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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

Mindless Eating

Do you know why you eat the way you do? I choose to read the book “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think”. I choose to read this book, because I believe that many things influence what we eat besides taste and hunger. At the beginning of the semester we talked about how we are influenced by labels, advertising, and many other things. I was intrigued by the title of this book and wanted to learn more about what else can cause us to mindlessly eat.  Brian Wansink wrote “Mindless Eating”. For over 20 years Dr. Wansink has directed the Food and Brand Lab focusing on solving and sharing solutions to behavioral health problems. Some of the solutions include • Co-founded the Smarter Lunchroom Movement (in over 29,000 schools), directed the creation of the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines and the promotion of what’s now, discovered and promoted the viability of 100-calorie portions, helped create current solutions for fast food kids meals, implemented behavior change programs for Google, U.S. Army, National Association of Convenience Stores, European hotel chains, restaurants, grocery stores, and more.  (, 2018)

This book was written in 2006. Dr. Wansink started the Food and Brand lab in 1997. I believe that all of the themes he mentioned are still applicable today.  In fact they may be needed even more now, than they were 12 years ago when the book is written. We need to make a change in our society, and Dr. Wansink did a good job about talking about simple things we can do to mindlessly eat right.

In the book “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think”, Dr. Wansink explains many studies that he has done to prove that we all fall into tricks that get us to eat more than we should. His main idea is “The best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on.” (cite) We can all agree that going on a diet is hard, and some people would rather die. Often people try deprivation diets, but our brains and bodies fight against mindful deprivation.  According to Dr. Wansink the average person makes more than 200 food decisions every day, but most of these decisions we cannot really explain. He stated, “if we knew why we ate the way we do, we could eat a little less, eat a little healthier, and enjoy it a lot more. (Wansink, 2016, pg.1)

There are many factors that influence what we consume, including portion sizes, environmental cues, marketing, taste expectation, and more. However, people will deny that such influence actually affects them. The first strategy to mindlessly eat better is to think 20% more/less. Dish out 20% less than you might want before you start to eat. For fruits and vegetable, think 20% more.

Wansink also talked about the importance of seeing what you eat. Because more than our stomachs, we rely on our eyes to estimate the volume of the food we eat. He did a study where he hosted a Super Bowl party, with unlimited chicken wings. On half of the tables he had the waitresses clear the chicken bone, but on the other half had them leave them on the table. According to his study, the tables with the bones cleared at more than the tables that kept the bones.

Have you ever considered the size of your plate? Larger packaging suggests larger serving sizes. Dr. Wansink observed that people tend to pour more drink into and drink from a short, fat glass than a tall, thin glass. People tend to eat more/less depending on the size of plates and bowls. He recommends downsizing our plates, bowls, and cups. We won’t miss the few inches, but it will make a difference.

Another thing that influences how much we eat is convenience. The more we see food, the more we eat food. If we have a candy dish on the desk we are way more likely to eat it, than if it was in the cupboard. Out of sight, out of mind.

Overall Dr. Wansink’s main point was that there are many factors that attribute to what we eat and how much we eat each day. Once we are aware of some of these factors, it is possible to change them for the better to help us mindlessly eat better. We don’t need to go on a big crazy diet, we just need to be aware of our food choices each day.

This book had many important topics and suggestions. Three topics that stood out to me personally were 1) Avoiding multitasking while eating, 2) Comfort foods, 3) the Mindless Margin.

I am usually very busy, and consider myself a pro-multitasker. I like to get many things done at once. I don’t like taking a break to eat. That means I usually end up eating while driving, working, doing homework, and visiting with friends. Dr. Wansink stressed the importance of avoiding speed eating while multitasking, because we tend to eat more. We should give attention to our food, by doing so it is easier to pay attention to body signals and know when to stop eating.

I think everyone have their comfort foods. Usually when we hear the phrase comfort food most people usually people think of chocolate, or cake, or carbs. According to Dr. Wansink there are three common comfort food myths: (1) Most comfort foods are indulgently unhealthy. (2) People tend to eat comfort foods when they’re sad, stressed, or bored. (3) Comfort food preferences become fixed when we are children. He says that comfort foods associations can be formed at any time of life, and people are more than twice as likely to seek comfort food when happy than when sad. He suggests that we do not deprive ourselves from the comfort food, but we just eat smaller amounts. He also suggest rewiring our comfort food by pairing healthier foods with positive events. I think that this goes along with the multitasking, because for me, I focus better on homework if I eat while doing it. But I can make a change and have a bowl of apples instead of a bag of chips. Just change the comfort food.

The mindless margin I thought was the most fascinating and goes along with the comfort food. Dr. Wansink doesn’t suggest going on big diets, but just changing the portion sizes. Our bodies can tell if we go on a big diet, but if we just lessen our portion sizes by even 20% it will make a difference, but of mind won’t notice. That means we don’t have to completely cut out all the foods we love that aren’t necessary healthy, we just need to eat less.

Overall I learned many things from this book, and it confirmed many things that we talked about through the semester. The main thing I learned is to start being aware of my food habits. One way that helps me to be aware is by keeping a food log. I have an app in my phone where I keep track of what I eat throughout the day. I love it because I notice more when I mindlessly walk into the kitchen, or when I eat more than I should. I also notice when I am not eating enough, or getting all the nutrients I need.  My goal is to follow the 20% rule, by dishing up 20% less than I think I want to eat, and dishing up 20% more fruits and veggies. From this book and class this semester the big message is that we do not need to follow super strict diets to be healthy. We just need to have balance and eat more fruits and vegetables.

Work cited:

Wansink, B. (2006). Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. New York, NY: Batman Dell A division of Random House.

Solve and Share. (2018). Retrieved from



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