Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mindless Eating

Last week my SO and I spent five days at Giant City State Park. This vacation was designated as a do-nothing vacation. We hiked a little and ate a little and napped a little and ate a little and read a little and ate a little. Did I mention the eating? The park has a restaurant in the lodge, with average food. What it lacked in quality it made up for in quantity, though. In other words, I gained a few pounds.

Unlike a co-worker, who has been losing weight lately. His inspiration has come from Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, by Brian Wansink, Ph.D. Not one to argue with success, I checked the book out of the library.

Most diet books are boring treatises of rah-rah prose disguising guaranteed failure. Any diet that is too complicated or that leaves one feeling deprived and/or bored is doomed. But Mindless Eating is less about what to eat and all about why we eat (besides hunger).

And it is entertaining. Wansink is a food psychologist who thinks up the craziest experiments in order to decipher why we overeat. My personal favorite is the bottomless soup bowl.

The book is also enlightening, as I saw myself in several chapters. "Mindless Eating Scripts" illuminated my own eating scripts, the prime one being my membership in the Clean Plate Club. "Surveying the Tablescape" helped me see that I should use smaller glasses, spoons, and plates at mealtime. "The Forgotten Food" suggests I stop eating when I am no longer hungry, not when I feel full.

I read most of the book before going on vacation, and while I gained weight, it could have been much worse. I did not clean my plate at each and every meal. During the family-style all-you-can-eat chicken dinner, I concentrated on the vegetables and salad. We ate only two meals a day, snacking in between. And I waited until my son joined us before ordering the beer batter onion rings (which were really, really good).

In the final chapter, Wansink challenges the reader to design his/her own "Mindful Eating Plan". For myself, I choose these three changes:

1. Only eat when I eat - no reading, television viewing, surfing the Net, etc. while eating.
2. Wear tight jeans at night instead of sweats or jammies.
3. Eat breakfast at home and carry my lunch, to avoid the cafeteria and vending machines at work.

I'll report on my results at a later date. Meanwhile, I recommend this book to dieters and non-dieters alike, because it's a fun read.

No comments: