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Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think

Nicole Regan

            Do you ever find yourself snacking when you’re not even hungry?  Have you ever had that guilty feeling after finishing a whole package of your favorite comfort food?  Overeating contributes to the current obesity epidemic in the United States.  How would you like to know what signals the body to stop eating?

The average person makes over 250 decisions a day about food.  Brian Wansink’s book, Mindless Eating, explores the psychology behind what we eat, why we eat so much, and why we can’t stop eating it.  It is not in human nature to put our fork down and contemplate whether or not we are full after each bite of food.  How much we eat depends on our environment.  We don’t overeat because of hunger; we overeat because of “family and friends, packages and plates, names and numbers, labels and lights, colors and candles, shapes and smells, distractions and distances, cupboards and containers.”  We mindlessly look for signals in the environment that we’ve had enough, like an empty plate or that there is no one left at the table.

Wansink says “The best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on.”  Overeating is unconscious and in order to control our bad habits we must learn to eat mindfully.  We need to pay more attention to internal cues that tell us we are no longer hungry.  We can also alter our environment which has a significant effect on our eating habits.  “See it before you eat it;” don’t eat directly out of a package or box, put your snack in a separate dish.  You can avoid mindlessly overeating simply by replacing large plates with smaller ones to cut down your servings.  Next time you grab that bag of chips or that box of cookies, check the serving size, put one serving in a bowl and enjoy!

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