Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink
The main thesis of the book is that humans have a tendency to gain weight because they eat mindlessly. They don’t pay too much attention to what they eat, or how much they eat, or the healthiness of what they eat.
Wansink first makes the case that people often rely on many cues to tell them when they’ve had enough. Common cues include empty containers and serving dishes. Once the food runs out, we tell ourselves we’re full. In many ways, it’s amazing how easily we fool ourselves when it comes to food. Instead of paying attention to the cues our stomach sends our brains, we often rely on our environments to tell us when we’ve had enough.
Also, humans are terrible at tracking caloric intake. We often underestimate how much we eat. One main reason for this is simply due to how easy it is to forget food that we acquire conveniently. Wansink also points out that we can set in place a variety of terrible eating habits, like using unhealthy foods (think ice cream) as positive reinforcements for special occasions (like getting an A on a report card), which biases our eating habits later in life.
Fortunately, Wansink proposes simple dietary solutions to the problems that he identifies and explains throughout the book. Most of his solutions don’t require impossibly demanding deprivation, but rather restructuring the habits that we form around food so that one starts to thoughtlessly eat less instead of thoughtlessly eating more.
The book is short, fast-paced, and somewhat action- oriented. It does drag at a couple of points, but it picks up the pace quickly, and moves on to fascinating things. The book is centered more on behavioral psychology and neurology than on nutrition, which sets it apart from many other diet books. Better yet, the advice does not require radical lifestyle changes as much as it requires a couple of tweaks.
There’s more to the book besides this, obviously, and it is very much worth a read.