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Book 7 – Mindless Eating

Has your weight slowly crept up over the last few months and years? Would you know if you had eaten 100 calories too many today? How about 100 calories too few?

Brian Wansink is a PhD researcher who has set up hundreds of studies to determine our eating habits. He reveals some very worrying trends about how the environment around us influences our food choices and, more importantly, portion size. His famous “popcorn study” is one of many that show how we unconsciously manage to take on too many calories in every day situations. Just 100 calories too many and you end up putting on around 1lb a month of fat, and you don’t even know it’s happening! The good news is that by learning all the tricks your mind plays you can make it work for you not against you and use it to lose 1lb a month.

Book seven is…

Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink

mindless eating brian wansink


PRO TIP: Take notes! When you read a book, use a blank sheet of paper as a bookmark and write down any interesting facts and information from the book. You won’t remember everything a year from now, so this condenses a whole book into 3-4 pages of key notes that are important to you.


Some of my notes:

  • A free popcorn study, using stale popcorn in two sizes, showed a larger container led people to subconsciously eat 53% more
  • Almost any food sign in a shop with a numerical discount resulted in 30-100% more sales
  • We can only consistently lose 0.5-1lb a week on a diet. Any more involves losing muscle, slowing down metabolism
  • Since we can’t notice if we ate within 100 calories of target, we are open to long term weight gain
  • As there are 365 days a year then 10 extra calories a day can alter your weight by 1lb/year
  • Most people could make a meal 20% smaller and not notice. In this way we eat until 80% full, not stuffed
  • Cues for weight loss other than the scale include visible cheekbones and fitting into certain clothes
  • People eat the same volume of food every day, not calories. Make your food bigger but not more calorific by adding greens
  • Using a re-fillable soup bowl, people ate 73% more, showing they use “plate is empty” to replace the cue “am I full?”
  • We prepare up to 23% more food if the packages we have are larger. This effect is from skewing our idea of a ‘normal’ portion e.g. a jumbo box of cereal
  • Inverted T illusion makes us notice height over width. This means if we pour into a short fat glass of coke we’ll drink 20% more than tall and thin
  • Size-contract illusion (P66). A smaller plate leads to smaller portions
  • Increased variety of food at a buffet leads us to eat more (hunger levels for different tastes)
  • Downsize dinner plates and re-package food that’s in jumbo packs
  • If unhealthy food is more visible, you will think about it more. Hide bad foods
  • If you come home via back door and pass through kitchen, you will eat more and tell yourself you are hungrier than if you avoid it
  • Eating with friends and family turns them into pacesetters. We tend to mimic how fast they eat and continue eating until all have finished. Also don’t keep track of food intake as distracted by conversation
  • P98 graph of influence. Why fat families encourage over-eating.
  • If you watch TV while you eat you consume more
  • Obese people likely to judge meals based on what time it is, while normal weight base on hunger levels
  • Bright lights, hard surfaces and loud colour schemes of fast food restaurants encourage you to eat faster. Since “full” signal takes 20 mins, you over-eat.
  • Some soup companies run adverts when it’s cold or raining as they see soup as warm and comforting
  • A fancier name leads us to believe it tastes better
  • “expectation assimilation” if something is described as tasting nice we believe it. Study was on “strawberry” yoghurt that was actually chocolate
  • This is how branded products have big market share
  • We develop positive associations with foods used to “celebrate” (cake)
  • If you’re overweight, your child has a 65-75% chance of being overweight
  • People will eat 50% more of a snack food if it’s labelled “low fat”, even though it only has 10% fewer calories