Mindless Eating Update

Monday, July 19, 2010

As noted in an earlier post, I found the book Mindless Eating really interesting and thought it had some very useful and practical ideas for controlling your food environment as a means of preventing creeping weight gain and promoting better health.

One of the many interesting studies discussed was one in which people in France and people in America were each asked how they knew when they were done eating. Responses from the French people were mostly along the lines of “when I’m full” or “when the food no longer tastes good.” Responses from Americans were along the lines of “when my plate is empty” or “when everyone else has stopped eating.”

That is, French people used mostly internal cues to determine when they’d had enough to eat and Americans used mostly external cues.

Another study noted that people tend to eat much larger portions when eating from a large container (for instance a bag of chips) than when eating from a smaller container (for instance if the chips have been put into a bowl).

Given these related insights, I decided that one of the first simple habits I would try to instill would be to not eat anything out of a large container. Everything I eat has to be moved from its original bowl or packaging to a portion-appropriate sized bowl before I eat it. (I’m not, however, specifically limiting how much I can eat — if I want to have six bowls of something, I’m free to do that. I just have to put it in a normal-sized bowl before I eat it.)

We had a gallery opening on Friday at The Scrap Exchange and we have a new routine where I bring home the cans of drinks that are left at the end of the night to keep in my fridge until next month. (We’d been buying two-liter plastic bottles but there was so much waste, we decided to try this instead. It’s definitely working better.)

Along with the drinks came half a bag of pretzel nibs and some leftover artichoke dip, and I started snacking on those as I was putting everything away and figuring out what I was going to do about dinner, since it was after nine and I hadn’t eaten yet.

After a handful or so of pretzels, I realized what I was doing, and that I was breaking my rule, and I almost said, “Well, whatever. It’s Friday and it’s late and I didn’t eat dinner, this is fine.” But then I thought of my little chart with the check marks and decided there was no reason to not do what I said I was going to do — since I could have as many bowls as I wanted, it’s not like anything was different in terms of what I could eat, I just had to stop for a second and portion things out.

So I looked at the pretzel bag to see how much one serving was and I counted out sixteen pretzel nibs and put two tablespoons of dip in a little bowl and it looked like a pathetically small snack and I was sure I’d be back for more but the funny thing is that I finished putting things away then went into the dining room and ate my snack while waiting for my dinner to heat up and when I was done with the sixteen pretzel nibs and little bitty bowl of dip, it was totally fine. I felt no desire to go get more. Especially since my dinner was going to be ready in just a few minutes. Then I had dinner and for dessert some peaches (from the tree in my front yard! they are tiny, but tasty) and it was great.

So I just wanted to follow up on the earlier post to say that it does seem to actually work.

And I’ve been meaning to put up more summer recipes but I keep eating everything before I take pictures so I don’t have anything to go up for that yet. Hopefully soon.

In the meantime, I wrote a guest post for Bryant about garbage, so feel free to check that out.

One Response to “Mindless Eating Update”

  1. Lorrie Says:

    Yes, it’s still working for me, too. Over 4 to 5 weeks ago, I began making a few little changes based on the ones I found in Mindless Eating that appealed to me. I am losing 1/2 to 1 pound a week. I’d like to lose a few more. In a response to my comment to an earlier post, you mentioned that it might not work for someone who is a great deal overweight. I would love to know if anyone who is trying to lose a lot of weight has tried any of these techniques and whether or not it is working for them. It just seems like the techniques are so simple and doable and I, for one, do not feel deprived doing them. Thanks for sharing your experience. I look forward to seeing some more recipes.

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