The other week I read a book about food and eating by Michael Pollan, and I wasn´t too convinced that I would eat any healthier if I ate with other people, as he suggested. Now, I have found the man who can prove that my hunch was right.
"On average, if you eat with one other person, you´ll eat about 35 percent more than you otherwise would. If you eat with a group of seven or more, you´ll eat nearly twice as much - 96 percent more - than you would if you were eating alone..."That´s a quote from Brian Wansink´s book "Mindless Eating", and it´s my newest favourite. Wansink is a professor of Applied Economics and Management, he has his own food laboratory and this book is full of numbers. He questions our "truths" about food and eating and puts them to the test. And now I know why it´s so easy to gain weight and why I always gain in summer and in December. For me, it´s social eating. I kind of knew it, and I thought I should be able to control it just by knowing it, but as Wansink demonstrates (he is funny about it, too!), we rarely are in control of how much we eat. Our stomachs don´t tell us when it´s enough. Instead, we eat as we are conditioned to do, by our biological nature and our cultural nurture: we finish our plates, eat until bowls are empty, we defend our access to the goodies (if we grew up with siblings), we eat mindlessly as we think about other things, as we talk to other people.
Wansink´s recipe to loose the weight and keep it off, is not to try to control our eating. We just can´t expect to make mindful, healthy choices about food (we make in average 200 food choices every day!) for the rest of our lives. It´s too much to ask of ourselves. Even the scientists can´t do it! But what we can do, is re-engineer our environment and our habits. We can change our foodscapes, our tablescapes, and re-write our eating scripts.
- down-size the plates (in our house, we have a dinner set that´s been on the market for many, many years, and the dinnerplates have grown in size since the 80´s by 3 centimeters. And they are still small compared to some alternatives.)
- don´t buy king-size packages
- use small, tall glasses
- serve snacks in small bowls, one for each person
- keep sweats in opaque bowls so you can´t see them
- eat with slim people
- change you favourite recipies to make them less dense in calories
- stay away from health-food, the illusion of healthy will make you eat more
I can heartily recommend this book to anyone who is tired of the twice-yearly two-month diet to get rid of those five pounds that creep up constantly and prevent your zipper-action. That said, I haven´t actually tried it out yet. However, I´m convinced of the sense in this. Perhaps it´s the science. I have a soft spot for science. Let´s make a test: I shall declare my weight, today, the 9th of September, post-summer holidays, and make a note in my calender to do the same next year, and we shall see if anything has really changed for me. I shall take the Wansink test. No dieting, just a change in scapes and habits, moving my "mindless margin". I´ll make note of all the changes I make and declare them. One year from now.
It´s 67 kg, clothed on a Sunday afternoon. That´s 148 pounds. Follow-up next year.