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Mindless Eating Challenge: Week #3

Reading and putting into practice what I learned from Brian Wansink’s book Mindless Eating was a real turning point in my weight loss journey.

This was the tipping point that allowed me to achieve peace with the food I craved while maintaining the Weight Watchers goal weight I set in my late twenties.

Background to the 6 Week Mindless Eating Challenge

Now, seven years later, as I settle into the scene of this wholesome exploration (Land O’ Lakes, WI), I thought it would be fun to create a 6 week mindless eating challenge to help others experience what I have discovered.

While Weight Watchers friendly recipes are important, they’re only part of the equation. Learning to manage our environment and developing healthy habits are essential elements of sustainable weight loss.

Eating Without Thinking: Why We Eat More Than We Realize (affiliate link) helped me see that.

But just reading a book is not enough. You must practice what you learn. That’s what this challenge is all about.

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

For this challenge, we will all read Eating mindlessly and share our knowledge and experiences. Every week for six weeks, from July 10 to August 14, we will read two chapters a week and share what we learn.

I will kick off every Monday with an article, which will give participants a space to comment on their findings, if they wish.

Sounds like a perfect summer project: A virtual book club, but with homework 🙂

To be most effective, this challenge is best tackled in a low-key “let’s see what we find out” way. No pressure. And no question of failing.

But it does provide some accountability, if you find it helpful in propelling you into action.

To participate, simply purchase the book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think (affiliate link)by Brian Wansink (or borrow it from your library).

Here is the basic program:

6-Week Mindless Eating Challenge Timeline

Week #3: My Notes and Thoughts on Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Realize Chapters 5 & 6

The essential :

  • Our eating habits are based on deeply ingrained habits that are often unconscious. They are like movie scripts that we follow without thinking.
  • It is possible to modify these scripts to support our weight loss goals.
  • The longer we stay at the table, the more we eat.
  • We tend to eat more in the company of others than alone.
  • People who watch a lot of television are more likely to be overweight than people who don’t.
  • Distractions of all kinds while eating make us eat more, make us forget how much we’re eating, and prolong the duration of our diet – even when we’re not hungry.
  • Our thoughts and beliefs about food have a powerful effect on our taste buds.
  • Smells can be very powerful hence the “Cinnabon effect”

Weight loss strategies:

  • At mealtimes, try to be the last person to start eating, pace yourself with the slowest eater.
  • Always leave some food on your plate so people don’t encourage you to eat more.
  • Predetermine what you’re going to eat by deciding how much to eat before the meal, rather than during it.
  • Eat with other weight-conscious friends, not the crowd of all-you-can-eat eaters whenever you can.
  • Turn off the television during meals or divide your food in advance
  • Avoid doing anything else – driving, checking email, reading, etc. – while eating
  • Rewrite your food danger zones:
    • Chew gum instead of snacking after work and while cooking dinner.
    • At breakfast, eat then read the newspaper or check your e-mails, do not do them at the same time.

To the restaurant : :

      • Return the bread basket or place it out of reach
      • Share a starter or half cook
      • Order 2 starters instead of a dish
      • Share the dessert – the best part is the first two bites
      • Establish a Pick 2 rule – starter, drink, dessert (not all three)

Dinner rituals and weight loss success

Image source: Cornell University Food & Brand Lab

Insane Food Scripts

Many of our eating habits are deep-rooted habits that we are often unaware of. We do them without even thinking. They are like movie scripts that we follow day after day…

  • Breakfast: Open the paper and fill the bowl with cereal and keep eating until you’re done with the paper.
  • Dinner: Finish eating what’s on the plate and take extra portions until everyone is done.
  • Snack: Find the cable movie to watch and make some popcorn.

Our scripts usually tell us when to stop eating, rather than how full we feel. For example, we stop eating when we are running out of time, the TV show is over, when we have finished reading, or when the food runs out. We are usually completely out of touch with how we feel.

I realized I used to grab a few nuts when I opened the pantry to feed the dog. It had nothing to do with hunger. It was just a reflex.

It is possible to modify our scripts to support our weight loss goals.

