They say that the mind is one of the most powerful things that we have in this world. It is one the most important aspects of our life, controlling literally everything we do, consciously or subconsciously. It only makes sense that this seems to be an area of interest when discussing health and eating habits. People may ask, why would something like our minds have any effect on our eating habits? When people typically think of the mind they immediately translate to mental health or some sort of disorder. However, in this article I will do my best to address this common misconception as well as give a bit of insight as to the effect that psychology has on our everyday eating habits.
It is a well-known fact that the colors red, yellow, and orange, when picked up by our eyes, subconsciously trigger our brains to think that we are hungry. While not every single restaurant or store you go into will have these colors plastered all over the place, just think about for a minute your favorite place to eat. Does this place you are thinking about have any of those three colors in their design? These colors are just one small example of all the outside factors that absolutely affect our eating habits. This, along with little details like the lighting of a place, music that is played, and the presentation of the table and food can make the difference between completely cleaning up your plate of food, or playing with it and only consuming half the meal.
In the book “Mindless Eating” by Brian Wansink, he discusses all of the small details that play a part in what we eat and how much we eat. Now before I go any further, please don’t think these are the only factors and that by switching the color scheme of your kitchen will suddenly prevent you from eating. That is just one example that is discussed in his book as factors that affect our eating habits. There are numerous other factors that influence these habits, however for the sake of the article, I am just going to discuss one of these in detail.
One of the main chapters that is discussed, and actually which the book is titled after, talks about something that affects or can affect all of us in gaining weight. It is referred to as mindless eating. More specifically described in the book as the mindless margin, this area is in reference to calorie intake, and may either affect us in a positive or more commonly, a negative way. The best example I can give when trying to explain this is the same one that Mr. Wansink uses. In the book he discusses that, for example, we have a diet that is consistent with 2000 calories a day. Let’s assume one day you are just too busy to really settle down and eat, and as a result you only eat about 1000 calories. You would feel the effects of not eating as much such as feeling light headed or weak, maybe even a little cranky. Now let’s look at it from the other perspective and say that is a holiday and you eat about 3000 calories. On this day you would naturally feel full and possibly a bit more sluggish than normal. The common theme in these examples being our body knows if we eat way too much or too little. However, the mindless margin area that is discussed in the book talks about how that our minds won’t be able to tell the difference between eating 2000 calories a day and 1900 or 2100. While these are just small increments of over-eating or under -eating, in the book it is discussed that over the course of time, these calories of over eating can add up and eventually lead to weight gain.
According to the thoughts presented in “Mindless Eating,” it takes roughly 3500 extra calories to equate to one pound. So those extra chips, or candy that you think won’t affect you directly, will eventually catch up to you over the course of time leading to weight gain. Fortunately, this process can also work in reverse form. By simple cutting out certain foods in our daily life, we can gradually cut down on our weight and eventually leading us to weight loss. The example used in the book was him describing a friend who had who lost 20 pounds over the course of her first 2 years at her new job. When asked what type of dieting she was doing or what methods she used, she actually had no answer. She hadn’t really changed her eating habits or anything extreme, except for one thing. She had cut caffeine out of her diet. She began by switching to herbal tea in the morning, and replaced her 6+ cokes she drank a week with a substitute.
I hope this article gave a little insight into the things that can ultimately lead to us being overweight, as well as a resource into solutions of how we can lose weight easily. Weight management does not mean going to the gym every day and working out, and sticking to a certain calorie count, it involves just what was said ‘management’. As mentioned in the example, simply cutting out one or two items from our daily diet can play huge roles in leading us to become healthier. Health is something that is individualized just like everything else, so please keep these ideas in mind when thinking about the things that you are eating on a daily basis. Create your own path to a healthier lifestyle, and more importantly healthier eating habits, and hopefully this is something that can be passed to your children.
Wansink, Brian. “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.” Bantam Books, 2007.