Book Review: Mindless Eating

Wansink, Brian. 2006. Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. Random House. New York.

Wansink’s diet plan is a response to the weaknesses of other plans. Other plans, he argues, fail because when you’re on them, you know you’re on a diet, you feel restricted, and your body fights against the restrictions. Wansink proposes implementing small changes into your diet that reduce your caloric intake by as little as 100 calories a day. A small change like this, he argues, will barely be noticed. He admits that weight loss will be slow – only a few pounds a year. But he argues that this is a more sustainable method of losing weight than a crash diet that you won’t be able to stick with for very long.

The problem with this method, however, is that to implement small changes into your diet STILL requires constant thought and will power every day, and he never actually gets around to telling you how his plan is “mindless.” He even proposes keeping a daily log detailing how well you are able to stick to your strategies. What’s mindless about keeping daily logs? Ultimately, his weight loss plan is likely to very unfulfilling because you will be on the plan for months before seeing any results, but the plan requires just as large a commitment as any other diet plan.

Wansink is much more successful at discussing the subtitle of the book, “Why we eat more than we think.” Essentially, the book is a collection of dozens of food experiments he’s conducted over the years. He demonstrates somewhat effectively that the average person is unaware of how much they’re eating. He argues that overeating has become a “mindless” habit. He gives ample evidence that most of us underestimate how much we eat or how often we eat. His solution to reverse “mindless” overeating is to change our habits so that we “mindlessly” eat appropriately.

The only problem is that making this transition is NOT mindless, so there’s really nothing “mindless” at all about his plan. It’s just slower.

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