FitLit: Mindless Eating



We all laugh when we see those commercials where people in a fine-dining establishment discover that they’re eating fast-food fare. We all think that there’s no way we would be fooled by a $5 meal being served on fine china. But after reading Brian Wansink’s book, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, I discovered that most people are tricked by these types of cues. The book is a fascinating look into why we eat what we do and why we eat as much as we do. Subtle cues in our environment play a role in our choices and consumption, from plate size to package size. The author takes what his studies have found and gives ways to apply the knowledge to your eating. A few highlights:

Fascinating Find #1

The more convenient a food, the more likely you are to eat it. A study of secretaries that placed a dish of chocolate in three places—on the desk, in a drawer or across a room—showed that in a day, the typical secretary ate nine Hershey’s Kisses when they were on the desk, six when they were in a drawer and only four when she had to walk across the room for them. The secretaries reported that having the distance between them and the candy gave them enough time to pause and ask themselves if they wanted it.

Take home message: Keep fruits and veggies at arms’ length and sweet treats a good distance away.

Fascinating Find #2
I fall into the same traps that many people do when it comes to eating, such as finishing a meal even when I’m way past the point of full. When French women were polled about how they decided to stop eating a meal, they reported that they stopped eating when they were no longer hungry. Chicago women typically stopped when they ran out of a beverage, their plate was empty or a TV show was over.
Take home message: Rely on internal cues, not external cues, to decide when to stop eating.

Fascinating Find #3
Package size plays a role in how much we eat. When people were given a half-pound bag of M&M’s, they ate an average of 71 candies. When given a one-pound bag, they ate almost twice as many in the same amount of time, at 137 M&M’s. According to the book, the size of the package gives you cues as to what is the norm to consume.
Take home message: Don’t let package size fool you. Repackage a jumbo box of treats into smaller baggies or containers and serve them in smaller dishes. (Interestingly, as I was writing this and much to my shock/dismay, my hubby finished off a 2-liter of Coke that he just bought the night before. He said when he drinks out of cans it makes him stop. But this 2-liter had no end point…until it was all gone.)

This book had hundreds of interesting facts and studies and will open your eyes about how your expectations can affect how much you put in your mouth. In one anecdote, sailors thought lemon Jell-O was cherry Jell-O just because it was red. Food with descriptive names—succulent Italian seafood filet—sell better and are rated higher than non descriptive names. This book is guaranteed to make you more aware of your eating world and give you tips and tricks to make smarter choices. It might even help you trick children into liking their veggies. Power Peas, anyone? —Erin

FTC disclosure: We often receive products from companies to review. All thoughts and opinions are always entirely our own. Unless otherwise stated, we have received no compensation for our review and the content is purely editorial. Affiliate links may be included. If you purchase something through one of those links we may receive a small commission. Thanks for your support!


  1. Marcy says:

    #3 is def interesting. I can see how that works though . . .when the bag is bigger doesn’t look like you put much of a dent in it when you eat LOL

  2. whatiateyesterday says:

    Awesome post, I need to add that book to my must read list!

  3. Lori says:

    Thanks for the review. I’ve read a lot of snipets about his research and this book is definitely on my list. It is great of you to share the knowledge with others by recycling the read. Thanks!

  4. Erica says:

    This sounds like a really interesting book- thank you for the review. I love the results of the secretary survey! I try to stay as far away from candy bowls as I can!

  5. Sagan says:

    I love this book! It is SO good.

  6. Marsha says:

    This is a fabulous book, full of really useful information. Thanks for letting people know about it!

  7. tfh says:

    This sounds like a great book– I definitely respond to external, not internal, cues while eating. And I will definitely try the trick of repackaging goodies; esp. now that I am trying to save money by buying in bulk I don’t want to just end up eating more!

  8. Danica says:

    I have been known for number 2, but I’m working on it, and find that eating slower helps, and stopping way before I’m ‘full’ allows me to become full later and not be rolling on the floor because my stomach hurts because I ate way to much. Classy, I know.

  9. Fian says:

    Great review! I’m definitely guilty of No. 2 … I don’t think my tummy EVER tells me when I’m full! I’m trying to drink a lot of water to trick myself, or at least train myself. We’ll see how it goes! I think I may just pick up a copy of that book.

  10. Just Plain Joy says:

    I enjoy your blog! This looks like an interesting read.

    Check out my latest post at http://www.JustPlainJoy.blogspot.com

  11. Laura says:

    I need to read this book. I’m definitely guilty of mindless eating!

  12. Jamie Atlas says:

    I thought #1 was really enlightening. Goes to show that if you don’t have it in your house, you won’t eat it. Nor will you drive to the store.
    I really didn’t think it counted for something that you had to walk across a room for! Now I know!

    Nice find – am looking forward to reading the book!

    Jamie Atlas from Fitness Insights

  13. MizFit says:

    really interesting and, since Im the QUEEN OF MINDLESS EATING while reading, IM not sure I should get the book 😉

    audio book?

  14. Health and Fitness says:

    Thanks for this very informative post. This is a nice blog and will be looking forward to read more from you.

    As our websites are closely related, I feel the exchanging of links would be a mutually beneficial arrangement. If you are interested in exchanging links, please feel free to contact me (email) at your earliest convenience. Thanks!!

    Link Details
    URL: http://bryanking.net/
    Title: Health and Fitness

Comments are closed.