The Science of Eating- Part 2

#4: The Mindless Margin

Wansink explains something called “the mindless margin,” which is a span of about 200 calories that can make the difference between gaining 10 pounds in a year (by eating 100 calories more a day) or losing 10 pounds in a year (by eating 100 calories less a day). The reason he calls it mindless is because your brain and body won’t even notice that the 100 calories are missing. In fact, he says 20 percent is the magic number. Our brains and stomach don’t notice if things are 20 percent smaller or 20 percent different — 30 percent is too much and 10 percent doesn’t cut enough for you to see a difference in weight.

#5: Out of Sight, Out of Stomach

Wansink found that when secretaries sit near clear dishes filled with Hershey’s Kisses, they ate 71 percent more — or 77 calories a day — than those sitting near opaque dishes of Kisses. Over the course of a year this adds up to more than five pounds of extra weight. We eat what we see because if we walk by the kitchen without a craving but see a rolled up bag of chips, our brain triggers the salty, crunchy goodness and creates a craving.

  • Food Hack: Put all of the unhealthy food in your fridge, in the drawers or bottom shelves.
  • Food Hack: Take everything unhealthy and remove it from counters. In fact, hide it… make it really hard to get to. Read on to find out why:

#6: Positive Difficulty

One idea Wansink shares quite convincingly is the idea that convenience leads to consumption and distractions really can slow us down.

oranges3A few seconds can change how you eat. The closer bad food is, the more you eat it. The closer good food is, the more you eat it. Case in point:

Some terrible person (my mother) sent me Easter candy. It was on my kitchen counter for not even 24 hours and before I realized it, this happened:

Every time I walked into the kitchen I took a tiny bite of each. You know, just to try them. They were far too easy to grab, and so I grabbed them. Wansink recommends making all of your not-so-healthy snacks really hard to get to and all of your healthy snacks really easy to get to. For me, this has helped A LOT:

  • Pre peel and cut apples and have them sitting at the top of my fridge.
  • Got rid of all non-assembly required snacks. If I want to snack, I have to go to the store and get it.
  • The few easy to eat, but not so healthy snacks we have go in the very top shelf of the kitchen-husband or step ladder required. Far too much work. They are all stale now!

#7: Food Vision

Use your brain and vision to help you curb your eating. Wansink found a few interesting psychological behaviors around eating:

  • When we put all of our food on one plate — in other words see it all at once instead of going back for small plates, we eat less.
  • When we see how much we have eaten, we stop eating. Don’t throw away those rib bones as you eat them, don’t toss the wrappers of your candy as you chow down the bag. Instead, stack them into a little pile.

We are pretty bad at knowing how much we have eaten and how much we want to eat, so keeping the visual evidence and setting ourselves up to see exactly what we have consumed sets us up for natural stoppers.

#8: Smaller = Thinner

You have probably heard this one before, but it is worth reminding you:

  • EVERYONE eats more if given a larger portion. Wansink gave free popcorn to movie-goers in either medium or large tubs. Those with the big popcorn buckets ate 53 percent more — even though eaters said size wouldn’t effect their snacking.
  • Interesting fact: People of normal weight tend to think they ate 20 percent less than they did, while those who are obese tend to underestimate by 30 to 40 percent.
  • Smaller cups, plates and bowls makes a huge difference. This helps you feel like you are eating more:

#9: Power of 3

oranges4This post and the book are filled with tiny changes. Wansink gives an interesting tip to change small habits one day at a time. He recommends trying to implement three changes each day and keeping track with a simple chart. Make a chart with a column for each day of the month. Then put three small changes on the right side. As you go through the month put a check near each one. It’s okay if you skip some, but every check adds up to 100-200 less calories which adds up to significant poundage at the end of the month. Here’s mine for the first few days of April:

oranges5My three small changes were:

  • Using coconut creamer instead of half and half (a lot less calories) in my daily coffee.
  • Eating either a small salad or soup before lunch-this made me eat way less of my starch/protein on the main plate.
  • Pre-cutting the crust off my bread with sandwiches or toast. I don’t like crust much anyway and this cut 100 calories off my bread consumption.

This chart was kinda fun to do and helped me see the hundreds of calories adding up!

  • Challenge: Try picking three small things from this post that you can try for the next month!

#10: Your Food Story

oranges6One concept Wansink introduced me to was the idea of a food narrative or food story. Our favorite foods all come from an emotional place. He builds mental maps of where cravings come from. I decided to do this for myself with one of my favorite foods: DONUTS. I frickin’ love donuts. I decided to dig deep into what my emotional ties are to the food. Here’s what I came up with:

I loved learning about the hidden forces that drive my eating. I am definitely a more conscious eater and have optimized my kitchen to make eating healthy a bit easier. I hope you have some changes you can implement right now!

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