Hi all! This is Ashley’s friend Becky again. I wrote last week about my experience gaining weight and not even realizing it, which brought me to reading the book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. This book is written by food psychologist Brian Wansink, who by the way, has the most amazing About the Author picture in the world.
Anyway, all of the conclusions drawn in the book are based on research and experiments. The author’s research lab is actually a restaurant where they serve meals to patrons every couple weeks. This is when they observe various aspects of eating behavior.
One of these experiments was studying portion size. For most Americans, we stop eating when the food on our plate is gone, not when we’re full. It’s all about volume, not actual calories consumed. To show this, the experiment is with tables of 4 people eating soup. 2 people have regular soup bowls, but the other 2 have soup bowls that are secretly being refilled by tubes under the table. So for those 2 people, they keep eating but the soup doesn’t go away, and in the experiment, they ate 73% more than the 2 people with normal bowls. But what is even more interesting is that the 2 people who ate 73% more rated themselves as the same level of full as the 2 with normal bowls. After all, everyone was under the impression they’d only eaten about a half a bowl of soup. The takeaway from this is that we can eat more than necessary without being aware of it, so we should serve ourselves about 10-20% less. We’ll likely feel as satisfied because we still ate a full plate of food, just a little less.
Another experiment is about seeing evidence of how much we eat. In this experiment, the author threw a Super Bowl party for college students. The main food was chicken wings. For half the guests, their chicken bones were cleared from the tables regularly. For the other half, their plates were never cleared, so they had a constant visual reminder of how much they ate. Those with the visual reminder ate 28% less than those who didn’t have their chicken bones in front of them.
This takeaway is for a person who is in a food pattern where you serve yourself dinner, eat your dinner, then go back for just a LITTLE more. (This is 100% me!) Based on this experiment, when eating dinner and almost done, I should leave just a couple forkfuls of my dinner on my plate and just wait. The food remaining there is a reminder of what I’ve already eaten, and leaving it there makes me less likely of getting another helping, plus it gives my body time to digest and feel full. I’ve been trying this for a couple weeks, and it really does work. Apparently after practicing this for a month, my food habit should change and I’ll no longer feel compelled for a second helping.
These are just two examples of really fascinating food experiments and the lessons learned. I’ve always been fascinated in psychology and why we humans behave the way we do, so this book was particularly interesting to me. It’s a very quick read, and the author is great at keeping a sense of humor throughout the whole book. I really, really enjoyed it.