Friday, September 9, 2011


The titles of these two books clash, but the authors are mutually appreciative. In "Mindless Eating" we gain some understanding of the multi tentacled conspiracy to persuade us to eat more than we need. In "Mindful Eating" we are encouraged to enjoy food more and to eat only what we need.

In "Mindless Eating" we learn about how corporate researchers have turned our innate human nature against our best interests. The author points out many of the corporate tricks and suggests how we can combat them.

Larger containers and bigger plates encourage us to eat more with little awareness that we have done so. Advertisers of course, know how to appeal to our desire to eat tasty things and manufacturers are putting taste patterns together that are very difficult to leave alone. Many experiments are described showing that in fact people often do not realize how much they have eaten. or even really tasted their food. The author, Brian Wansink points out that taking smaller portions and slowing down can make a lot of mindless difference when trying to lose weight.

The mindless part refers to the idea that you will tend to eat whatever is served on your plate without thinking. So if your plate is loaded you will eat it and think it normal, but that you can easily get used to smaller portions. If you find some way to eat slower such as using your non dominating hand, eating with chopsticks (assuming you are not used to them), putting down fork between bites or make a conscious effort to develop the habit of eating slower (eventually mindlessly) you will enjoy your meal more and not pack on unneeded calories.

Brian Wansick does not think you need to do away with your comfort foods, but just take smaller portions and again eat slower.

If you do something drastic like reducing your food intake by 500 to 1000 calories per day your body's metabolism will adjust and you will sooner or later tire of the effort. On the other hand if you reduce your calorie intake by 100-200 calories per day you will gradually lose weight painlessly (really mindlessly).

"Mindful Eating" is in some ways more encompassing. The author, Jan Chozen Bays, MD admits her own weaknesses. She tells us that while writing this book she was eating a lemon tart and at first enjoying the taste, but then she starts to thinking about writing this book, and gets up to sharpen her pencil and realizes the taste has diminished. Then re-focusing she enjoys the taste again. She tells us not to feel guilty about what we crave, and in fact savour it, but with mindfully eating our body can tell us when we have had enough.

She refers to many of the experiments in "Mindless Eating" to make her points. One of her underlying themes is that your body actually knows what it needs and how much. We have lost our ability to listen to our needs. She describes seven forces that encourage us to eat; the eye, the nose, the mouth, the stomach, the cellular system, the mind, and the heart. These are all triggers to make us want to eat and at one level necessary for our survival. At another level distortion can easily take over when we become obsessed with specific foods or eat almost anything without much thought.

Accompanying "Mindful Eating" is a 70 minute CD. The author has a calming and clear voice delivering a number of separate topical tracks that help explain her message.

Both books are useful for people wanting to lose weight. "Mindless Eating" identifies several ways corporate interests encourage you to overeat with some counter strategies. "Mindful Eating" points out by slowing down and really enjoying your food you will feel less need to over eat. Your body actually tells you what it needs, but we have learned to ignore that voice.

On another level "Mindful Eating" points out the importance of focused thinking. Mindful eating could be just the starting point to get more out of life. Enjoy the moment.

I started this post many weeks ago, but decided to post it just after Thanksgiving. Some of us have a lot to be grateful for. Thanksgiving is that time when we over eat. There are so many temptations and a load of tradition. Now we can slow down and be truly grateful for the opportunities we have been given and better appreciate them.

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