Nathaniel Lambert Ph.D.

Strive to Thrive

Avoid the Trap of Mindless Eating

Innovative ideas for controlling your portions.

Posted May 12, 2014

To really change your weight for the course of your lifetime, you’ll need to permanently change some of your habits. Doing so will aid you in a powerful way to keep that extra weight off. In this post I will discuss the first of three of the most important habit changes to make: portion control. In the next post I will discuss two additional habits: regular eating and being careful about eating certain foods..

Habit #1:  Portion Control

So much of dieting is about portion control. There are a number of chemicals on the market that supposedly help to reduce appetite. I’ve even heard of devices you put in your mouth that make it take a long time to chew, and thus get you out of the habit of eating too quickly; when you slow down you usually eat less because your body has time to acknowledge that it’s full. However, these are just temporary solutions and are often very expensive. It’s much better to make lasting changes in your habits on your own. Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating, has done a tremendous amount of research on mindless eating. The key point he makes throughout several studies is that we eat with our eyes, not with our stomachs, which has major implications for controlling our portions.  I highly recommend this book and provide some of the highlights below.

Don’t Eat Until the Food is Gone

In one of his studies, Dr. Wansink asked around 150 French people from Paris how they know that they are full and the most common response was, “When I feel full.” Conversely, he asked a group of about 150 Americans from Chicago how they know that they are full, and they most commonly described eating “until others are done eating or until the food is gone.” In another fun study, Dr. Wansink found an ingenious way to test the theory that we eat with our eyes rather than our stomachs, which he calls the endless soup bowl. Essentially, the participants in the study had a bowl of soup that had a secret, under-the-table connection to a large pot of soup. So as they ate, the soup was slowly replaced without the participants knowing it. They did this to over 160 people and all of them continued to eat until they were stopped. Compared to other study participants who ate from regular bowls, these people with the magically replenishing soup ate an average of 73 percent more!  When these people were asked if they were full, they said, “No, I still have a lot of food left.” Thus, it’s pretty clear that we do eat more with our eyes than with our stomach. So what can we do about it?

To read more specific ideas on portion control, and to learn more interesting points from Dr. Wansink's research on mindless eating, check out my book, Four Truths About Weight Loss That Nobody Tells Younow available for purchase in Kindle or Hard Copy. - Or you can click Here to learn more and to download a Free copy of the Introduction and Chapter 1. 

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