Mindless Eating

This week I have a book recommendation for you all: Mindless Eating, written by Brian Wansink, Ph.D.  On the cover of the book is a picture of a plate, with the words inscribed on it that read: Why We Eat More Than We Think.  Beside this plate there is a pitchfork and a shovel, mimicking a fork and a knife.  This image summarizes the point of the book and the thesis of Dr. Wansink effectively.  In fact, he believes that food is no longer consumed out of enjoyment, rather it is eaten mindlessly and shoveled in without much thought.  Therefore, the result of mindless eating is the obesity epidemic that our country is currently facing, as well as the overall disconnect that many have as to where their food comes from.  In general, few people think about how what they eat and how much they eat impacts the economy, the processed food industry, and American farms (Wansink).

The book is divided into ten chapters.  One of the chapters that stands out to me is the Chapter 6, entitled “The Name Game.”  In this chapter, Dr. Wansink recounts a story about a World War Two Navy cook.  This man, Billy, was responsible for running the navy kitchen, and he also had to order adequate amounts of food that would keep until the next opportunity to stock up.  One day, Billy made a mistake in the ordering process, and found himself with twice the amount of lemon Jell-O than he actually needed, yet no cherry Jell-O.  This was a problem, because the latter type of Jell-O was more popular among the sailors.  Much to Billy’s chagrin, the sailors began to get agitated and frustrated over this missing staple, and Billy’s mistake was definitely being noticed.  In an attempt to fix his mistake, Billy colored the lemon Jello-O with red food coloring prior to serving it to the sailors.  The result?  Fortunately for Billy, the sailors didn’t recognize the difference in taste: their eyes saw cherry Jell-O, so that is what subconsciously they told their minds they were eating.  As a result, Billy received many compliments, and even after serving his red colored Jell-O again twice more, his secret hadn’t been uncovered (Wansink, 120-122).

This story demonstrates a phenomenon called “confirmation bias” where we literally taste whatever our brain has decided is in front of us.  In this case, our imagination drives much of how we taste food (Wansink, 122).  Similarly to this story, the remainder of the book dives into the psychology behind our eating habits and patterns.  Dr. Wansink explains that what and how much we eat is a direct result of how our brain has perceived this food to be like, taste like, smell like, etc (Wansink).  For sure, it’s an interesting read that will definitely open your eyes to plight that is mindless eating.

Has anyone read this book yet?  If so, how did you like it?  What stood out to you?

Until Next Week… Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

Works Cited

Wansink, Brian. Mindless Eating. New York: Bantam Dell, 2006. Print.


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