am

Obesity- the great American bane. I have been genetically blessed. Don’t tend to put on weight at all. so I can eat all I want without feeling the guilt.

March 1, 2008 at 10:13 pm

A friend of mine was recommending this book the other day and after this summary I might need to get it. As a fellow lover of food, it´s a good thing to see the reasoning behind some reflex-eating we might be doing inadvertingly so as to be nicer to our bodies. Were you able to find it in Buenos Aires? (I´m traveling to the US in a little over a month but I want to limit my book purchases to stuff i can´t get here, otherwise, my suitcase is going to be seriously pissed off at me).

March 1, 2008 at 1:32 am

Does the book cater alike to both male and female readers?

February 29, 2008 at 7:52 pm

“It’ is much easier to eat less than to work out.” I’ve lost quite a bit of weight over the past 7 months, all from eating less. I wish I was working out more to tone up, stress relieve and just get healthier, but don’t. =(

People ask me what I’ve been doing. I’ve stopped snacking (for the most part), I eat when I’m hungry (which could mean not eating lunch until 4pm) and stop eating once I’m full. I hate that ‘Thanksgiving’ feeling of eating WAY too much! Save that for one day a year and not all the time! One meal usually makes 2, sometimes 3 meals for me.

I need to eat more fruits and vegetables. Especially fresh stuff. =)

Thanks for sharing this info. A lot of it’s common sense stuff, but we need to be reminded. Good for you running 3 times a week! Another marathon soon?

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