Have you ever found yourself munching on M&Ms and wondering, “Why am I eating this? I’m not even hungry!”
Environmental factors including lighting, music, distractions and visual cues can all signal our brain to eat more than we normally would. In his book, Mindless Eating, Brian Wansink identifies many situations that can affect our eating habits and discusses fun experiments used to bring these to light.
For example, did you know that the background music being played in a restaurant can affect how quickly you eat? One of the studies highlighted in this book discusses the speed of eating and the amount consumed in relation to the background music. Faster, more upbeat music can signal our brain to eat more quickly, often leading to a higher consumption of calories. In a restaurant playing slower, softer music, we tend to eat slower and notice when we feel full.
Even just having a bowl of candy out in the open in the office can trick us into eating more. If that candy bowl is visible and within reach, we will take more than if the candy was covered or if we have to get out of our seat and walk to the candy dish. It all seems like common sense, but our brain plays tricks on us if we aren’t careful!
The book is an easy read and very interesting. You’ll learn a great deal about yourself and your eating habits; then you can take your new knowledge to make positive changes in your life. Just by paying more attention to eating cues and habits, we could reduce our intake of unnecessary calories by hundreds each day – that’s enough to lose over ten pounds in a year! The book also has a supplemental fun and interactive website.
Summer is a great time to pick up a new book or dive into your reading list. You won’t regret this choice!
Written by Cassie Kipper, Saint Louis University dietetic intern