Family, friends and fat

One of life’s pleasures is eating with friends and family. However, they strongly influence what we eat.

Eating is like shopping, the longer you stay at the mall, the more you buy. The longer you stay at the table, the more you eat.

If you eat with another person, you will tend to eat 35% more than you would otherwise. If you eat with three other people, you will consume 75% more calories. If you eat with seven or more people, you will eat 96% more.

Birds of a feather flock together, which is why pairs and families tend to be of similar sizes. Weight gain can be contagious!

Eating while watching TV makes you fat

TV at will

People who watch a lot of television are more likely to be overweight than others. The less television people watch, the leaner they are. Television is a triple food threat: it causes you to eat, causes you to not pay attention to how much food you eat, causes you to eat too long.

Multitasking meal

Eating while engaging in other activities is dangerous for the waistline.

  • 91% of people watch TV while eating at home
  • 62% are often or too busy to sit down and eat
  • 35% eat at their desk while working
  • 26% eat while driving

Anything that distracts your attention from food while eating makes us more likely to unknowingly overeat.

Restaurant Strategies

  • Return the bread basket or place it out of reach
  • Share a starter or half cook
  • Order 2 starters instead of a dish
  • Share the dessert – the best part is the first two bites
  • Establish a Pick 2 rule – starter, drink, dessert (not all three)

Smells and tastes and food preferences

Marketing is about positive association and memory. Smell is linked to memory. Hence the power of the “Cinnabon effect”. Hold your nose while eating something you really like and notice that it doesn’t taste as good.

3 clear glasses of strawberry yogurt fluff topped with whipped topping and sliced ​​strawberries decoratively arranged on a black background

Weight Watchers Yogurt Jello Fluff

Chapter 6 Notes

Our thoughts and beliefs about food affect our taste buds.

People who were told they ate strawberry yogurt in the dark believed it and called the flavor “good strawberry taste” when they were actually eating chocolate yogurt. People who were given red colored lemon jelly thought it was cherry. Except in extreme cases, research confirms that we taste what we think we taste.

We are very influenced by the names given to foods on menus. Descriptive names sell better and are perceived to have better taste.

Food served in a pleasant setting is perceived as better. We can use this information to our advantage if we want to be seen as better cooks. Take the time to dim the lights, play soft music, use beautiful glasses and dishes, add flowers and candles.

I think it could also work to our advantage when trying to get our families to eat healthier. If you don’t tell them it’s healthy or Weight Watchers or low calorie, they probably won’t know!

Questions to consider:

  1. What were your biggest takeaways from Chapters 5 and 6 of Mindless Eating?
    (I had no idea how much more we eat when we’re with others.)
  2. What are some of your insane food scripts?
    (Mine includes: grabbing a few nuts every time I walk into the pantry and tasting too many when cooking)
  3. What strategies have you put in place? What have you discovered?
    (I got out of the habit of eating while watching TV, reading, or working on the computer. It took time, but it was worth it.)
  4. Curious about doing more blind taste testing after reading the studies in Chapter 6?
    (I’m really curious about the power of our thoughts on our perception of taste and level of satisfaction.)

I’ll be back next week with my notes for chapters 7 and 8.

Have a good week!

PS: If you need help eating better and losing weight this summer, my 28 Day Smart Start Weight Loss Challenge may be exactly what you are looking for! Many of the tips and suggestions are based on what I’ve learned applying Dr. Wansink’s Mindless Eating concepts.

It was a formidable challenge. Thanks for all the support and encouragement. I have definitely made some positive changes that I plan to continue! ~Bronwyn

Martha McKinnon

Martha is the Founder and Principal Content Writer of Simple-Nourished-Living.

A longtime WW on purpose, she’s committed to balancing her love of food and her desire to stay slim while enjoying life and helping others do the same.

She is the author of 28 Day Smart Start Weight Loss Challenge.

A huge slow cooker fan and cookbook addict, when she’s not experimenting in the kitchen, you’ll likely find Martha on her yoga mat.

Learn more about Martha McKinnon

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